'Run Rabbit Run' Review
February 7, 2023
Run Rabbit Run premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Netflix will release the film on its streaming platform on June 28.
Two things are entirely predictable within Run Rabbit Run, debuting at this year's Sundance Film Festival as part of the Midnight Madness section. The first is that Sarah Snook is terrific in the lead role, stripping away her ultra-rich American vibe from Succession and donning her native accent and a plain demeanor. The second predictable thing is the entire plot, right down to character motivations and specific moments where we're supposed to feel scared. It's nearly impossible to feel an authentic level of terror when those elements are so transparent, so all we end up doing is staring blankly at the screen waiting for what we expect to happen to actually happen.
Snook plays Sarah (why make things more complicated?), a single-mother fertility doctor in Southern Australia. She appears to be on decent terms with her ex-husband, who pops in to help celebrate their daughter Mia's seventh birthday. But just as one life is being celebrated, another is being mourned. Sarah's father recently passed away, leaving her in charge of the medical care for her senile mother, who is housed in a care facility. Mia has an odd fascination with Sarah's parents, even though she's never met them. She's constantly asking questions about them and decides to take on the persona of Alice to be closer to them. Things continually get darker from there, with Mia’s (or now Alice’s) actions becoming unexplainable, including creepy drawings and claiming to have memories of past lives.
Run Rabbit Run is a film littered with symbolism, with the title providing a preview of what animal will be used to conjure up creepy imagery. Director Daina Reid and cinematographer Bonnie Elliot produce some interesting shots, with the white fluffiness of the titular animal providing a stark contrast to the gloomy shadows within Sarah's home and psyche.
There's also a decent score provided by the duo of Mark Bradshaw and Marcus Whale, who's semi-regularly partnered with some of Australia and New Zealand's top filmmakers, such as Jane Campion on Bright Star and Top of the Lake. The low strings cut deep to the bone, with occasional pop whenever the terror becomes more in-your-face.
"In-your-face" would also be an accurate way to describe Hannah Kent's script, which reveals so many clues early on that it takes little effort to figure out the "twist" ending by the midway mark. Sarah doesn't like to talk about her past, with her mother dropping hints along the way on account of her dementia. A few all too obvious glances at pictures and emphasis on words by the mother tell you all you need to know about what the name Alice means. And if that wasn't obvious enough, the final thirty minutes hammer it home with the same intensity as a nineteenth-century gold miner.
It's almost a surface-level cliché at this point to compare this film to The Babadook, but the parallels are so on-the-nose that I feel like I wouldn't be fulfilling my professional duties if I didn't. Plenty of good horror movies have been copies of those that came before them, but they had to earn their keep through inventive ideas surrounding well-worn topics. Run Rabbit Run doesn't do any of that, pedaling the same "elevated" scares that we've partially become numb to at this point.