A few more rabbits just moved into “Watership Down.” Rosamund Pike, Peter Capaldi, Gemma Chan, and Taron Egerton are all lending their voices to BBC and Netflix’s upcoming adaptation of Richard Adams’ enduring novel, which was previously made into a notoriously upsetting movie in 1978. The four new cast members are joining the previously announced James McAvoy, Daniel Kaluuya, Nicholas Hoult, Ben Kingsley, John Boyega, Gemma Arterton, Olivia Colman, and Tom Wilkinson; also involved is Sam Smith, who’s performing an original song called “Fire to Fire” for the soundtrack [ . . . ]
Ever since the Forrest family pet unexpectedly entered the food chain in Fatal Attraction, and Frank the mercury-faced leporid walked into Donnie Darko’s waking dreams, rabbits have been officially nibbling around the edges of the horror genre. Right now, they’re at 46th place in the freakiness rankings, sandwiched between abandoned rocking chairs and wind-up music boxes (well below the likes of staring twins and evil clowns). But if there was a moment when the placid little critters first extended their range beyond merely cute, I like to think I was there, and wailing in raw, unfiltered, primal terror.
That reaction was probably wasn’t what Richard Adams had in mind when he wrote Watership Down in 1972, his homily to the timeless rhythms of rural England. I doubt Martin Rosen and John Hubley, directors of the 1978 film version, wanted to scare the bejesus out of their young audience either. But one small section – the apocalyptic vision that leads skittish rabbit seer Fiver to encourage his warren mates to abandon their burrows – was far too vivid. Fiver sniffs around, a whisper of terror in the air: a fencepost rears up like a gallows; a cigarette singes the lush green. Then he sees it: blood blotting a vast field, threatening to engulf them all. Skeletal tree outlines crack like veins through the insanguinated sods. Their branches twist and undulate with queasy malice [ . . . ]