The Story Behind Cabin Fever’s The Bunny Man, Played by Stuntman Preston Corbell
Blink, and you’ll miss it. The Bunny Man character in “Cabin Fever” (2002) is one of the most puzzling and eerie characters in contemporary horror. His appearance lasts less than 3 seconds but is enough to confound audiences more than twenty years since the film’s release.
What’s the deal with the Bunny Man, and why do Cabin Fever fans still talk about it today? Join us as we unveil everything we know about the character and its symbolism.
Eli Roth Splashes into the Horror Stage with Cabin Fever
Eli Roth’s directorial debut may seem like a B-movie made by inexperienced yet enthusiastic film students today. However, upon its release in 2002, Cabin Fever was hailed as a revolutionary piece in horror cinema. Quentin Tarantino called Roth “the future of horror,” and Peter Jackson stopped production on “The Lord of the Rings” to screen the chilling flick to his cast and crew – twice.
Some critics may be baffled by the movie’s success and admirers list.
After all, the story is not entirely original or groundbreaking. In short, a group of college grads spend a weekend at a remote cabin in the woods, trying to survive a flesh-eating virus and murderous locals. The script isn’t polished. Most characters are unsympathetic and miscast. Moreover, the film is advertised as a “splatter horror-comedy.” Still, the funny parts fall flat, and the horror special effects are broadly overdone.
Nevertheless, it is the short and brilliant inserts, such as the 3-second Bunny Man appearance in the hospital scene or that of Dennis – the hand-biting kid – yelling “Pancakes!” before showing off his taekwondo skills in a raging feat, that make Cabin Fever stand out.
The Bunny Man Creeps into the Scene
At the film’s 1:16:36 mark, we see Paul (Rider Strong) being carried through the hospital halls on a stretcher. He peeks briefly into a room, where he sees a person in a human-sized bunny suit, holding a plate full of pancakes in one hand and a mysterious injection in the other. The spooky character is standing next to an apparently moribund Dennis. Paul is carried off as we see the Bunny Man preparing to inject the kid with an unrevealed substance.
The actor playing the Bunny Man is not mentioned in the movie’s credits. In fact, the person playing it is credited as “Anonymous (as We will never tell).” Over the years, we discovered that stuntman Preston Corbell was inside the creepy rabbit costume, making his film debut at only 18 years old. He now has over 100 IMDb credits and has doubled for characters such as Kenny Powers (Eastbound & Down) and Lucas Scott (One Tree Hill).
The fans have often speculated about the Bunny Man’s presence and symbolism, with some calling it a vision, an angel of death, or another supernatural being. We can even assume writer and director Eli Roth is secretly fascinated with rabbits. After all, the first “character” we see in the movie is a dead rabbit recently hunted by the forest hermit.
Some would say Eli Roth’s Bunny Man is another link in a long chain of rabbit motifs in horror movies. The early 2000s feature it profusely, including “Donnie Darko” (2001), David Lynch’s “Rabbits” (2002), and “Starfish Hotel” (2006). How do these speculations match the director’s intent?
Who (and Why) Is the Bunny Man in “Cabin Fever?”
The Bunny Man is an intriguing appearance, for sure. However, the story behind the character may not be as deep as we think. His presence is not documented as a script-defining symbol or even a prank.
Eli Roth talked about the Bunny Man in an interview with Rebecca Murray for Liveabout:
“ROTH: The Bunny Man was very influenced by The Shining. There’s a scene in The Shining where Shelley Duvall’s running around the hotel, and she sees these creepy things. There’s a guy in a bear suit who is just really, really, really weird. It always stuck with me as a kid, so it’s kind of my little nod to The Shining.
MURRAY: But that was a bear, and this is a bunny. Why the change to a bunny?
ROTH: We just couldn’t find a bear suit. I think that there’s something very evil about a bunny suit.”
So, there you have it! They didn’t have a bear suit.
The director – a major horror buff – wanted something to replicate the eeriness of the genre’s best-known masterpieces. He was looking for that small addition that would unsettle audiences and give the story’s mysteries more depth. The Bunny Man, played by Preston Corbell, fit that ideal. After all, what is more nightmare-inducing than the brief sight of a human-sized bunny injecting a dying kid while holding a plate full of pancakes?
We say he pulled it off memorably.