26 October 2009

Night of the Lepus.

I'm about to discuss a film featuring a full-grown adult dressed in a rabbit costume wrestling a live horse. The director is William Claxton, who I see also directed the classic Twilight Zone episode I Sing the Body Electric, and later went on to direct 68 episodes of Little House on the Prairie. It's a 1972 film set in the southern state of Arizona, with the southern side of Arizona played to a high pitch, stars Psycho's Janet Leigh and Star Trek's DeForest Kelley, alongside Stuart Whitman, Rory Calhoun, and Paul Fix (each with over 100 other IMDb credits to their names). I'd like to draw attention to the fact that Night of the Lepus is based upon a novel by Russell Braddon called The Year of the Angry Rabbit.

Lepus is Latin for rabbit, and in Night of the Lepus an experimental serum injection on a member of an overabundant population of rabbits results in extraordinarily giant sized killer rabbits. The rabbits, in their horrifying onslaught, attack general stores, produce trucks, families, persons, horses, and cows. Scenes of blood-dripping rabbit-fangs abound, which is to say that Night of the Lepus delivers in its b-movie premise where others do not.

While I can enjoy just about any film with a lunatic storyline, it's rare to find one that's also engaging and fulfilling. Through a mixture of convincing miniature sets and actual rabbits, and full-grown adults in rabbit costumes, the rabbits terrorize in glorious scene after scene. This satisfies me on two levels. Beyond the accomplishments of the filmmakers, there is also the pleasure of the concept being committed to with such wild ambition.

It's complete and undisguised absurdity, and for me it's like Night of the Lepus is a tune and filmmaking is a piano. I enjoy a composition of fantasy that drives my mind into the corners of possibility, where my own ideas bloom, outside the typical tracks, settled figuratively in its own small-town ways. The laws of eco-horror permit all acts in Lepus, but seldom have I seen such creative use or passionate dedication. The willingness of this film to venture into mutant-rabbit territory spurs me on forward into my own direction, god bless 'em.

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