Review: Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen generate thrills with anxiety inducing 'Run'
Courtesy of Hulu
The tale of the overprotective mother and her fragile daughter isn’t anything new, but in Aneesh Chagnaty’s high concept, low-budget thriller “Run,” the premise gets a much needed makeover. Partially inspired by the true story of Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard (Hulu’s “The Act”), Chaganty shook the world with his 2018 sleeper hit “Searching” which put a unique spin on the found-footage genre. Here, he takes what could easily have been another gimmick and builds suspense in one central location. It’s like “Misery” on steroids.
There are many flaws in “Run” with the third act losing momentum and a final shot that's questionable, but make no ire about it, the film is a gripping affirmation of Chaganty’s abilities to stage elaborate, anxiety inducing sequences with minimal flair. Don’t be shocked if you chew off your fingernails while some of these events are unfolding.
As someone who doesn’t watch trailers or promotional material prior to screening a film, walking into “Run” without the slightest indication of what to expect is invigorating. I knew the film was about a mother-daughter relationship, but nothing could prepare for what awaited me. We can tell from the opening minutes this isn’t just an ordinary kinship between the obsessive mother Diane (Paulson) and her 17-year-old wheelchair bound daughter Chloe (Kiera Allen). At birth, Chloe was diagnosed with every disability you could imagine ranging from diabetes to asthma. With college around the corner, Chloe, for reasons the script never explains, starts growing suspicious of mom. Why has no university reached out about submitted applications? What are these new green pills the doctor prescribed? Diane forbids Chloe from having a cellphone or unsupervised internet access. When she sneaks around in the middle of the evening (which is tough considering, you know, the wheelchair) the WiFi network suddenly crashes. As answers start unraveling and the truth comes to light, Diane becomes more unglued.
Paulson gives new meaning to the term “obsessive” and is the perfect match for Allen (in her feature debut). Thanks to roles in countless Ryan Murphy sagas (most recently “Ratched”) Paulson understands how cold, icy women tick, but she doesn’t make the characters any less fascinating. She’s got the tough task of helping audiences relate to Diane before going full tilt in the latter half of the picture. Kathy Bates would be proud. For Allen, who is a real-life paraplegic, her physicality sells most of, if not, all of “Run.” Scenes where she must figure out how to travel down a flight of stairs or crawl out a rooftop window immobilized make for thrilling, unnerving, sequences. This despite a lackluster ending that stalls at the finish line.
Chaganty is making a name for himself in the realm of effective little shockers who knows how to create more with less. It’s a bummer that “Run” - originally a theatrical release - is now heading to streaming because it’s the type of big screen thrill fest that would thrive with a large, opening night audience. But at least now you can scream at your TV in peace and pause for a breather once the action kicks into gear.
Trust me, you’ll need it.
RUN debuts on Hulu Friday November 20th