Creepy kids continue to be all the rave in modern horror. The latest to tap into them is “Run Rabbit Run”, a haunting psychological horror film from director Daina Reid that premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The Australian made film stars Sarah Snook (“Succession”) as a mother dealing with the suddenly strange behavior of her 7-year-old daughter. In the process she’s taken back to deeply repressed memories from her childhood.
Written by Hannah Kent, “Run Rabbit Run” has a patience that sets it apart from the standard-issue horror fare we’ve grown accustomed to. It leans into the psychological aspect of its story as it examines a range of familiar themes, some better defined than others. And while you can’t help but recognize a few familiar horror movie tricks, Reid and Kent use them in a variety of ways that cleverly service their story.
After Elizabeth Moss dropped out due to a scheduling conflict, Sarah Snook was cast in the lead. She’s terrific playing a single mother named Sarah who’s still grieving the recent passing of her beloved father. She puts on a good show for her daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre), but deep down she still struggles with her loss. Her ex-husband Pete (Damon Herriman) and his new wife Denise (Naomi Rukavina) show concern, offering our first hint that something else might be going on with Sarah and Mia. It’s some really good table-setting from Reid and Kent.
Things take a wicked twist after a white rabbit suddenly shows up at their Melbourne home. Mia is intent on keeping it, but immediately begins acting peculiar upon its arrival. Her demeanor completely changes. She makes a crude bunny mask out of pink construction paper and wears it everywhere. She starts drawing ghoulish pictures on the back of her homework. Even stranger, Mia insists on being called “Alice” and demands to see Joan (Greta Scacchi), a grandmother she’s never met. “I miss people I’ve never met all the time,”she tells her concerned mom.
Several other things surface as the story unfolds, much of it to do with Sarah’s troubled past. We learn more about her broken relationship with her estranged mother Joan. And there’s a particularly painful loss from her past that resurfaces and begins chipping away at her psyche. Of course it’s all maneuvering towards several big final-act reveals, some of which become pretty obvious. But Reid holds enough of her cards close to the vest, and she doesn’t let her film get bogged down in genre routines.
Comparisons to Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook” seem all but inevitable. And a few of the movie’s tricks (such as the metaphorical use of a festering wound that won’t heal) may seem a tad too familiar. But “Run Rabbit Run” carves out its own identity through its meticulous pacing and its backstory mystery. Reid’s prowess with the camera gives the film an unnerving sensation, especially in the second half. And then you have Snook who’s able to sell every scene, even the ones we feel like we’ve seen before.