Sundance: Another day, another horror movie about grief and trauma.
The predictably wonderful Sarah Snook goes wild in earnest in the Australian horror flick Run Rabbit Run, but the destination in the final act alone isn’t enough to justify the trip.
If you have never seen this thriller, you will enjoy this thriller. Directed by Dinah Reed from a Hannah Kent script, “Run Rabbit Run” is a similar tale about a grief- and trauma-stricken mother watching supernatural events confront her strained relationship. It rips heavily from the scripts of recent horror titles. and children (see “Relic,” for which the film’s producers also worked, and “Babadook,” for two of the most obvious and modern reference points). But there are dizzying leaps of logic in the script that never fully establish the world it seeks to build. Both possibilities turned out to be disappointing.
Sarah Snook trades her Shiv Roy “Succession” old-money aesthetic for Linen’s Banana Republic Outback chic, and as a fertility doctor named Sarah, buttons here like never before. She lives in suburban South Australia with her little seven-year-old daughter, Mia (Lily Latorre). However, her birthday coincides eerily with the recent death of Sarah’s own father, a tragedy she has never really faced. He is mostly estranged from his live-in mother, Joan (Greta Scacchi).
As with many such films, there are plenty of ominous animal symbols, most obvious in the form of a white rabbit that appears on Sarah’s doorstep on Mia’s birthday. Preoccupied with the furry and frightening creature, they almost immediately begin to show signs of erratic agitation, and both bombard Sarah with questions about the less relevant Joan. Mia also began referring to herself as “Alice”, claiming that she was no longer herself, and sharp-eyed viewers would have immediately realized who Alice was in the film.
In one scene, Sarah is hit by a large bird and barely notices it until Mia calls attention to the accident. After that, I can’t seem to find the bird under the car. These images are less cliché (and later more informative) than what inevitably becomes the dominant visual motif of Sarah and Mia’s breakup. Sara watches them closely late into the night, as she calls her ex and his new wife anxiously over a large glass of wine, she spills Sara’s secrets about her past to Mia’s. Poisoned the mind, she accused.
These secrets coalesce into the unsettled schematic silhouette of a picture later in the film, in which Sarah inexplicably drags Mia to her childhood home in rural Wykelly. How it makes sense as a means of quelling the looming, unquenchable horror, well, it’s just one of the film’s many lazy script detours that go unexplained. Joan, who calls Mia “Alice” after visiting , mysteriously leaves the place intact since Sarah was a child. So what’s better than reliving past trauma and hopefully erasing new trauma?
Mia, in a surprisingly impressive performance by a young La Torre, deliberately grows ferocious against her mother, throws thorns at Sarah, calls her a “terrible person,” and tests even the most patient mother’s temperament. Like fellow Australian Jennifer Kent’s films, memories of ‘The Babadook’ creep in.
Sarah Enticknapp/Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Snook and Latorre work on similar fronts here. When Sarah actually starts flipping, we wonder if what she sees is real, imaginary, or a supernatural ruse. Plenty of jump scares featuring a glowing girl with long dark hair in a drab negligee with an out-of-focus background, or bloody hands and nightmare flashes culminating in an over-the-top crashing sound design are the ‘pitfalls’ But they are just that, with little substance.
The second half of the film has some stunning images that suggest an entirely different movie, one horror fan would love to go to. Wykelly’s ominous derelict hut has a locked cupboard you don’t want to go near. A hut suspended from the ceiling hangs a rusty tool resembling a torture device. There’s another moment involving Sarah and Mia and the scissors, and a wave of shock can almost be heard, and perhaps even bubbles running down the entire audience. this Suddenly, the movie we’re going to get? Unfortunately no.
Ultimately, “Run Rabbit Run” is a pile of mediocre horror. Cinematographer Bonnie Elliott conjures up some very ominous images of the Australian landscape, even when working with drone cameras, but there’s something sleepy about the whole event. The saving grace that makes “Rabbit” arguably worth watching is the film’s final slowdown to unkempt Sara, who falls completely into “Babadook” and “Black Swan,” and even “backlash,” territory.・This is Snook. But that these are points of reference suggests the film’s mundane and missing parts of the original. I have.
“Run Rabbit Run” premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It was acquired by Netflix from the festival for release at a later date.