Australian filmmaker Diana Reid must either be a fan of Stephen King or The Shining, or both. Her latest feature, Run Rabbit Run, has the literary attributes of Stephen King as well as the genre characteristics of The Shining. Or at least, Run Rabbit Run does remind you of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, particularly the way Reid playfully exploits the motif of the twin sisters from The Shining. Though Run Rabbit Run has nothing to do with twins, it has a subplot that involves two child actors who play two different characters; at one point, it takes a moment to recognise who plays what. For, the child actors look like mirror images. Reid gets the casting right, and Run Rabbit Run benefits largely from its actors.
All of which is not to say that Run Rabbit Run is a great work by any stretch. The screenplay comes across like the work of a horror movie fan who has seen all the great works of classical horror and yet, lacks clarity. Reid seems to have clarity only in the genre elements and a premise that benefits by stacking the odds against its protagonist. There is no emotional depth nor do the characters feel real.
Run Rabbit Run
Director: Daina Reid
Cast: Sarah Snook, Lily Latorre, Damon Herriman and Greta Sacchi
Runtime: 100 minutes
Storyline: Sarah is forced to confront the ghosts of her past when her daughter Mia brgins to exhibit strange behaviour
Run Rabbit Run starts pretty well: Sarah (Sarah Snook), a fertility doctor, lives with her daughter Mia (Lily Latorre) who has just turned seven. Sarah recently lost her father with whom she was closest, and comes to know that her estranged husband Pete and his partner are trying for a baby. “Mia was going to be the only kid. I thought we agreed on it,” she shoots back at her ex-husband. Around this time, Sarah comes home to find an unusual gift for Mia at the doorstep — a rabbit with blood-red eyes waiting for them. At the same time, Mia begins to behave strangely and becomes increasingly not herself by the day.
There is a lot that goes against Sarah and understandably so. The unwritten rule in psychological horror is that the protagonist has to feel a sense of suffocation from her immediate reality. So, let’s dump everything in it.
When the genre elements kick in, the first half of Run Rabbit Run is quite enjoyable, giving us a false promise that there is something profound to come in the latter half. Sadly, it doesn’t come together as a whole. Even when the movie tries to create a mood, something doesn’t work or is wrong about the way Reid imagines horror and suspense.
The winds are always rough in Run Rabbit Run; its aural cues almost never complement the visuals. So much so that when you watch the movie on mute, the audio description does a better job of telling us what kind of horror Reid is aiming at. The audio description always goes: ominous score, ominous music, unsettling score, disorienting sounds. Mia wears a paper mask shaped like a rabbit. These are all derivative, there is hardly any original. As the movie progresses, we are definitely hooked on; that is one thing Run Rabbit Run can be proud of. But over time, the narrative gets tedious and repetitive as if we are stuck in a time loop.
Written by Hannah Kent, Run Rabbit Run drops hints about Sarah, the equation she had with her father and the estranged relationship with her mother. We learn all this through Mia. There is a weighty piece of reveal about Sarah that is not difficult to guess, but one that the movie reserves till the end. The issue with Kent’s script is the narrative gaps and the lack of emotional clarity: when Mia exhibits strange behaviour at a later point — when she goes by a different name — it becomes a movie about two sisters when it would have actually made a decent watch if it were about Sarah and Mia. It still is. But Run Rabbit Run ultimately becomes Sarah’s story with a tad simple solutions.
Run Rabbit Run has a powerful set of images: a girl in a tunnel with a rabbit mask on, a girl being locked up in a cupboard, and a woman lying by the shores of a riverbed. These are breathtaking, but because you feel numb looking at them, you are not sure what exactly to make out of the movie.
Run Rabbit Runwas screened at the ongoing Sundance Film Festival 2023