As we reach the midway point of 2023, Netflix makes at least a half-hearted effort to appease horror fans with a new original offering. While the streaming platform has generally been ambivalent at best toward the genre, this year has been particularly light on new horror offerings. But the latest release has some promising pedigree behind it. From director Daina Reid (The Handmaid’s Tale) and writer Hannah Kent (Burial Rites), psychological horror Run Rabbit Run promises a brooding take on motherhood in the tradition of The Babadook. Sarah Snook, fresh off the buzz of Succession, headlines the Aussie thriller.
Sarah, a fertility doctor and single mother, is struggling to raise her daughter, Mia. While she watches her ex-husband start a new family, Sarah must reckon with her father’s death and estranged mother’s slipping away to dementia. Shortly after a white bunny rabbit shows up on their doorstep, Mia’s behaviour becomes increasingly strange and unsettling. Now Mia claims she is ‘Alice’, Sarah’s sister who went missing years ago, and insists on seeing her grandmother, a woman she has never met.
Run Rabbit Run Rich on Atmosphere, But Occasionally Lacks Urgency
Almost immediately, Run Rabbit Run establishes that it’s more interested in mood over jolts or jumps. Director Daina Reid maintains an expert grasp on the murky tone that defines her thriller. While there’s no denying that Run Rabbit Run always feels creepy it doesn’t consistently put you on edge. There’s a bit of a hit-and-miss quality to the thriller’s aesthetics and textures – you know you should feel tense, but the results sometimes lack urgency. Nonetheless, as the story strides into its third act, Reid almost takes things into surrealist territory. That lack of really knowing whether the things on screen are real, or imagined by Sarah, enhances the suspense. And the ending hits the right amount of ambiguity to feel a bit disturbing.
There’s a bit of a hit-and-miss quality to the thriller’s aesthetics and textures – you know you should feel tense, but the results sometimes lack urgency.
If Run Rabbit Run hits a bump in the road, it’s the overall feeling of familiarity to much of the story. There are enough ‘creepy kid’ movies to warrant considering it its very own subgenre in horror. We’ve also seen plenty of horror movies about troubled mothers wringing their hands about the increasingly disturbing the behaviour of their kids. Run Rabbit Run straddles the fence somewhere in between those two premises, most closely resembling another Aussie horror classic, The Babadook. When Reid focuses on making simple objects – even a white bunny rabbit – feel foreboding, the thriller fires on all cylinders. But when it trades on familiar tropes, things somewhat stall – or at least fall short of potential.
Run Rabbit Run Delivers Another Reminder That Sarah Snook is Really, Really Talented
In spite of some of its reliance on familiar horror tropes, Run Rabbit Run benefits from a rich thematic focus in Hannah Kent’s screenplay. One of the thriller’s strengths is the mystery built into Sarah’s past relationship with her mother and the meaning inherent to Mia believing that she is ‘Alice’, her mother’s own missing sister. It’s this mystery that propels the story, even in its weaker moments. Some audiences may find the ambiguity in the thriller’s ending to be frustrating. Reid and Kent offer no easy answers. But it’s an ending that works for a movie intent on exploring guilty, trauma, and fractured family relationships.
…Sarah Snook captivates in a demanding role.
Not surprisingly, Sarah Snook captivates in a demanding role. And it’s a good thing because Snook finds herself in nearly every frame of a thriller with few other cast members on which to lean. Moreover, Snook’s character, coincidentally also named ‘Sarah’, isn’t just challenging – she’s often unlikable individual. As the mystery surrounding Mia’s odd behaviour, Kent’s screenplay tasks Snook with more and more erratic behaviour. There’s a desperation to ‘Sarah’ that often results in a lashing out that’s reprehensible. But Snook’s desperation and unravelling accounts for much of what makes this such a compelling thriller. In spite of her young age, Lily LaTorre’s performance as the possibly possessed ‘Mia’ promises big things for the young actress.
Run Rabbit Run May Frustrate, But There’s Too Much To Appreciate About This Psychological Thriller
Overall, Run Rabbit Run is a frustrating mix that is just too good to dismiss but falls just short of better movies. Reid infuses her thriller with a consistently foreboding atmosphere while making the seemingly benign feel creepy. Likewise, Hannah Kent’s screenplay boasts complex themes about motherhood, family trauma, and guilt that linger long past the credits. There’s no denying how ambiguously haunting the finale feels. And Sarah Snook delivers the kind of performance that should attract some Awards buzz. Yet Run Rabbit Run also relies too heavily on horror conventions seen in a countless ‘creepy kid’ movies. Still it’s a movie deserving of a look from fans of more subtle horror.