run rabbit run tells the story of Sarah (Sarah Schnook), a fertility doctor and single mother trying to take care of herself and her daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre). The two begin to celebrate by celebrating Mia’s seventh birthday with Sarah’s ex-husband Peter (Damon Herrman) his partner and their child present. Though there is some estrangement, Peter still maintains a good fatherly relationship with Mia, who nicknames her Bunny.
But something strange happens that coincides with the birthday with the arrival of a rabbit. Since then, Mia’s behavior changes drastically, leading Sarah to delve into her tragic past involving her sister Alice and her disabled mother (Greta Scachi).
from the synopsis, run rabbit run lays a solid foundation for a gripping horror drama that, with its time-honoured notions of trauma and repression, can offer both genre-bright horror and effective pathos; especially when its creation is reminiscent of recent Australian horror films like The Babadook and Relic.
Therein lies the problem with the film. The story of the novelist Hannah Kent (in her screenplay debut) and directed by the filmmaker Daina Reid feels too derived from other, more effective stories of its kind. It also doesn’t help that the film’s timing hinders the story’s impact, as the modern horror world has seen many films experience grief and trauma to the point that it’s the trope turned into a cliché.
Reid admirably brings a lighter touch to the material, as opposed to a more aggressive approach that would border on farce or parody; with reliance on somber mood, thoughtful pacing and somber atmosphere. The cinematography of Bonnie Elliott helps immensely in setting the tone of the piece. Lacking much staying power with interesting character development (we see Sarah on the brink of sanity at the very beginning of the film) and lack of originality in the script, the film leaves little interest for the viewer to hold on to when it comes to its ineffectively ambiguous conclusion comes.
Luckily, the performances that guide the film are well done, which never makes the story less than worth watching. Snook carries the heavy burden on her shoulders while making her character’s trials and tribulations palpable, making her character believable and gripping. While LaTorre manages to bring out the best in Mia’s (and Alice’s) character; makes her transformation haunting, powerful, without turning into a cartoon.
In total, run rabbit run is a film that is less than the sum of its parts. Sarah Schnook and especially Lily LaTorre (who will move on to much better things) try their best to carry it on their shoulders. Lacking any ingenuity in its horror elements and compelling drama in its characters and story, the film unfortunately fails.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
run rabbit run is set as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, taking place January 19-29, 2023 both in-person and online. Visit the official Sundance site for more information.