Run Rabbit Run (2023) Movie Review: Perhaps it’s disillusionment, but at this juncture in time, A24’s brand of horror movies has permeated the consciousness to such an extent that horror movies based on past traumatic experiences have now become the norm. That doesn’t discount movies like “Rosemary Baby,” and it also doesn’t depreciate the complexity of an emotion or state of being such as motherhood, making it fertile ground for a psychological exploration of manifestations of guilt through the “sins of the parents” trope. But there is something to be said about a movie being restrained just for the sake of restraint, resulting in a bloated runtime due to completely off-kilter pacing.
The story of “Run Rabbit Run” follows Sarah (Sarah Snook), a fertility clinic nurse and single mother who realizes that her daughter is exhibiting strange behaviors and evoking the attitudes of her long-lost sister, Alice. It is further exacerbated by her dementia-addled mother, who mistakes her granddaughter Mia (Lily LaTorre) for Alice. To make matters worse, Sarah is also sharing parenting duties with her ex-husband and Mia’s father, Pete (Damon Herriman), who is currently living with his partner Denise and their son Toby.
In this vulnerable state of mind, Sarah finds herself in a place where loneliness and the pressure of single motherhood are ripe for a resurgence of old wounds, especially when Mia brings home a stray rabbit, which manages to bite Sarah later in the night when she tries to remove it from the garden outside her house.
This movie is mostly a two-hander. The majority of the performance rests on Sarah Snook’s able shoulders, and viewers only used to her performance as Shiv Roy in Succession will find Snook exercising different layers of her acting muscles. Her relationship with her daughter Mia during the initial stages of the film is truly believable in its loving and tender moments.
When Sarah ultimately becomes disoriented and begins to exhibit signs of mental distress, as shown by the camera’s shakiness, dreamlike visuals, and jumpy editing, Snook sells it completely. The horror, confusion, and even anger at facing the long-buried trauma are fully exhibited in her performance, even if the plot progression comes a tad bit too late for the story to make any impact. Lily LaTorre joins a long list of impressive child actors delivering creepy performances in horror films, and she is genuinely frightening at some moments.
There is, however, always the nagging feeling that this movie is much more suited for an anthology television show than a feature-length film. The visuals of the film and the score would try to convince you otherwise, especially the cinematography by Bonnie Elliott, which captures the stark cinematography of the Australian outbacks as well as the claustrophobia within the characters’ mindscape as depicted via close-ups, or even the claustrophobia within the dimly lit and almost perpetually dark rooms, heightening the horror element. Choosing to make the image slightly blurry during moments when the rabbit manages to innocuously appear at locations it isn’t supposed to give the movie the credence of a supernatural touch.
But that credence isn’t enough to justify the 100-minute runtime of a story perhaps best depicted in a 60- or 75-minute film. It could be because Hannah Kent’s screenplay chose which elements of the plot to reveal and which elements of the plot to keep close to its vest. The seed of “dementia” was planted way too quickly for any discerning viewer to connect to what is occurring, cutting the feet off the mystery and ambiguous element of the story, while the details about Alice and her similarities with Mia come forth far later, with the overt horror and surreal elements only exhibited during the final thirty minutes.
This is a story that perhaps needed another pass-through or should have been recontextualized as a prestige drama following Sarah’s character’s reconciliation with the darkness of her past, the supernatural acting as a marker for her sanity. As it stands, “Run Rabbit Run” starts as a cracked mirror version of Alice in Wonderland before choosing to be a drama-tinged horror in the vein of “The Babadook” or “Hereditary.” Unfortunately, it turns out to be a confusing mess held together by two strong performances but unable to leave a mark despite its ambiguous endings.