Studio: Osiris Entertainment
Director: Carl Lindbergh
Writer: Carl Lindbergh
Producer: Carl Lindbergh
Stars: Cheryl Texiera, Matthew Albrecht, Alaina Agianci, Matthew Stiller, Veronica Wylie, Scott Kuza, David Scott, Lucia Sullivan
Six friends are terrorized by a maniac in a bunny costume and his cannibalistic family after becoming stranded on a deserted country road.
While prepping prescreening notes to review the movie “Bunnyman Massacre,” I discovered that it was a sequel to the 2011 film at hand simply titled “Bunnyman.” Naturally, I wanted to watch the predecessor first, so I changed direction and set about digging for background on the original “Bunnyman” movie. What I uncovered were scathing reviews deriding “Bunnyman” as “ridiculous,” “bad,” and one of the “worst films” of the year. I’d attribute those quotes to specific sources, but multiple outlets used virtually identical words.
Being doused in negative reactions like this beforehand can be a good thing. When you know in advance that the general opinion of a film appears to be one of apathy at best or hatred at worst, it’s easy to set the expectation bar underfoot and prepare to be underwhelmed. This method creates the possibility for pleasant surprise while minimizing likely disappointment. In the case of “Bunnyman,” such an approach mostly works. I may have disliked it more had I not been given fair warning, although there is little question about it being a movie that cannot be recommended.
Following two prologues, one involving 8mm home movies and one featuring a Sally Hardesty clone whose subplot is useless, “Bunnyman” gets down to brass tacks. Six friends driving to or from somewhere unknown for some unspecified purpose run afoul of a dump truck with tinted windows and the shadow behind the wheel decides to play a game of highway cat and mouse.
This “king of the road” sequence isn’t going to make anyone forget “Duel” anytime soon, or ever, but I tip my hat to filmmaker Carl Lindbergh for giving it a go. Say what you want about how lazy the rest of the film might be. But it takes more effort to rig a car mount and coordinate the movement of multiple vehicles down a winding road than it does to give your friends a camcorder and have them improvise a night of frights in the woods. It’s too bad for “Bunnyman” that its opening scene also serves as a precursor for the sloppy execution that is to come for the next 90 minutes.
“Bunnyman” is crazily conspicuous about not having a usable audio track from the shots filmed inside the six friends’ car. Their introduction is mostly wordless, yet one girl shakes her head and another smirks as they have reactions to events that aren’t even happening. When someone does speak, it usually comes from a voice not on camera or from a person whose mouth is obscured. Here they are being repeatedly love-tapped by a madman putting their lives in fatal jeopardy and no one says more about it than is necessary, if they mutter anything at all.
I could segue into how inconsistent the audio is as it cuts between shots that have loud engines running and then suddenly don’t. Or I could break down the poor editing that mismatches actions together into subtle and not-so-subtle continuity errors. But any technical criticism of “Bunnyman” pales in comparison to the number one problem plaguing the movie: its script. It is as though writer/director Carl Lindbergh only wrote one draft of his screenplay and immediately started shooting without running it by anyone for a second look or bothering to edit it even once.
To start with, a cardinal rule for low-budget filmmakers is to only write something that is within your means to accomplish. This means that if you cannot afford to have a dump truck repeatedly ram into a sedan or cut down a real tree with a chainsaw, then you should not write such scenes into your screenplay. Lindbergh ignores this practical advice, and the results are predictably unconvincing segments trying to get by on editing and feigned whiplash acting that wasn’t even passable on the original “Star Trek.”
It is a toss up whether the plotting or the dialogue holds more blame for the mess of a story about a cannibalistic backwoods family, although both elements work in tandem to create some truly absurd moments. I imagine this is what dialogue would sound like if there existed a computer program that automatically wrote things for people to say based on the individual scene and nothing else. On their own, the words are serviceable in the moment. Yet they make frustratingly little sense in the context of the script as a whole.
While working underneath their broken down car, one of the friends is crushed to death when the mystery truck returns to rear end the vehicle before driving away. This puts the remaining quintet on a quest to find help before they end up being crushed next.
The first sign of life they discover is a dirt path dotted with upside down crosses and mesh bags of human bones hanging from the trees. Fearless leader of the fivesome actually says,” I’m sure there’s an explanation.” Yeah, I’m sure there is. Like a family of homicidal cannibals dwelling in the house at the end of that road. Can you think of a single rational scenario where the logical reaction might be, “oh that makes sense. I’d decorate my driveway with human remains and satanic symbols in that case, too.”
They come to the end of the road and of course run into a screw loose hillbilly chewing tobacco in a dirty tank top. Somehow, this mountain man has a salon-quality haircut despite living in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. One of the friends explains to the redneck that they have walked 20 miles and this is the first house they’ve come across. Earlier it is shown that their car has a trunk with zero bags in it. They also have no food, no water, and not one of them has a cell phone. Where in the world were they going to or coming from without any supplies, change of clothes, or communication devices, and are somewhere so far off the beaten path that they can walk for 20 miles down a country highway without seeing another car?
A short time later, it finally registers that their buddy is dead. “What are we gonna tell Jack’s parents?” asks one of the girls. You’re going to tell them he was killed by a road-raging maniac. How is that even a question? Also, you’ve just confronted a shotgun-wielding forest derelict along a pathway lined with skulls and you’re no closer to escaping your current predicament. Obviously, your story is only going to grow stranger before what you tell Jack’s parents is ever a concern. Curiously, this line of dialogue doesn’t even come from the person who is Jack’s girlfriend, though that is the smallest of things wrong with the whole interchange.
The five of them eventually come across two more people apparently having their own car troubles. Fearless leader says, “I’m pretty good with cars. Maybe I can help you out?” Hold on. If you’re so good with cars, why did you let the other guy get under yours while you napped in the front seat?
The woman they meet warns, “there are a lot of drunk drivers in this neighborhood.” No there aren’t. It’s not even a neighborhood for one. But there also hasn’t been another car anywhere in sight for the last 12 hours. She goes on to advise the friends to take shelter in a nearby abandoned cabin. Abandoned cabin in desolate woods, you say? You sure there isn’t a haunted house or cursed asylum we can stay at instead?
The friends opt to wait, since the woman promises to be back in 20 minutes after dropping off her own friend at the emergency room. Wait, what? There’s a ridiculously located hospital only 10 minutes away by car? Why don’t the friends just walk there?
Looking back at the preceding paragraphs, I realize two things. First, I’ve already written over 1,300 words, which is about double my average review length. Second, I still have two more pages of notes on everything wrong with “Bunnyman.” I didn’t even make it to the silly looking rabbit costume, the killer torturing to classical music cliché, or the second half summary of nonsensical plot points and forehead-slapping character exchanges. Nonetheless, if you somehow managed to read this far, I trust my general assessment of the film’s overall quality is abundantly clear, even if it is incomplete.
Choppy editing, shoddy audio, and limp scripting doomed “Bunnyman” from the beginning. It had an impossible uphill slog to infamy no matter what. But if just one simple polish of the dialogue had taken place at any point whatsoever, at least it could have been slightly less stupid.
Review Score: 35