The first thing you probably thought when you read the title was, “Is he joking? He’s not serious, is he?” Well, it’s almost ten years since the release of Serial Rabbit 3: Splitting Hares, and I’ve watched this film quite a few times, through editing, re-editing, re-distribution and now preparing it for Amazon Prime. My feelings on the film have changed throughout the years, from hate to adoration to embarrassment, to feeling it is a misunderstood classic. I’ve learned to self-critique and I can look back at my movies and identify where I went wrong. And I can look at Serial Rabbit 3, read the title of this article, and honestly say…Yes. Yes, I am serious.
The story of Serial Rabbit 3 isn’t a very long one, but I’ll try to make it that way. You can’t discuss SR3, without talking about it’s origins. It was a “spinoff” of a throw away scene from a film we did called Shadow Dragon. One in which the characters of Ruby and Angel share a moment in the car, gaze into each other’s eyes, and hear a loud thud as the car plows over a man in a bunny rabbit suit.
Not long after playing said bunny, my producer, Bradley Bates, asked me why this guy was in the middle of the road. To me, it didn’t matter. It was just a silly throw away scene in a quick thrown together movie. A part of abstract, out of the blue moments I like putting in my films. But this throw-away really stuck with Bradley. Time and time againI tell the story about Serial Rabbit was the result of a bet; I win, Brad quits asking me why the rabbit was in the middle of the road, he wins, I make a movie about why the rabbit was there. For the life of me, I can never remember what the bet was. All I know is that I lost. And Serial Rabbit was born.
“Badness appreciation is the most acquired taste, the most refined.”
– Uncredited fan
Fast forward about four and a half years, and the cast and crew of The Innocence Saga, about 500 people, wrapped production on the year long project of ten feature films shot from October of 2007 to October of 2008. The project still had plenty of post production work to do, but the heart of the project was finished. And now, we needed to blow off steam.
Normally when you get burned out on something, like filmmaking, you take a break from it. Instead, we ran back toward it. Making a nonsensical comedy where we didn’t have to take ourselves seriously and we could just have fun. A return to the rabbit seemed like the perfect thing to do. And everyone seemed up for it.
So I threw together a script, cast some of our more devoted actors from the Saga in it, and started shooting. It was incredibly fun, (with a few shocking and horrifying moments for myself, Bradley and Jake), but overall, it was a blast shooting it. Fast forward a year later, and the project we poured our heart and soul into, The Innocence Saga, still sought distribution. Our silly campy bunny movie? Headed toward Netflix Instant Streaming.
A year later, we had the worst reviews we’ve ever gotten, and we’ve gotten some pretty bad ones.
-“This movie shouldn’t be watched by anyone….with EYES!!!”
-“Every once in awhile, I watch something that makes me want to wash my brain out with bleach afterwards. This is one of them.”
“-this so called “movie” is rediculous and dumb…. Crap like this should not be even released, that was waset of my time………………………………………….. Terrible!!!!!”
To say the reviews ranged from “1s” to “10s” wouldn’t fully tell the story. They were either a 10 or a 1. No in-between. See for yourself the Amazon reviews here…
Now, some of the reviews have been accused of being posted by actors. Certainly, some actors put in their two cents. But in our defense, it was apparent that several comments were from other people we knew and who, for some reason or another, had it out for us.
One comment posted a long rant about how bad the film was, and then claimed that the producers were in trouble legally with the investors of the film. This was our first realization that someone was out to get us. As we simply had no investors. The entire out-of-pocket expense for Serial Rabbit 3, was about $300.
This is where the genius of the film begins. A film made for $300. A feature film. $300. And it made it on Netflix. Someone in the distribution field in Hollywood felt it was good enough to get on Netflix. Then, Netflix felt it was good enough to stream. Which is more than you can say for 99% of independent films that get produced every year.
The second part of the genius of Serial Rabbit 3 is it is a film made by friends, having a great time, not taking itself seriously. Which allowed us to not care about rules, about what we were doing, about what other people had done before. We invited the audience to join us for an hour and a half and just have fun and hang out with us. We invited them into our lives and they got to watch us play and act like idiots for awhile. Yes, it was a home movie. But it was a home movie that we had the courage to show to the entire world.
Now, having the bravery to show a low budget film doesn’t make this a masterpiece. But one of the things that does, is the performance (and direction) of Will Scoville. Will is a great actor. He is an interesting combination of the ‘Ernest Goes To’ character melded with the martial arts and physical prowess of an MMA fighter turned Hollywood actor. He can put it in overdrive and give us the ridiculous overacted character of Harvey in SR3, or he can tone it down and bring the intensity of Agent Glass in The Green Conspiracy.
I remember him asking me how he should play the character. And I told him he should, “play it as a Sesame Street or Electric Company detective thrown into a slasher film.” And with that direction, Will gave me, and audiences, EXACTLY what I had asked for. His spastic moves, his over exaggerated emotions, his bouncy vocal tones and patterns. He delivered exactly what I was going for.
Are there bad performances peppered throughout? Of course there are. Beth Stevens will be the first to admit she was reading her lines off a piece of paper inches from Will’s face, but it was below freezing and past midnight and she was doing it as a favor to me. She wasn’t an actor and everyone knows it, but she’s funny to watch and the
pessimism optimistic realism and sarcasm of her true life persona oozes through every word of Lilith on screen.
Some of the lines delivered throughout the movie are delivered with such boredom and carelessness that they not only show the truth of life as it is being filmed, but create the exact mood that it was intended to create…the vibe of a bad movie.
“Bad acting is the injection of truth.”
But then there are the outstanding performances, from Amy Jordan, the hot gratuitous half-naked chick Beth reveals has been hiding under her cloak for the duration of her talk with Harvey. It was the first time we had worked with her, hell it was the first night I had met her. And when the script said she pulled down her top, and flashed Harvey, she asked me for direction. I told her just go with what she feels. Figuring that she was in the middle of Nowhere, Texas sometime after midnight, surrounded by people she never met, I figured she’d pass on the flash. I was wrong.
She was in several films after that, including playing the lead in The Green Conspiracy. And it wasn’t the flash that sold me on her. It was her natural performance. Fun and clever. And very intelligent with the perfect amount of sass. Anyone who slams the acting in the film, did not watch her performance.
The other performance overlooked by the bad reviews, was the schizophrenic Deuce and Tres, played by Sergio Cantu and Sergio Cantu. Carrying over the characters of Ace and Duece from Second to Last Worst Day of My Life, Sergio brought his wild and wacky acting abilities to bear on the set and brought a fun and zany character to life.
And who can forget the sexy performance delivered by Cassandra Tutor. Her constant flirting and aggressive seduction aimed toward Harvey constantly falls on a daft and clueless mind. Her reactions are so incredibly natural and brilliant that without her subtle and flawless confusion brought on by his oblivious actions, the character of Harvey would not stand up as well as he does.
So many times, I saw reviews that talked about how the film tried to be a bad movie, but was just bad. Yes, it was attempting to just be a silly bad movie that could be genuinely funny in moments, silly and slapstick in others and just a way to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall (that we normally would never otherwise do) and see if it stuck. Some did, some didn’t, but it was balls out, let’s try this and see what happens cinema. Our test audience was the three theaters we sold out at the Drafthouse on its premiere screening. Every joke hit. The theater erupted in laughter at every moment it was supposed to.
Executive Producer, Jake Jecmenek, and I have had long conversations about the online reception of the film. He has and always will be the strongest supporter of the film. He loved it and supported it even when I wanted it burned and buried in the same landfill as all of those E.T. Atari cartridges. In regards to the bad critiques on Netflix, we do feel that the categorization of the film as a Slasher/Horror film, did hurt us in many ways. You don’t watch one of the Scary Movie spoof films when you’re looking for a legitimately scary horror film, do you? The audience that watched SR3 expected one thing and got another. Those audiences would never in a million years understand why there is a Jade Esteban Estrada music concert, edited basically as a music video, in the middle of the movie.
Overall, the film is a stream of consciousness. A fun project made to blow off steam and have fun. And everyone in the cast and crew needed it. It is by no means your typical movie. It is by no means your typical paint-by-numbers horror film. And those people who gave it a ten, “Got it.” Those who gave it a “1” are either the most boring, selfish and arrogant film snobs to ever post a blog on the internet, or they’re failed filmmakers or competitors pissed that a movie about a serial killing bunny made it Netflix, and theirs didn’t.
Serial Rabbit 3 isn’t the best movie I’ve ever made. I still haven’t made the best movie I’ve ever made. But it isn’t the worst. And it isn’t something I’m embarrassed of anymore. I used to joke that I’m forever going to be known as the guy who made the movie about the serial killing bunny. Well, now, I’d be alright with that.
I’m the guy who made a movie about a serial killing bunny.