Released 2023. Director: Daina Reid
HORROR MOVIES BUILT ON FAMILY CONNECTIONS can add an extra layer to the story when they twist the relationships between characters who share blood ties. In Run Rabbit Run, a mother holds on to her daughter under the spell of sinister forces. The origin of the malevolence, as the mother discovers, goes back further to her own childhood trauma.
The story, written by Hannah Kent, centres on divorced mother Sarah troubled by the increasingly strange and disturbing behaviour of her 7-year-old daughter Mia. The normally mild-mannered girl begins to develop a threatening attitude. She also makes ominous drawings and insists repeatedly and forcefully to see her grandmother Joan she’s never met before. Meanwhile, Sarah is still coming to terms with her father’s recent death, and she’s been refusing to answer calls from the nursing home where Joan lives.
Sarah and Mia are introduced as a regular family unit in the suburbs. They live in a nice house, the mother works as a fertility doctor and the daughter goes to a school with caring teachers. Everything seems normal, including a measure of friction between Sarah and her ex-husband and his new wife. Then a white rabbit appears in their front porch one night and along with it something else has also arrived.
The premise of Run Rabbit Run is cut from a standard template featuring mother and child versus evil and echoes many familiar titles from The Exorcist to Babadook. Daina Reid, a TV director in her feature film debut, applies small and low-key touches in crafting a ghostly, mysterious aura. Although lacking in originality or imagination, the use of familiar genre tropes is mostly effective.
But the second half of the movie is where the haunting truly kicks in when Sarah returns to her childhood home, bringing Mia along for some unexpected history lessons. Mia is instantly settled and at home in this neglected old house she’s never been to and insists to be called by the name Alice. Who is Alice and why is Sarah only telling Mia now about her sister who went missing when she was only a child?
It doesn’t take much to put two and two together, and the answer to why a ghost from the past has waited this long to return soon becomes apparent.
The mood of unease is palpable but Reid wisely never overplays her hand. We see a woman, clearly disturbed yet unwilling to be defeated by fear, bravely confronts dark memories and the proverbial skeleton in the closet as she tries to protect her child from an unseen presence.
Some overt parallels begin to appear in the characterisations. There are two pairs of mother-daughter in the story: one mother is losing her memory due to disease and age while the other one is trying not to remember with the passing of time; one daughter has walked away from her mother as the other one is about to be forcibly torn away from hers.
Sarah Snook and Lily LaTorre are both superb in their roles, the anxiety and tension between them firmly draws you into their domesticity and paranormal intrusion. The flip of setting and location from an affluent suburb to a remote rural home not only emphasises the characters’ growing distance and isolation but the use of landscape – dry land, bare trees, imposing cliffs and a winding river – also conveys subtle suggestions.
Run Rabbit Run is not the kind of scary movie to give your heart a vigorous workout, if that’s your preference for ghost stories. As a psychological thriller its strength is found in the pair of lead performances. Despite the use of some vague metaphors and taking only a shallow dip into its examination of family tragedies, there’s just enough disquiet and mystery to keep you from looking away.
Click image above to view trailer. New window will open.