If you have ever wondered what would happen if a pair of bloodthirsty aliens intent on harvesting human DNA infiltrated the UK’s cosy crime capital of Midsomer, you’d be part way towards getting a handle on what the hell is going on in Cute Little Buggers. In writer/director Tony Jopia’s micro-budget sci-fi comedy, Ernest and Brian, a pair of hapless aliens on a mission to revitalise their dying planet’s gene pool, make the mistake of choosing the sleepy Oxfordshire village of Deddington for their mission just as the local fete is about to kick off, so it’s going to be the start of a difficult day for local bobby Police Constable James (John R Walker).
With their insatiable need for local females to inseminate, the aliens choose rabbits as their earthbound proxy species (after all, they have a fearsome reputation for reproduction) and set them off to drag off the women and kill anyone who gets in their way. As if that isn’t difficult enough for PC James his boss wants the killings hushed up so people are not put off visiting the fete. If that wakes up your little grey cells then you are on the right wavelength to fully appreciate Jopia’s madcap genre mash-up as the savage bunny attacks intensify and PC James has to band together the surviving locals into a rag-tag army capable of taking on the alien menace with their improvised weapons arsenal.
While Cute Little Buggers is obviously indebted to sixties Brit sci-fi like Island of Terror (1966) and Night Caller From Outer Space (1965), the rural setting and Deddington’s inhabitants with all their eccentricities, tangled love lives, petty jealousies and family secrets are firmly parodied from contemporary UK cosy TV crime dramas like Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004 onwards) and especially Midsomer Murders (1997 onwards). On top of that, there are a whole host of homages to other films and TV to be ticked off and enjoyed by genre buffs, together with plenty of slapstick gore and mayhem, plus some completely gratuitous nudity to keep exploitation fans happy.
The cheap and tacky creature effects in Cute Little Buggers are wholly appropriate for what Jopia has set out to do with the film and while it isn’t quite as crazily funny as Crying Wolf it does demonstrates a clear love for genre film and TV even if the gags do occasionally misfire. There is also a cameo from the lovely Caroline Munro as the Deddington Fete fortune-teller.
Jopia has existing form with this kind of horror comedy having somehow managed to merge influences as diverse as An American Werewolf in London with Amicus portmanteaus, Leone westerns, and Carry On comedies to produce the madcap comedy Crying Wolf (2015) where a pack of dysfunctional lycanthropes are lured into taking a camping holiday by a team of werewolf hunters.
Unlike Night of the Lepus (1972) this isn’t a film to be laughed at rather than one to be laughed along with, even if sometimes the enthusiasm of the cast gets the better of their experience. I give Cute Little Buggers a four out of five.