The 400-Word Review: Run
By Sean Collier
November 22, 2020
Confinement horror — the subgenre of the scary stuff that involves a trapped victim angling to escape certain death — is easily compelling stuff. The desperate protagonist, executing a last-ditch bid for freedom as the villain gets ever closer to foiling their plans: It’s an easy way to keep the audience entranced.
The tightrope such films must walk is considering how terrible they make the circumstances — and these stakes are for the viewer’s consideration. If we are particularly attached to the hero’s plight, or if the film has demonstrated a willingness to depict particularly graphic or depraved violence, the experience can switch from the enjoyably tense to the literally dreadful.
Whether “Run,” a no-nonsense thriller debuting on Hulu, crosses that line or not will likely vary from viewer to viewer. This isn’t an effect of violence; in that regard, the film is relatively tame. But its subject matter involves a very specific kind of psychological torment that may well be too much for many viewers.
It’s certainly an effective film. Perhaps too effective.
Chloe (Kiera Allen, in a breakthrough role), a bright, home-schooled 17-year-old, lives with her hyper-focused mother, Diane (Sarah Paulson, always excellent) and dreams of leaving home to attend the University of Washington. Her life thus far has been a series of calamities and therapies relating to a variety of medical conditions; she’s mostly paralyzed from the waist down, has difficulty breathing and deals with a dozen other ailments via a complex daily regimen of medications.
Diane arranges for Chloe’s every need and necessity, an arrangement Chloe has never questioned — until, by happenstance, she finds that one of the endless bottles of pills arrives without her name on it. Suddenly, the reality Diane has built shows plenty of cracks.
The astute viewer will guess that “Run” is heading in the direction of a particular, rare mental illness — exhibited by Diane, not Chloe — that pops up in fiction more often than it does in real life. As with any plot involving mental health, it’s a bit unsavory to use a real problem as a thriller’s lifeblood (though I would reluctantly admit it’s less flagrant in “Run” than in similar films).
That adds to the your-mileage-may-vary nature of “Run,” however. Perhaps this is just the right breed of insidious thrills to engage you; it’s certainly captivating. Perhaps it will feel too dark and exploitative. Your call.
My Rating: 6/10
“Run” is streaming on Hulu.