Sarah Snook can't save an overstuffed and predictable film that fails to fully explore its subject matter – or create any genuine scares
Motherhood has long been the subject of artistic fascination, perhaps because it is underlined by one of life's great contrasts: overwhelming love, born from physical pain. In recent years, Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and Ari Aster’s Hereditary opened the doors to a new wave of maternal horror movies. Since then, the tropes have been well cemented: creepy child acts out while their parent struggles to cope with the bizarre behaviour, allowing for some poorly concealed, violent impulses to emerge.
Run Rabbit Run is the latest iteration of the horrifying mother-child dynamic. It follows Sarah (Sarah Snook) whose daughter, Mia (Lily LaTorre), starts adopting her dead sister’s name. Gradually Sarah is forced to navigate Mia’s acting out by reacquainting herself with her own strained and troubled childhood.
Run Rabbit Run might understand what looks or even feels scary about parenting, but it fails to articulate why the experience is scary. For Sarah, motherhood has been a physical betrayal, delivering someone who has infringed upon her privacy and exposed hidden corners of her past. The image of Mia with a hastily constructed rabbit mask, standing ominously around every corner, is unsettling, but it fails to thoughtfully articulate the film’s meditation on these themes. As such, the film feels like an incomplete idea, lacking any cohesion between its visual and thematic language.
While Sarah Snook proved herself capable of laying out years of familial abuse in barely perceptible micro-expressions on HBO’s Succession, she struggles against a weak script that immediately feels heavy-handed. Part of the success of a horror film is in efficiently laying out the stakes, by establishing these characters as real people leading fully formed lives, with things to lose, relationships to break and a history to unfold. In doing so the director has the potential to surprise audiences with how the terror unfolds in each person’s life. Sarah and Mia’s lives feel remarkably isolated, unmoored from any community or history. Indeed, the first act of the film coils around Mia’s Birthday party which is attended by three people: her father, stepmother and stepbrother. They wander around the metallic grey house, engaging in oddly stilted conversation for a family who ostensibly stretch back years.
Late into the film, after Mia has admitted to being possessed by the spirit of Alice, Sarah tries to reason with her, asking whether she is playing an elaborate joke, asking who told her about Alice. “No one tells me anything,” Mia explains calmly. It is a throwaway line but one that belies a much more interesting film. Perhaps a later draft of Run Rabbit Run would have explored the roles we force onto family members, where children are rendered inanimate objects and parents are forced to bear the brunt of overwhelming responsibility. Unfortunately, this version of the film is confused, overstuffed with images that should be scary but hang aimlessly in quick succession, suggesting the bigger and better films that came before.
Run Rabbit Run is now streaming on Netflix.Where to watch