[Sundance Review] RUN RABBIT RUN
Slow burns are perfect for the horror genre. Few things satisfy as much as a movie that turns the viewer into the proverbial boiling frog, turning up the heat so slowly that you almost don’t even notice the terror creeping in all around you. Directed by Daina Reid and written by Hannah Kent, RUN RABBIT RUN aims for a slow burn, attempting to examine generational trauma through the eyes of a grief-stricken woman. However, the film never bothers to turn the heat up; instead, it leaves the viewer treading tepid water.

Sarah (Sarah Snook) is a fertility doctor mourning the loss of her father and stuck dealing with the care instructions for her estranged mother. Sarah’s daughter, Mia (Lily LaTorre), is celebrating her seventh birthday. After the party, Mia begins exhibiting unnerving behaviors: she wears a misshapen rabbit mask everywhere she goes, she develops unexplained injuries, and she insists that her real name is Alice. Mia even claims that she misses people she’s never met, including her grandmother, and remembers things that happened long before she was born. Sarah is shaken; Mia’s words hit home, as they remind her of a long-buried family tragedy. The problem lies in how the mystery behind that tragedy unfolds.

RUN RABBIT RUN can’t generate the tension required to keep the audience interested in Mia’s bizarre proclamations or Sarah’s emotional distress. The film repeats the same scene over and over again, with Mia making an ominous statement and then running away after Sarah scolds her for her spooky behavior. It’s like watching a maddening cut of The Babadook with the scares and the suspense removed. To her credit, Snook’s performance is strong. She deftly conveys Sarah’s anger, grief, and confusion, combined with the guilt she feels over directing such negative emotions toward her daughter. However, she can’t save the film from its wheel-spinning and flat tone.

RUN RABBIT RUN is riddled with genre clichés. Its atonal string score, ghostly whispers, and drone shots of a car winding along a forest road do nothing to set it apart from similar ‘creepy kid’ stories. During one repetitive scene, Mia tells Sarah, “You’re a terrible person,” and there are times when the audience agrees with her. Granted, characters don’t have to be likable for a film to be good. They do have to be interesting, though. RUN RABBIT RUN drains its characters of any compelling arc or personality, leaving you to wonder why you should care about the predictable mystery or the one-note family dynamics. Snook’s performance alone can’t elevate the film beyond its weak script, making it a slow burn that never catches fire.

RUN RABBIT RUN had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.

Jessica Scott
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