One of the first actors I interviewed when I jumped in the game was Sarah Snook in 2014 for the film “Predestination.” It’s been a pleasure watching her career blossom leading up to HBO’s “Succession” where she plays Shiv Roy. Now, almost a decade later I find myself covering Snook’s latest, the supernatural thriller “Run Rabbit Run” from Australian director Daina Reid which opened the 2023 Sundance Film Festival’s Midnight program. The supernatural thriller concentrates on mother-daughter relationships, sins of the past, and features first-rate performances by Snook, young actor Lily LaTorre, and Greta Scacchi.

The first thing you’ll notice about “Run Rabbit Run” is the gorgeous cinematography by Bonnie Elliott who casts a gothic shadow over the Australian countryside. Snook plays Sarah Gregory, a fertility doctor and divorced parent juggling her career with raising daughter Mia (Lily LaTorre) who just turned 7. If Mia’s name was an acronym, it would stand for “Missing in Action” which relates to every character in the story. Mia’s father Pete (Damon Herriman) seldom visits, he’s busy starting a new family. Sarah has an estranged relationship with her mother Joan (wonderful, seasoned actor Greta Scacchi) which means Mia has never met her grandmother. And then there’s Alice (Sunny Whelan), Sarah’s sister who disappeared when she was Mia’s age.

The creep factor rolls in slowly beginning with the appearance of a white rabbit at the front door on Mia’s seventh birthday. She begs her mother to let her keep it as a pet, reluctantly Sarah agrees. Then one day Mia asks, “Who’s Joan?” causing Sarah to explain to her daughter why she’s never met her grandmother (she tells her that grandma lives too far away). When Mia begins looking through old photo albums, she notices there are no pictures of grandma and she insists, “I need a photo of Joan.”

Mark Bradshaw who composed the music for last year’s Sundance chiller “You Won’t Be Alone” adds tension to Reid’s thriller with an ominous score that ideally ties in with the storyline. Composer Marcus Whale, whose music often features horror references, also contributes to the score.

While Sarah searches storage for a picture of Joan, she finds her late father’s wallet and in it a picture he carried of Sarah and Alice. Suddenly Mia appears from behind and snatches the picture out of her mother’s hand, exclaiming “I’ve been looking for that!” She then insists she’s the girl in the picture, Alice.

Like Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel, the appearance of a white rabbit leads to events that begin to spiral down a psychological rabbit hole. Mia begins calling herself Alice and when Sarah takes her to meet Joan for the first time, the family matriarch begins crying when she sees the little girl and it’s not because she’s meeting her granddaughter for the first time. Joan’s eyes light up as she calls her granddaughter “Alice.” Is it dementia, or does she know something that we don’t?

“Run Rabbit Run” is reminiscent of the psychological thriller “Audrey Rose” directed by Robert Wise as the reincarnation theme offers one possibility, but mental health is in to win it. In many films the setting becomes a defining character, here, writer Jennifer Kent taps into her childhood by incorporating the haunting yet beautiful landscape of Waikerie in rural South Australia for the story’s finale.

The key to any good psychological thriller is leaving part of the story up for interpretation. There are clues but also several possible explanations. “Run Rabbit Run” keeps you on the edge of your seat as you absorb the events transpiring on the screen to draw a conclusion. Daina Reid’s chiller features memorable performances by Sarah Snook and newcomer Lily LaTorre.

“Run Rabbit Run” had its premiere at Midnight Friday, January 20 at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Netflix purchased the film for an undisclosed amount.

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Joe Friar head and shoulders

Joe Friar

Member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Latino Entertainment Journalists Association (LEJA), the Houston Film Critics Society, and a Rotten Tomatoes approved critic.