RUN RABBIT RUN
June 28, 2023 / Netflix
Starring: Sarah Snook, Lily LaTorre, Damon Herriman
Directed By: Daina Reid
Sarah Snook plays a single mother frightened by her young daughter's inexplicable memories of a past identity.
Written By Darren
Rating 3 out of 5
Run Rabbit Run has a tense atmosphere that creates a sense of paranoia within viewers, constantly having them question what is real and what is not, though despite Sarah Snook’s strong performance, the film is not able to fully capitalize on the themes of childhood trauma and grief that it sets out to explore.
When you’ve seen a few horror films dealing with a specific theme, you begin to pick up early on on what the film’s story is building towards. To differentiate the next horror film dealing with the same theme, the filmmaker needs to either terrify the viewer to death, or convey the theme and meaning in a clear manner with a directorial style that does something new with the themes at play. And while no one can fault Sarah Snook with her lead performance and only give her praise for carrying the entire film on her back, Run Rabbit Run gets bogged down by narrative issues that results in a film that feels too familiar to other films dealing with grief and childhood trauma to allow it to stand out within the genre.
Sarah is a single mother navigating the loss of her father and raising her daughter Mia, while her ex-husband is more focused on starting a new family with his new partner. However, her father’s death has awoken something within Mia, causing increasingly strange and concerning behaviour from Mia that forces Sarah to confront the ghosts of her childhood as her past and present collide.
Themes of grief and trauma can help build a great atmosphere for a horror film. There is something truly disturbing about unresolved trauma from a character’s past that manifests perfectly to create an unsettling atmosphere for a story to play out in, and Run Rabbit Run has plenty of that. While the screenplay is slow to reveal the details of Sarah’s childhood that still haunt her to this day, the sense of dread washes over the viewer as her daughter Mia begins to act strange. It intensifies over the course of the film, resulting in some truly startling moments as the film begins to play psychological tricks on both Sarah and the audience, leading them both to question what is real. It’s sharp direction from Daina Reed that allows the film to have a great setup, though sadly the screenplay fails to deliver the layup that the atmosphere set up for it.
There is a clear thematic message at play within the screenplay, as Sarah’s grief and secrets of her past eat away at her and begin to play tricks on her and her daughter, but the screenplay fails to move beyond this initial trick on the audience. It becomes circular storytelling, never moving the story to the next stage, instead stuck on torturing Sarah and the audience with no payoff present in the final act. While the film ends on a chilling note that will leave viewers uncomfortable without question, it also leaves them with more questions than answers as the film screenplay is not able to cement the point it set out to make.
Luckily, the film has Snook firing on all cylinders in the lead role as Sarah. From watching Succession, audiences know that Snook can portray intelligent and powerful women while simultaneously tapping into their vulnerabilities, which only aids as she portrays Sarah’s spiral into madness. At first, Snook holds herself together as a highly educated woman and capable mother, but as her past begins to catch up with her, Snook slowly and carefully unravels Sarah on screen. At first, you are convinced that Mia is just playing tricks on her mother, but with each scene, Snook has you questioning whether what we are seeing is true, or if Sarah is actually losing her mind. Even when you should be appalled at what she has done, Snook ensures that you have a glimmer of hope that the paranormal force haunting her is real and that she is not just becoming a delusional mother, ensuring that the audience are emotionally invested in her character’s outcome. It’s a great performance that makes the entire film worth a watch as Snook matches the unsettling atmosphere and drives home the paranoia that the screenplay does a wonderful job of setting up, even if there is not the material for Snook to tie together the themes at play.
While you will instantly not like the young girl at the center of the story, there is no denying that young Lily LaTorre is solid in the role. Easily getting under your skin, LaTorre captures the fear within Mia as she witnesses some erratic behaviour from her mother, while possessing a truly devilish quality that instantly convinces the viewer that there is something truly wrong and sinister about this young girl.
Complementing the unnerving atmosphere of the film is the cinematography. Engulfing the film in shadows and out of focus backdrops, the filmmakers are easily able to hide something just behind Sarah slightly out of focus or something hiding just off screen and only showing the shadow. It visually sets the viewers on high alert, waiting for something to jump out at them, but instead of filling the film with jump scares, Reed resists and limits the jump scares to ensure they have the maximum effect. From a storytelling point of view, this helps build the paranoia because while you are questioning the reality of everything you as the viewer are seeing, you are not shown the full picture and truly begin to question everything that occurs as you know that there is something being withheld over the film’s quick runtime. But as the tension builds, the cinematography begins to show more and more, building the dramatic shock of the film’s final act, even if the story fails to match the talented talent behind and infront of the camera.
There is no denying that Run Rabbit Run is full of potential and sets the stage for what could have been the next breakout independent horror film. However, the story fails to fully transpire and leaves the audience with more unanswered questions and confusion than it should, ultimately minimizing the exceptional performance from Sarah Snook and direction of Daina Reed, making Run Rabbit Run a watchable but largely forgettable horror experience.