Easter surely isn’t the most obvious choice of holidays to build a horror movie around.
However, thanks to films including the Russ Meyer-indebted slasher Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill! and writer/director Nicholas McCarthy’s delightfully effed-up segment in the 2016 anthology Holidays, it hasn’t exactly been underrepresented in the genre, either (heck, you can even throw Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, with its Herschell Gordon Lewis-level gruesomeness, onto that list if you want).
Thus, it’s hard to describe the (wonderfully named) comedy-horror feature Rottentail as particularly original, though its Easter-Bunny-gone-bad premise is a fun one, nonetheless. If had it been adhered to with a bit more commitment, in fact, the movie might have become an annual favorite – something, perhaps, for Resurrection Sunday stoners to enjoy while the family’s off at church. Unfortunately, the film just doesn’t seem to fully trust the notion that a rampaging, revenge-driven man-bunny hybrid is enough to hang a movie on. It ends up being as overstuffed yet ultimately disappointing as a particularly lackluster Easter basket – not enough delicious Cadbury Creme Eggs to go around, and far too much of that crappy plastic grass that you’ll be vacuuming up long after Mother’s Day.
“…Peter is bitten by one of his crazed colleagues’ experimental mutated bunnies…”
Adapted from a graphic novel by David C. Hayes and Kevin Moyers, Rottentail begins as the story of a socially awkward scientist named Peter Cotten (Corin Nemec), who works for a heartless mega-corp using laboratory rabbits to perfect a super-powerful fertility serum (rabbits, of course, being very well-known for their reproductive capabilities). Unfortunately, Peter is bitten by one of his crazed colleagues’ experimental mutated bunnies – it looks like a distant cousin of the Sumatran Rat Monkey from Peter Jackson’s Dead-Alive – and he quickly begins transforming into something out of a demented David Cronenberg version of Watership Down. Still lusting after his high-school crush (Dominique Swain) and thirsting for vengeance on the now-grown-up bully who murdered his beloved pet rabbit, Peter re-christens himself “Rottentail” and returns to his hometown of Easter Falls to raise hell.
That is, again, a silly but suitable setup for an enjoyably trashy piece of cinematic junk food, but Rottentail tosses so many needless extra villains, uninteresting side-plots, and other assorted nonsense into the mix, viewers don’t get nearly enough of what they showed up for. By the film’s manic final act – which includes an ersatz Sergio Leone showdown, superhero battles, a ton of stock footage, and even a trip to hell – it’s pretty hard to make heads or (cotton)tails out of what’s going on, and even harder to care about any of it.
“…fun to see former TV teen heartthrob Nemec…ham it up as an over-the-top horror-heavy.”
On the positive side, the filmmakers do make a solid attempt to honor the story’s comic-book origins stylistically; nearly every scene is awash is campy colored lighting and off-kilter angles, which keeps things energetic visually and does a good job of hiding budgetary constraints, to boot. Director Brian Skiba shows some flair for creatively gross, Troma-like excess on occasion, as well, such as a scene in which a mutating Peter unloads a gushing torrent of rabbit pellets while en route to the bathroom and – this is a new one – a character gets flung around the room by his raging, scientifically enhanced boner. The film even boasts one rather clever villain in Pastor Jake (William McNamara), the aforementioned bunny-murdering bully who’s gone on to become a wildly corrupt megachurch preacher – he’s good for a few laughs, and the character is a thematically appropriate choice, too.
As for Rottentail himself, well, he sort of has his moments. It’s fun to see former TV teen heartthrob Nemec – who played the title character in the short-lived but fondly remembered early 90s Fox comedy Parker Lewis Can’t Lose – ham it up as an over-the-top horror-heavy. But there’s just not much consistency to the character, and as the movie goes farther and farther astray from his classic monster-movie origins, it seems not quite to know what to do with him. By the end, he’s mostly just mugging incoherently to the camera, tossing off halfhearted one-liners that make even the lamest of late-period Freddy Krueger quips sound like Oscar Wilde.
So, yes, Rottentail is a disappointment, overall, and even forgiving viewers are likely to hop off the bunny trail long before the closing credits roll. Those seeking some diverting Easter entertainment would be better served by putting marshmallow Peeps in the microwave (though, admittedly, not many movies can compare to the fun of that).
Rottentail (2019). Directed by Brian Skiba. Written by Brian Skiba and David C. Hayes. Starring Corin Nemec, Dominique Swain, William McNamara, Gianna Capaldi, Brian Skiba, Tank Jones
4 out of 10