David Lynch Made a Disturbing Web Sitcom Called “Rabbits”: It’s Now Used by Psychologists to Induce a Sense of Existential Crisis in Research Subjects

David Lynch has stayed productive in recent years — putting out an album and reviving Twin Peaks, to name just two projects — but more than a decade has gone by since his last feature film. Still, images from that one, 2006’s Inland Empire, may well linger in the heads of its viewers to this day. Some of the most haunting sequences that compose its three hours include clips of Rabbits, a television show about those very creatures. Or rather, a television show about humanoid rabbits who exchange lines of cryptic dialogue in a shadowy living room located, as the show puts it, “in a nameless city deluged by a continuous rain” where they live “with a fearful mystery.”

So far, so Lynchian. Part of the director’s signature atmosphere arises, of course, from the menacingly presented 1950s domesticity and the bizarre appearance of human actors wearing expressionless rabbit heads. But just as much has to do with sound: along with an ominous score by frequent Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti we hear that constant deluge of rain, with occasional sonic punctuation from an inexplicably timed laugh track. You can binge-watch Rabbits‘ episodes on YouTube, an experience which will give you a fuller sense of why University of British Columbia psychologists used it to induce a sense of existential crisis in research subjects.

Lynch shot Rabbits in 2002 on digital video, a medium whose freedom, compared to traditional film, he had recently discovered. (When he went on to use it for the whole of Inland Empire, the choice seemed as cinematically startling, at the time, as any he’d ever made.) The shoots happened at night, on a set built in his backyard. Its principal cast of Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and Scott Coffey had all appeared the previous year in Lynch’s critically acclaimed Mulholland Drive, which itself began as a prospective television series. (Even the singer Rebekah del Rio, star of Club Silencio, turns up in one episode.) Lynch first “aired” the series on his web site, which must place him among not just the artistic but technical pioneers of the web series form.

But why, exactly, did he make it in the first place? “Rabbits is a sitcom,” writes a contributor called Peek 824545301 at The Artifice. “It is not merely parody or satire; it exists as perhaps the most bizarre and arguably literal sitcom imaginable, though still an opposing force that challenges and defamiliarizes basic concepts.” Abstracting the basic elements of the sitcom form while stripping them of narrative, the show also signals comedy on one level and darkness on another, putting itself “simultaneously in alignment with situation comedies in its essence while also serving as a destructive criticism.” In this view, Lynch moves from medium to medium not just as a singular kind of creator but — with his imagination that has somehow come up with even stranger things than this rabbit sitcom — a singular kind of critic as well.

Related Content:

David Lynch Posts His Nightmarish Sitcom Rabbits Online–the Show That Psychologists Use to Induce a Sense of Existential Crisis in Research Subjects

What Makes a David Lynch Film Lynchian: A Video Essay

Angelo Badalamenti Reveals How He and David Lynch Composed the Twin Peaks‘ “Love Theme”

Dumbland, David Lynch’s Twisted Animated Series (NSFW)

Discover David Lynch’s Bizarre & Minimalist Comic Strip, The Angriest Dog in the World (1983-1992)

David Lynch’s New ‘Crazy Clown Time’ Video: Intense Psychotic Backyard Craziness (NSFW)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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  • Nathan says:

    The English pop rock group The 1975 made an appropriated music video based on the “Rabbits”. It’s nice to see the inclusion in a pop reference and also an interesting take on the original. https://youtu.be/Bimd2nZirT4

  • Brian OConnell says:

    I suggest also watching the Quay bros’ Street of Crocodiles.

  • Quay says:

    In that city of cheap human material, no instincts can flourish, no dark and unusual passions can be aroused. The Street of Crocodiles was a concession of our city to modernity and metropolitan corruption. The misfortune of that area is that nothing ever succeeds there, nothing can ever reach a definite conclusion. Obviously, we were unable to afford anything better than a cardboard imitation, a photo-montage cut out from last year’s mouldering newspapers.

    Read more: https://perspectiveszine.webnode.sk/news/street-of-crocodiles/

  • Martin Beaudet says:

    You mention the importance of sound in creating the atmosphere of “Rabbits.” Sound design was done by sound engineer John Neff, who also worked on Lynch’s “Inland Empire,” “Mulholland Drive,” and “The Straight Story.”

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