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‘Run Rabbit Run’ Review: Sarah Snook in a motherly horror movie whose chills are only skin deep

Following in the footsteps of The Babadook and Heir apparent, Run Rabbit run adds a layer of generational analysis to horror images of motherhood. While mothers have always been at the center of horror stories, the story’s focus has recently shifted. Filmmakers have become more interested in what a child’s existence reveals about the mother than in the more primal anxieties of the parents. These stories often speak of millennials’ desire not to procreate, either because of the state of the world, or more pronounced, the fear of “mistaking” a child with neuroses and generational trauma. It would be ahistorical to say that horror has only just begun to address trauma. The genre has always explored and commented on the nature of trauma. But as the concept of “trauma” has become more popular, references to it in genre cinema have become more literal.

In the Australian psychological thriller Run Rabbit run, parenthood is a bleak, isolated nightmare. The sky is gloomy, the rooms of the house are dark and filled with shadows, and Sarah (Sarah Snook) looks lonely, even with her young daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre). It’s Mia’s birthday, but the mood is sombre. Mia is withdrawn and Sarah is easily angered. The presence of her ex-husband Peter (David Herriman) and his new family only seems to make things worse, as Sarah learns they are trying to have another child. Even worse, Mia begins to show signs of being bullied, leaving Sarah feeling helpless. With a busy work schedule and non-existent personal life, Sarah spends all her free time worrying about her daughter.

Run Rabbit run

It comes down to

Frustrating on the surface.

Event location: Sun Dance (Midnight)
Form: Sarah Snook, Lily LaTorre, Damon Herriman, Greta Scacchi, Trevor Jamieson
Director: Diana Reid
Author: Hannah Kent

1 hour 39 minutes

Since her birthday, Mia has started behaving strangely. At certain times, her speech matures and she seems to be aware of her mother’s secrets. “You’re a horrible person,” she yells at Sarah during a heated argument, without clarifying what she means by that. Acting as her mother’s guilty conscience, Mia alludes to a past event that Sarah doesn’t want to remember. Slowly, her life turns into a nightmare as her relationship with Mia begins to deteriorate. Mia no longer calls Sarah her mother, instead treating her like a stranger. Things come to a head when Sarah takes Mia back to her childhood home, hoping it will bring clarity to the situation. It soon becomes clear that the conflict between mother and daughter runs deeper than one realizes.

moody and atmospheric, Run Rabbit run easily builds tension and anxiety. And yet it keeps hinting at depth that never comes. Director Daina Reid takes us through all the similar moves – hallucinations, mysterious injuries, outbursts of violence in the most general way possible. Not even the symbolic white rabbit that appears throughout the film inspires interest or fear.

But the most frustrating thing about it Run Rabbit run is the minimalist approach to presenting Sarah and her frustrations. We never get inside her head because the movie is more interested in keeping us from being with us than telling a full, compelling story. Scenes involving family members who are supposed to fill the story with rich backstory are repetitive and vague, giving no insight into why Sarah is so isolated and volatile in the first place.

Sarah’s friends and family are unhelpful, partly because she doesn’t speak the language to tell them what’s going on. But there’s also an advantage to Sarah, one that can’t be easily explained away by fatigue. Snook plays her as if she were a child trapped in an adult’s body – defensive, easily overwhelmed and prone to tantrums. Moments between mother and daughter quickly degenerate into circular reasoning. And yet LaTorre shows promise as Mia, in a precocious performance that needs a better movie. Writer Hannah Kent’s script is too minimalist to provide memorable dialogue for the young actress.

In the end, the film feels like a missed opportunity to explore how childhood never really leaves us, and how having kids can force a mother to question who she really is. There are times when it feels like Sarah doesn’t feel fit to be a mother at all. If alone Run Rabbit run wasn’t so afraid to dig deeper.

Full credits

Location: Sundance (midnight)
Production company: Carver Films
Cast: Sarah Snook, Lily LaTorre, Damon Herriman, Greta Scacchi, Trevor Jamieson
Directed by: Daina Reid
Writer: Hanna Kent
Producers: Sarah Shaw, Anna McLeish
Executive Producers: Nate Bolotin, Maxime Cottray, Nick Spicer, Aram Tertzakian, Deanne Weir, Olivia Humphrey, Jack Christian, DJ McPherson, Daina Reid, Sarah Snook
Director of Photography: Bonnie Elliott
Editor: Nick Meyers
Production Designer: Vanesse Cerne
Supervising sound editor: Robert Mackenzie
Costume Designer: Marion Boyce
Casting: Allison Meadows

1 hour 39 minutes

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