When Ghostface mocked the “elevated horror” genre in 2022’s Scream, he was likely thinking of movies like Run Rabbit Run. There is precisely one scary moment in the new 100-minute psychological horror film, and it doesn’t come until Run Rabbit Run is already in its home stretch. The scene in question relies, like so many great horror movie moments before it, on very little real-life logic and the creaky opening of a wardrobe door. Its familiar elements aside, the sequence proves that there’s rarely anything scarier than watching someone slowly approach the dark embrace of an old, probably cursed, piece of furniture.
The tension that Run Rabbit Run creates in this moment is viscerally effective, but just when it seems like the film is finally going to fulfill its haunted house promises, director Daina Reid cuts away from the action. In doing so, Reid sucks all the air back out of Run Rabbit Run, deflating whatever sense of suspense its viewer might have felt. It’s a creative decision that is ultimately emblematic of everything wrong with Run Rabbit Run, a film that repeatedly walks right to the edge but never has the nerve to actually step out into the unknown.
Based on a script by Australian novelist Hannah Kent, Run Rabbit Run follows Sarah (Succession star Sarah Snook) and Mia (Lily LaTorre), a mother and daughter who are in the midst of grieving the recent death of Sarah’s father when the film begins. Their mourning takes an unnerving turn when Mia begins to identify herself as “Alice,” a name with a tragic connection to Sarah’s past, and starts acting out in ominous ways. When Mia eventually succeeds in forcing Sarah to go back to her remote childhood home and reunite with her estranged mother, Joan (Greta Scacchi), the lines between nightmare and reality and past and present only continue to blur.
Along the way, Run Rabbit Run repeatedly hints at a secret lurking in Sarah’s past, one that may hold the answers to her questions regarding Mia’s suddenly strange behavior. Unfortunately, the film spends more time alluding to Sarah’s personal secret than it does actually grappling with the reality of it. Even more disappointingly, Kent’s script relies on a series of rinse-and-repeat scenes between Sarah and Mia in order to draw out its various reveals, which traps Run Rabbit Run in a repetitive, dramatically stagnant narrative cycle for a majority of its runtime.
Once Sarah and Mia have actually relocated to the former’s childhood home, Run Rabbit Run’s plot picks up some steam, but the film takes far too long getting there. Like so many recent “prestige” horror movies, the film makes the mistake of mistaking a handful of twists for a story, which results in it feeling like a 30-minute television episode that has been stretched out far past what it’s actually capable of delivering. Reid, whose previous directorial credits include TV shows like The Outsider and Shining Girls, doesn’t bring the kind of virtuosic visual style that might be able to make up for Run Rabbit Run’s many narrative shortcomings, either.
Instead, Reid’s direction rarely utilizes the kind of framing and lighting tricks that have long been the bread-and-butter of the horror genre. Only a handful of times in Run Rabbit Run does the director actually make use of the film’s many dimly lit spaces, including one moment in which a sudden physical shift on the part of Snook reveals the shape of a ghost standing in the shadowy interior of the garage behind her. More often than not, the placement and pace of Reid’s camera reflect the tediousness of Kent’s script, which demands a level of patience that it never earns.
These flaws might have been enough to completely torpedo Run Rabbit Run were it not for Sarah Snook. As a performer, the former Succession star is uniquely well-suited for the horror genre. Not only is she one of the most expressive actresses working today, but she’s also capable of making even the most intense facial contortions seem grounded and real, which makes her a potential force to be reckoned with in a genre that routinely deals in nightmarish scenarios and heightened emotions. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise then that Snook’s performance in Run Rabbit Run is immensely impressive. As Succession fans already know, she’s an actress whose sheer presence prevents your attention from ever wandering away.
Snook makes it easy to become initially invested in Run Rabbit Run’s plot and characters. However, her efforts are inevitably stymied by a script that forces her to repeat the same cycle of emotions for 90 minutes straight. Multiple times throughout Run Rabbit Run, Snook’s Sarah is confronted with a supernatural sighting or reality-warping comment from her daughter only for the film to fade to black and then pick back up as if nothing had just happened. The movie’s reliance on such logic-shattering transitions not only invites frustration but renders the otherwise formidable performances given by Snook and LaTorre, who proves to be an unlikely match for her older co-star, oddly inert.
As has become a common occurrence in the horror genre’s post-Babadook phase, Run Rabbit Run gets so lost in the trauma of its characters and its mystery box-style structure that it forgets to entertain and scare. Were it not for a few fear-inducing moments in its final third, it’d be a stretch to even call Run Rabbit Run a horror film. Even worse, for as somber and oppressively dark as it is, the film feels stylistically and thematically shallow.
Over the course of its runtime, it makes a lot of noise but says little of value, working itself and its star into a cold sweat despite never going anywhere. Rather than confront and explore the moral prickliness at the center of its story, the film remains content to simply run in place for 100 minutes, which is both tragic and ironic, to be sure, but mostly just boring.