‘Run Rabbit Run’ Movie Review [Sundance 2023]: Family Trauma Haunts a Grieving Mother

Director Daina Reid introduces a family drama wrapped into a slow-building ghost story with Run Rabbit Run. She previously worked on some emotionally dark television, such as The Outsider and The Handmaid’s Tale. Screenwriter Hannah Kent’s story brings up intriguing character dynamics, but neither the horror nor the drama quite connects to the degree they should.

'Run Rabbit Run' 2.0 star rating

‘Run Rabbit Run’ confronts family grief

'Run Rabbit Run' Lily LaTorre as Mia wearing a bunny mask, standing in front of plains
Lily LaTorre as Mia | Carver Films

Sarah (Sarah Snook) works as a fertility doctor, embracing life with all of the good and the bad. However, she’s at her limit with her young daughter, Mia (Lily LaTorre), and her ex-husband, Peter (Damon Herriman). They decide to meet up for Mia’s birthday, where they suddenly discover a mysterious white rabbit sitting on their front doorstep, which Sarah allows her to keep.

The longer Sarah tries to ignore her family’s dark past, the more Mia acts out. The mother and daughter are forced to confront the grief that haunted their family for decades, resulting in a fractured world that keeps their worlds separate. Mia’s peculiar behavior only continues to escalate, forcing Sarah to confront longstanding family grief to achieve normalcy.

Confronting family grief is the real horror

Birthdays aren’t always the happiest occasions, which Run Rabbit Run certainly puts on display. Mia’s special day only continues to worsen, leaving Sarah feeling upset. She’s holding secrets from her child, but their importance continues to grow in ways that change their relationship forever. Reid uses these same questions to develop the film’s emotional core, taking aim at the painful past of family grief.

Mia’s grandfather died, which continues to weigh on Sarah. However, they deal with loss in different ways. Sarah turns her feelings inward, locking them within and refusing to trust anyone with those feelings. Meanwhile, Mia begins to act out in strange ways, taking on the identity of another person entirely. Is this a part of the healing process, or is there a ghost possessing the young girl?

The more isolated Run Rabbit Run becomes in setting and motivations, the more that its roots of family trauma morph into an outright horror nightmare. Sarah’s entire world turns upside down, as the past and the present merge into a future with potentially substantial consequences.

‘Run Rabbit Run’ runs out of steam

'Run Rabbit Run' Sarah Snook as Sarah looking worried, standing in a dark hallway with pictures on the wall
Sarah Snook as Sarah | Carver Films

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Run Rabbit Run suggests an intriguing set-up, where its white rabbit represents a greater mystery that draws the viewer in. Reid tucks eerie imagery into the corners of the frame, never allowing the characters to exist alone on the screen. The film is never necessarily scary, but it does understand how to construct an atmosphere.

Kent’s screenplay occasionally brings Jennifer Kent’s extraordinary The Babadook to mind, as a mother at her breaking point and an out-of-control child try to make their way through grief together. But, it’s not nearly as good. Mia says some creepy, off-the-wall comments, as Sarah’s world further collapses. However, Reid’s feature film lacks The Babadook‘s ability to construct characters whose journeys the audience wants to follow. Nothing about them feels distinct. Sarah and Mia’s story is underwritten, not allowing for the drama to reach a compelling point.

Run Rabbit Run is a substandard horror drama that underwhelms on both the chills and the emotional punch. The pacing is relatively smooth, and the performances from Snook and LaTorre are engaging. It’s just a shame that the film stifles itself to the point of having such little impact.

Run Rabbit Run comes to Netflix sometime in 2023.