Run Rabbit Run (now on Netflix) might not get much traction without its headliner: Emmy-nominated Succession star Sarah Snook, who anchors this psych-horror outing directed by another Emmy nominee, Daina Reid (who garnered that acclaim for helming episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale). This Australian film dabbles in trauma, mental illness and apparent supernatural possession, while the animal in the title looks on ominously, wiggling its cute widdle pink nosey-wosey as ominous drones WBRRRMMMMM on the soundtrack. You may be deep-sighing at such cliches, but the question here is whether Snook’s actorly skill can overcome the film’s familiarities.
The Gist: Sarah (Snook) is a mother, mother, sister and ex-wife who seems to be the subject of torment on all four of those fronts. Then again, who’s the common denominator here? Right. Not pointing any fingers, but, you know, where there’s smoke and all that. And there’s some crucial context: Sarah’s father recently died, and all signs say they were very close. It’s her daughter Mia’s (Lily LaTorre) seventh birthday, and her dad Pete (Damon Herriman) is bringing his wife and stepson over for cake and ice cream. Mia and the boy enjoy each other’s company, and Sarah and Pete are in a congenial and warm place, although it’s still a bit awkward, as you’d expect. Two things happen on this day that arouse curiosity: The first is the arrival of a cute white rabbit on the premises, and it’s timid enough that Mia scoops it up and of course wants to keep it. The second is, Mia’s little stepbrother bonks her on the head, which seems like the usual little-kid shenanigans, but in retrospect, may have repercussions of a more SINISTER nature. Or not! Who knows!
That night after company has left and Mia’s in bed, Sarah steps out to sneak a secret cigarette and burn the birthday card from Grandma Joan. That’s Sarah’s mother. She thinks she’s getting rid of something by doing that, but we all know she’s just adding another item to the baggage strapped to her back. Then she tries to drop the rabbit over the fence, but it squeals and bites her and leaves a nasty oozing wound and instead of being kept in a makeshift pen it’s now free to wander untethered throughout the house, prompting the synthesizer operator to lean very heavily on the keys, and also probably shitting wherever it pleases. Most people would give the little biter less freedom instead of more, but never mind, and besides, the movie has to keep going back to it for Moments of Ominous Portent.
Enough with the rabbit, who doesn’t have a name but I’m tempted to dub Red Herring; let’s move on. Now, about that bonk on the head. The next day, Mia insists upon visiting Grandma Joan. She’s never met her, but she really really wants to visit Grandma Joan. Grandma Joan, Grandma Joan, Grandma Joan. Sarah isn’t sure why, and resists, and won’t tell Mia why she resists. Sarah’s long been estranged from her mother, and has been ignoring calls from a rest home, so maybe it’s time to rip the band-aid off. They make the long drive – complete with the Horror Movie Long Overhead Shot Of A Car Driving Down A Winding Country Road – to visit, where Sarah learns that Joan (Greta Scacchi) has dementia. She’d know that already if she’d answer her dang phone. Joan doesn’t recognize Sarah, but she immediately embraces Mia, except she calls her Alice. The old woman is sick and confused, obviously. Sarah has to drag Mia kicking and screaming to the car to leave, and from this point, Mia insists that she be called Alice. Who the hell is Alice? She’s Sarah’s dead sister, that’s who. Well, shit. Looks like we have a psycho-supernatural dilemma on our hands.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Run Rabbit Run boasts plenty of Hereditary and – maybe it’s the Australian factor – Babadookisms. And the Sinister Rabbit? It’s highly reminiscent of the Satan-o-bunny from The Witch and/or 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie.
Performance Worth Watching: Snook clearly has the chops and screen presence to give a resonant portrayal of a deeply haunted mother/daughter/ex-wife/sister, and her performance is by far the most memorable element of Run Rabbit Run.
Memorable Dialogue: Mia-slash-Alice chills her mom to the bone when she explains why she so desperately wants to see the grandmother she’s never met: “I miss people I’ve never met all the time.”
Our Take: Snook is so good in Run Rabbit Run, it bums me out that she has to exist alongside a litany of tiresome and repetitive cliches from Creepy Little Kid Movies, including, but not limited to, the following vaguely occult problem-child behaviors:
Wearing a crude, sinister, handmade mask
Insisting she go by a dead person’s name
Experiencing inexplicable nosebleeds and mysterious head wounds
Drawing disturbing pictures
Nurturing a psychic bond with an animal
Saying/doing things that make the lights flicker
So clearly, Mia is possessed as f—. And by whom, you already know, although the movie really really hopes you don’t – or at least hopes you don’t figure out the circumstances culminating in the dramatic fallout we see here. (Note: You’ll figure it out.) Or maybe she’s not possessed as f—, and everything is Sarah’s delusion, because the film isn’t above shameless attempts at gaslighting us or its deeply troubled protagonist.
This isn’t to say the movie lacks substance. Sarah’s struggling to balance the mother/daughter/ex-wife/sister that everyone needs her to be, and Hannah Kent’s screenplay ruminates around in the Womanhood Of It All, specifically the pressures of her present and how she resists the past’s attempt to encroach upon the peace (that in reality isn’t peace at all) she’s found in the wake of deeply unhealthy psychological compartmentalization. Sarah is a frustrating character, and as much as we want to empathize with her, she insists upon pushing her demons into rooms and slamming the doors and leaning on them instead of just owning her shit – which might make for a more compelling and original movie, instead of this grab-bag of weary horror shibboleths that lead to a vaguely dissatisfying conclusion. To the film’s credit, Reid foregoes bloodshed for scary unseen things, directs with confidence and a strong cinematographic eye, and draws a muscular performance from Snook. But the material ends up tripping over too many tropes to be a deeper excursion into the psychology of childhood and motherhood.
Our Call: Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the waaaaaabbbbbbbit. SKIP IT.
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