Review by Sean Boelman
At every festival, a select few films are acquired right before the festival begins, securing themselves a spot as one of the buzziest titles in the lineup. Right before crowds descended on Park City, Netflix picked up the Australian horror-thriller Run Rabbit Run. Unfortunately, their hopes were misplaced, as director Daina Reid’s feature debut is staggeringly uninteresting.
The film follows a mother who becomes increasingly concerned over her daughter’s strange behavior, bringing her to the realization that she may still be haunted by her past. It’s a film that presents itself like a combination of a psychological thriller and a ghost story, but what it feels like is the bones of a film without any flesh.
Writer Hannah Kent’s decision to make the protagonist a fertility doctor seems like an interesting choice at first, until one realizes that the story is simply replacing a “crisis of faith” with a “crisis of science.” Once those pieces are put together, it becomes clear that what we are watching is not some profound, horror-tinged rumination on life, but a tired retread of familiar tropes with an occasionally unique perspective.
The film’s pacing is dreadfully slow, which wouldn’t be much of an issue if Daina Reid were able to more effectively build a disquieting atmosphere. Instead, it feels like the “horror” of the film comes from no other source than “creepy kids are creepy.” And while young actress Lily LaTorre is mildly unsettling in the role, it won’t be enough to phase most audiences.
There are some interesting visual ideas in the film, mostly related to how it showcases the landscape of Australia, but Reid unfortunately doesn’t seem to have the visual grammar necessary to create a compelling horror picture. Her attempts to blur the lines of reality within the film completely fall flat.
However, the part of the film that is most likely to frustrate viewers is the character development. The protagonist is a genuinely terrible, almost unredeemable person. She does some pretty deplorable things — and not in a messed up but entertaining in its depravity way, but a way that is absolutely annoying.
It’s really a shame that the role is so poorly written, because even the phenomenally talented Sarah Snook (Succession) can’t elevate it. Much like the film itself, her performance feels cold and strangely detached. Snook is no stranger to playing characters that aren’t particularly empathetic, so it’s surprising to see such a large disconnect here.
Now is about the time that one would say Run Rabbit Run had potential even if its execution was uneven, but there sadly just isn’t anything here. It seems to be an attempt to revitalize the genre, but it is so lacking in life that it is an absolute slog to get through.
Run Rabbit Run is playing at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 19-29 in-person in Park City, UT and January 24-29 online.