Bunny the Killer Thing is at first glance a pretty straightforward lo-fi twist on the slasher film, and the ‘cabin in the woods’ trope in particular. Its wilfully clumsy title reflects that provenance, and hints at a silliness that’s sorely needed on occasion to puncture the horror genre. Made in northern Finland as a British co-production, its secluded snowy setting is unusually vivid, and in Joonas Makkonen it finds a writer-director whose prolific short-film career promises a fun pump-and-dump horror-comedy. The plot, too, is appropriately sparse: with little context, six twenty-something Finns head to Tuomas’ (Hiski Hämäläinen) family cabin for a weekend of heavy intoxication and genital rendezvous. Surprisingly accompanied by a tagalong teen relative and three sketchy Brits with car trouble, the weekend takes a turn when a crazed man-rabbit monster created by injecting a captive with some pleasingly gloopy serum (again: little context) is let loose on the revellers. Where the film gets weird, and, ultimately actively repellent, is the Bunny’s modus operandi: it really, really likes pussy. This includes anything with vaguely vulval form, from wounds to drawings, and is expressed mainly through helicoptering its gargantuan penis while chasing its victims, and finally dismembering/raping them basically simultaneously.
My best guess at the subtext behind all of the gore and bodily grotesquerie is something like this: the Bunny’s wild sexual voracity, embodied by its enormous member and apparently supernal strength, is a ‘horrorised’ mirror of the youths’ own. Where the classic slasher film (and Bunny the Killer Thing does, on a few occasions, deftly mimic that genre’s formal style) draws its horror from effectively punishing its teens’ sexual transgressions with violence, Makkonen says: why not say what you really mean? The monster, instead of a human one with a knife, is a creature with a penis, and so the characters’ vapid pursuit of all manner of perversions is paid in literal kind – a death which comes1 in the form of sexual violation. This isn’t really a stretch, in truth: the few unqualified laughs the film provides tend to arrive in the form of characters thinking with their non-cranial organs even while under imminent threat of grisly death. Tuomas, running from the Bunny with a stranger from a neighbouring cabin party, turns to her as the creature feasts on her friend’s throat in the background, wistfully telling her “if only we’d met under different circumstances…” A couple of nods to the absurdity of it all are effective, too – the minor characters of two local cops who look like members of one of the recurring death-metal bands on the film’s soundtrack meet their end when their car crashes into a relatively small ravine and, of course, immediately explodes.
The problem, though, is not that the film fails to provide a logical framework to justify its excesses, but rather that their execution is so craven and onanistic that the end result is not a schlocky subversive horror but a filmed 4chan thread. Some of the delights experienced and/or perpetrated by the characters include: statutory molestation of a teenage boy; some good old fashioned knicker-sniffing, by same; the design of an underwear range featuring stylised vaginas, which later becomes the stupidest plot device I’ve ever seen;2 a lesbian rape then more or less forgotten about; and several instances of other severely predatory debauchery. The fact that all of this could potentially be effective in emphasising the characters’ transgressions is all but abandoned by the film’s halfway mark, where any attempt at subversion gives way to a screenplay that seems unable to relent from hammering away at every potential ‘edgy’ remark, every opportunity to show that gigantic swinging cock again. The only black character, Tim (Orwi Manny Ameh), is referred to as such many, many times, as is the ethnicity of his friend Vincent (Vincent Tsang – guess). It’s OK, though, because Tim and new friend Mise (Jari Manninen) do a kind of weird minstrel show ‘Mr. Black/Mr. White’ routine throughout the film, and are perplexingly suggested to be attracted to one another after a night fixing a stricken car and drinking moonshine.3 Bunny the Killer Thing is the fuckwit in your office who, grinning at his own imagined renegade status, says “it can’t be offensive if it’s true!” before saying a series of things which are both extremely offensive and extremely untrue.
Aside from its abject moral bankruptcy – although is it really necessary to look beyond that? – the film shows little stylistic flair beyond the occasional functional handling of slasher tropes I mentioned above. The cabin/sauna/garage complex4 would in a better film have become its own character, with the potential for the kind of rupturing of spatial possibility which is the hallmark of the horror villain mapping easily onto such a presumable simple layout. However, Makkonen’s camera never establishes the relationship between several spaces – at one point two people started having sex in what I thought should have been the cloakroom – a cardinal failing for a genre film so reliant on claustrophobia and the threat of being trapped. Honestly, though, Gregg Toland circa Citizen Kane couldn’t have rescued this film through style alone. ‘So bad it’s good’ is not an effective defence of a product so hopelessly mired in the desire to be gross that it becomes the butt of its own joke: Bunny the Killer Thing is just so bad it’s really bad.