Happy 2023 everyone!
Man, it was an exciting year in 2022 to be a fan of horror movies and TV shows. With the likes of Scream (2022), Terrifier 2, Smile, The Black Phone, Studio 666, X, Pearl, Guillermo del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, Chucky Season 2 and The Last Drive-In Season 4, we had a buffet of delectable delights to choose from. And 2023 is shaping up to be another banner year for horror with the likes of MaXXXine, Scream VI, Renfield and Evil Dead Rise coming up.
So, a funny story that inspired me to write up this article: A great friend and co-worker of mine wished me a Happy Chinese New Year (also known as the Lunar New Year). And since I remembered that this is Year of The Rabbit on the Chinese Zodiac, I couldn’t help but think of the 1972 cheesy horror/sci-fi cult classic Night of The Lepus.
But then it really got me thinking: We have a lot of holiday-themed horror movies that we enjoy watching each year. Why not have some to represent the Chinese/Lunar New Year via the animals of the Chinese Zodiac?
And thus, I introduce to you a new yearly segment to Halloween Year-Round: The Chinese “Horror” Zodiac.
This once-a-year segment will highlight a horror film that fits the yearly Chinese zodiac animal and why I think it’s the best film to watch during that year of celebration.
So, in honor of 2023’s Year of The Rabbit, let’s burrow our way into a horror movie that captures the signature animal well. Pointy teeth and all.
Night of The Lepus (1972)
Based on the novel “The Year of the Angry Rabbit” by Russell Braddon, this book would be adapted to film by producer Andrew Craddock Lyles Jr., screenplay written by Don Holliday & Gene R. Kearney and directed by William F. Claxton.
Starring Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun and co-starring famed Star Trek actor DeForest Kelley, the story is set in a small Arizona town during the 70’s where the local rabbit population has been exploding, causing damage to crops for local rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun). Eventually finding help from researcher couple Roy and Gerry Bennett (Stuart Whitman & Janet Leigh), they form a plan to use modified hormones to interrupt the normal breeding cycle of the rabbits, thus ending them more humanely versus the use of cyanide. But their daughter Amanda (Melanie Fullerton) pulls a switch-a-roo by putting one of the injected rabbits into the control group, thus being able to keep it when she asks if she can keep one as a pet. But WHOOPS! The daughter’s rabbit is then let loose near a bunny burrow, letting it breed with the other rabbits to create a new generation of larger-than-average sized rabbits (described as wolf-sized in the film) that then begin to attack the local townspeople and wreak havoc on the town.
It’s all very silly in hindsight, I was laughing more than being scared half the time, but I still give them credit for trying to make the rabbits scary, even though it never really worked. I personally think that the town and building miniatures and camera perspective never really made me feel that the rabbits were that big. And most rabbits are not naturally associated with being scary (except for that one rabbit from The Twilight Zone Movie that thing was CREEPY!). Great cheesy animal creature features of this nature are not as common as they used to be, so it’s nice to spotlight one from the 70’s for something like this.
Why Should You Watch Night of The Lepus for this Chinese/Lunar New Year?
While the rabbit in the Chinese Zodiac represents prosperity, peace and longevity, I thought to myself: What would the exact opposite be for a horror film about killer bunny rabbits? Well, it would focus on destruction of property, chaos and a very short life span to several unfortunate souls who cross paves with these vicious rabbits…with sharp pointy teeth!
Those born in the year of the rabbit are considered to be quick-minded, witty, vigilant and ingenious. Well, the scientist couple and their allies sure do have to be all of those things in order to stop the massive rabbit horde from spreading.
And since this is the year of the “Water Rabbit,” it’s ironically convenient that the first strange evidence of a larger-than-average lapin would be a big rabbit-sized footprint near a watering hole at the farmer’s cattle ranch.
And that’s why Night of The Lepus is my personal recommendation for the Chinese “Horror” Zodiac for 2023! If you have your own personal horror themed recommendations focused on killer rabbits, please comment down below. I hope you enjoyed reading. Thank you and I’ll see you next time!