Photo Courtesy of Sundance Institute/Sarah Enticknap

Sundance Film Festival 2023 Review: Run Rabbit Run

Australian horror Run Rabbit Run takes a coveted slot at Sundance 2023’s Park City at Midnight with the feature from Daina Reid boasting a strong lead turn from Sarah Snook and a moderately brooding sense of tension despite hitting many a familiar note for genre fans. Run Rabbit Run examines the manifestation of grief and the lingering effects of childhood trauma.

Snook stars as Sarah a fertility doctor celebrating her daughter’s seventh birthday. Events are overshadowed by Sarah’s attempts to navigate the aftermath of the death of her father and her separated husband moving on with a new family. The arrival of a rabbit at the door delights Sarah’s daughter, but marks as an unsettling shift in the young child’s behaviour as she becomes fixated on her estranged grandmother, prompting an unravelling from Sarah and unsettling memories from her past coming to the forefront of her life.

The visual character of Run Rabbit Run does wonders in establishing an atmosphere of supernatural melancholy, an ominous foreboding force creeping into the life of Sarah. From utilising locations such as Sarah’s polished yet soulless residential home, paired with the expansive emptiness of rural Australia, cinematographer Bonnie Elliot crafts visuals brimming in eeriness. Lingering panning over contorted trees growing from swampy expanses give suggestions of the uncomfortable revelations that rear their head throughout the narrative, alluding to Sarah’s uneasy past.

Screenwriter Hannah Kent navigates familiar territory in her examination of childhood trauma, whilst using the vessel of the central character’s child to represent this. Moments of bizarre tantrums and claims of changed identity from Sarah’s daughter allude to some of the later narrative twists and turns, yet ultimately Run Rabbit Run feels largely indicative of familiar genre fare. Similarly attempts at suggested horror include Sarah’s daughter wearing a sketchily crafted handmade rabbit mask and the triggering arrival of a mysterious white rabbit with an unflinching stare – these images reek of a familiarity, minimising their attempted unsettling impact.

Daina Reid’s direction crafts a moderate sense of tension with a mix of point of view shots and slow camera movements building some successful suspense. Small unsettling touches including the shot of an opened garage door or dimly lit rooms packed with the possessions of Sarah’s deceased father help create further atmosphere of unease. However, Run Rabbit Run struggles to add a freshness to its overarching narrative arc. The growing disobedience from Sarah’s daughter feels increasingly predictable, whilst the Kent’s narrative becomes tedious in the journey to the expected finale.

Despite some atmospheric aesthetics and quiet moments of unease, Run Rabbit Run is a tale that leans too heavily on familiar tropes that genre fans will see coming a mile off.

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