The horror genre has often highlighted the fact that the human mind can be scarier than any fictional supernatural place or character in existence. Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining showed how a man dumped his alcoholism and inability to overcome his writer’s block by almost killing his wife and son in an isolated hotel. The Taking of Deborah Logan utilized the found-footage style of shooting films to tell the story of a woman with a deteriorating mind who makes everyone question if she’s possessed by a ghost. Recently, films like Hereditary and Relic delved into the topic while theorizing that dementia can be passed on from generation to generation, thereby making it feel like a curse. Run Rabbit Run has entered this list too. Is it an impressive one? Let’s find out.
Run Rabbit Run follows Sarah, who lives with her seven-year-old daughter Mia. Sarah’s father is dead, and her mother, Joan, is in an old age home. Sarah’s ex-husband is Pete. Pete’s current wife is Denise, who has a son from her previous marriage called Toby. And the five of them arrive at Sarah’s house to celebrate Mia’s birthday. A few strange things happen before, during, and after the party. A rabbit appears out of nowhere. Toby hits Mia on the head, which causes Sarah to lash out a little too hard. Mia notices Sarah burning a birthday card from Joan and trying to get the rabbit (which Mia loves) out of the house. The combination of these events probably takes a toll on Mia, and she starts to act very erratically. Things begin to get out of Sarah’s hands when Mia becomes adamant about meeting Joan and sees herself as Sarah’s missing (presumed to be dead) sister, Alice.
I believe that when a drama film takes on dementia, it can show its hand at the very beginning because it doesn’t intend to use it as a massive twist. Horror films usually don’t have that advantage because they are not only commenting on the nature of the disease but giving a very visceral look at what it truly feels to learn that you are suffering from dementia. Using it as a twist undoubtedly has shock value. But once the dust settles and, as a viewer, you realize how easily your worldview can be contorted by your own mind, the sense of fear creeps in. Now, I don’t know what Run Rabbit Run’s writer Hannah Kent was going for because she reveals the dementia angle 30 minutes into the film and still tries to go for a twist ending. My best guess is that she wanted to pivot toward the concept of guilt and how lying to oneself can have an impact on their memories of an incident. If that’s the case, then maybe the film is trying to talk about how Sarah’s lie has haunted her and has destroyed the lives of everyone around her? However, since she spends such little time on the reason behind Sarah’s lies and keeps going in circles about Mia’s alleged possession, I failed to empathize, understand, or relate with Sarah’s plight.
Run Rabbit Run is around 100 minutes long, but Daina Reid takes a slow-burn approach to let you marinate in Sarah’s world. Along with cinematographer Bonnie Elliott and editor Nick Meyers, Reid uses shadows, lights, unfocused backgrounds, and the interconnected rooms of houses to cause disorientation and confusion. There’s a lot of use of reflective surfaces in the movie. Mirrors are used quite frequently to either show the duality of Sarah’s psyche or to hint that there’s more than one side to the story that we are seeing. The reflection of the world outside Sarah’s house is featured on the window panes. The landscape and cityscape of Australia are used multiple times to probably show that no matter how open or how claustrophobic Sarah’s surroundings are, she is going to feel trapped because of her guilt. That’s just guesswork, though, and my way of searching for some meaning in the narrative. I am not really sure if that’s Reid’s intention. The music by Mark Bradshaw and Marcus Whale is fine. Makeup designer Angela Conte and costume designer Marion Boyce do a good job of reflecting Sarah and Mia’s deterioration. In addition to that, there’s a rabbit who gets a lot of screen time but no real payoff. It’s probably there to symbolize rebirth, given how the film deals with kids, dead and/or alive. That said, I don’t know whether you’ll be able to appreciate these details because of the poor pacing. Once you’re bored, even the most basic stuff is going to seem irritating.
The one thing that undoubtedly saves Run Rabbit Run is Sarah Snook’s performance. I don’t think anyone else would’ve managed to do what she has done. While talking about Succession, almost everyone mentioned Snook’s ability to throw a million micro-expressions in our direction while she’s listening to a character talk and when she finally reacts to a revelation. That skill of hers is on full display here as well, and it’s a good thing that Dana Reid lets the camera stay on her, thereby allowing us to see Snook paint an elaborate picture with her face. She could’ve done more action-heavy sequences. She looks amazing while doing the few physically demanding scenes that are in this film. But directors really need to let her do more stunts. I think she can ace it. Lily LaTorre delivers the right flavor of annoying when it comes to playing a kid in a horror movie. The amazing Damon Herriman is hardly there in the movie, which is a shame. Greta Scacchi probably has two scenes. She is great, but she needed more in order to establish her relationship with Sarah. Trevor Jamieson is good in the few seconds of screen time that he gets. I guess everyone doesn’t get an equal amount of attention because of how awesome Sarah Snook is, which can be seen as a good and a bad thing. You can use your supporting cast to highlight your star’s performance or not have them at all. It’s not a really tough choice, but it’s one that you have to make even when you have someone like Snook as the face of your film. If you have a supporting cast, you have to give them good material to work with. If you don’t have a supporting cast and it’s a solo act or one with two-three actors, then it’s fine.
In conclusion, Run Rabbit Run is a good reminder that you should go and watch Relic, because that’s what I’ll be doing since I feel I didn’t treat that movie right. You can give this Netflix release a watch for Sarah Snook. She’s ridiculously good, and she deserves to be in more genre fares. She’s one of the main reasons why I was looking forward to it, and my high expectations are likely the reason why I am underwhelmed. With all that said, watch Run Rabbit Run for yourself, form your own opinions, and let us know what you think about the movie’s commentary on trauma, guilt, dementia, and that ending.