By Katie Small
Eerie and unsettling, Australian psychological thriller Run Rabbit Run examines the ambiguities of generational trauma and the complexities of mother-daughter relationships. The film premiered at midnight on Thursday, January 19 at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival to a crowded theater of night owls and horror fans.
A divorced single mom and fertility doctor, Sarah (forcefully embodied by Sarah Snook) is harboring a dark childhood secret, one that has haunted her into adulthood and is now threatening her relationship with her beloved daughter, Mia (newcomer Lilly Latorre). On the night of Mia’s seventh birthday, a white rabbit appears at their front door; the mysterious birthday gift delights Mia but deeply disturbs Sarah.
Over the next few days, Mia’s behavior becomes increasingly unusual and disturbing, as she demands to see the grandmother she’s never met and begins to claim memories that aren’t her own. In an effort to quell Mia’s outbursts, Sarah relents and introduces her to her estranged grandmother, setting off an ominous series of events that force Sarah to reckon with the ghosts of her past.
In the post-premiere Q&A, director Daina Reid explains why the horror genre is an effective vehicle for exploring mother-daughter relationships: “There still seems to be resistance to seeing complicated, ‘difficult’ women on screen, and I think at the moment, the horror genre is a seemingly more palatable way to explore these ideas,” she says. “But [horror] is also a great way to mine bigger ideas like trauma… for us it was a fun way of exploring some pretty dark places.”
While psychological torment and shocking violence might not be your typical idea of fun, Run Rabbit Run is a visceral examination of family dynamics, and the team of women filmmakers wield the customary twists, turns, and jump scares of the horror tradition to great effect.