After her father’s death, a grieving single mother is forced to reckon with a traumatic event from her past. It’s a dark and brooding premise that feels right at home in Sundance’s always stacked Midnight section.
Director Daina Reid’s psychological horror film Run Rabbit Run comes across as a grounded (but no less menacing) version of The Babadook. Add in Succession star Sarah Snook’s intense lead performance as an exhausted mother whose sanity is fraying around the edges, and you’re in for one of 2023’s most unsettling movies.
Sarah (Sarah Snook) is a stressed-out single mother raising her seven-year-old daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre). Their ordinary lives take a dark turn the day a rabbit shows up on their doorstep. Mia stops acting like herself and flips the switch to creepy kid mode. She throws tantrums and sneaks into rooms, silently staring at her mom from the shadows. But what’s most shocking is it seems that someone, or something, is giving Mia details about her mother’s traumatic childhood. As Mia’s behaviour becomes more erratic, it forces Sarah to confront the skeletons in her closet.
Run Rabbit Run is a story about loss, grieving, guilt, shame, and how people struggle to process their trauma. But above all, it’s a story about the crippling pressure of parenthood. The film mines horror from Sarah’s fear of passing her issues onto Mia.
Intergenerational trauma is a loaded theme that’s primed for the psychological horror treatment. It’s a well-tread subject we’ve seen masterfully explored in horror films like Ari Aster’s Hereditary. Despite Run Rabbit Run’s promising premise, the movie fails to distinguish itself from similar titles.
On the surface, Run Rabbit Run is a moody, slow burner that establishes a foreboding tone right out of the gate. Reid delivers all the spine-tingling horror vibes you want from a Midnight movie.
Bonnie Elliott’s leering camerawork plunges viewers deep into a world that feels off without leaning into over-the-top haunted house flick tropes. Any cinematographer worth their salt can make a rundown house look creepy, but Elliott has a knack for making the mundane feel macabre. Sarah’s world feels menacing even during the light of day. Every flickering fluorescent light and creaking door ratchet up the tension until it’s suffocating. And Mark Bradshaw and Marcus Whale’s rumbling score intensify that palpable sense of dread.
The film’s tension and atmosphere are exquisite for the first 40 minutes, but like so many horror films, it loses steam by the end. All the narrative breadcrumbs starts to feel more like a tease rather than the buildup to a satisfying supernatural mystery. Run Rabbit Run plays it too safe, straddling the line between an all-out supernatural thriller and a traumatic tale of a woman’s psychological break.
All the spooky “is there a ghost in the room” sequences grow tedious, especially after seeing them executed with more panache in better films. Run Rabbit Run relies on the balls to the wall storytelling mechanics of genre flicks while clinging to its “elevated horror” cred. The result is a movie that will grab horror lovers’ attention but ultimately leave them wanting more.