Run Rabbit Run tells the story of Sarah (Sarah Snook), a fertility doctor and single mother who is trying to maintain a carefree existence for herself and her daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre). The two start to celebrate by planning Mia’s seventh birthday, with Sarah’s ex-husband Peter (Damon Herriman) his partner and their child in attendance. While there is some evident estrangement, Peter still maintains a good paternal relationship with Mia, who adorns her the nickname Bunny.
But something strange happens that coincides with the birthday with the arrival of a rabbit. Since then, Mia’s behaviour drastically changes, which triggers Sarah in delving into her tragic past involving her sister Alice and her invalid mother (Greta Scacchi).
From the synopsis, Run Rabbit Run has a solid foundation for a compelling horror drama that can provide both terror from a genre standpoint and effective pathos with its well-worn ideas about trauma and repression; especially when its foundation is reminiscent of recent Australian horror films like The Babadook and Relic.
Therein lies the problem with the film. The story from novelist Hannah Kent (in her screenwriting debut) and direction from filmmaker Daina Reid feels too derivative of other, more effective stories of its ilk. It also does not help that the timing of the film hinders the story’s impact since the world of modern horror has undergone through a lot of films involving grief and trauma to the point that it turns the trope into a cliché.
Reid admirably lends a lighter touch with the material as opposed to a more aggressive approach that would border on farce or parody; with reliance on foreboding mood, pensive pacing and dark atmosphere. The cinematography by Bonnie Elliott helps immensely in setting up the tone of the piece. However, without much follow-through with interesting character development (we see Sarah at the precipice of her sanity in the very beginning of the movie) and the lack of originality in the screenplay, the film leaves little interest for the viewer to cling on to when it reaches its ineffectively ambiguous conclusion.
Fortunately, the performances that lead the film are well-done never make the story less than watchable. Snook carries the heavy load on her shoulders as she makes the trials and tribulations of her character felt and her character believable and gripping. While LaTorre manages to make the most out of the character of Mia (and Alice); making her transformation haunting, powerful without turning into a cartoon.
Overall, Run Rabbit Run is a film that is less than the sum of its parts. Sarah Snook and especially Lily LaTorre (who will go onto much better things) try their best to carry it on their shoulders. However, without any ingenuity in its horror elements and compelling drama in its characters and story, the film is unfortunately a bust.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Run Rabbit Run is playing as part of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, taking place between 19th and 29th January 2023, both in person and online. For more information head to the official Sundance page.