There’s an engaging twist and warped message at the heart of Patrick McConnell’s Happy Little Bunnies. The story might seem to meander about on tangents that lead nowhere, but the last ten or so minutes get right to the heart of what the writer and director wishes to say. He’s backed up by a brilliant cast who fully commit themselves to their roles. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
The odd comedic horror tale is set up as an extended therapy session between John (Jon-Scott Clark) and Carl (Simon Manley). John is afraid of giving in to his most perverted and darkest thoughts, and Carl swears he can help. As the two talk, trying to get to the root of John’s issues, flashbacks fill in the backstory, and subplots are there to… because… um… well, they exist.
And really, that is all that compromises Happy Little Bunnies. It is the characters talking in one room, the occasional flashback, and a scene with “ghost” who is supposedly Casey Affleck. And that is the biggest flaw here: the film could easily be turned into a stage play with nary a change. There’s not a ton about it that is cinematic, so while the lighting is great, the film feels small and contained.
“John is afraid of giving in to his most perverted and darkest thoughts, and Carl swears he can help.”
However, that is offset by the very clever, weighty screenplay. As the narrative progresses and Carl’s true self emerges, as well as all of John’s insecurities coming to light, the viewers realize how invested they are in these two people and are hoping that John can get the help he needs. Then the audience begins to fear for John’s life as Carl appears to be the truly unhinged one. The addition of a hostage, Leanne (a wonderful Sophie Toland), only further ups the stakes, gluing all those who are watching to the edges of their seat until the shocking and riveting finale.
The element that pushes Happy Little Bunnies over the hill into firm recommendation territory is the cast. Clark and Manley bounce off each other splendidly, allowing their back and forth to feel natural. They also possess brilliant comedic timing, so all the jokes land pretty well. Once the horror is added in, they sell the escalating atmosphere of nervousness and fear believably as well.
Happy Little Bunnies is not for everyone, as its dangling subplots are a bit more confusing than amusing, and as so much of it is two people sitting at a table, it does not always feel cinematic. But, the cast is great, the dialogue is funny and naturalistic, and the escalating tension is palpable. The movie is tons of fun, despite its issues.
"…tons of fun..."