Run (2020) Sprints on Pure Adrenaline and Unadulterated Tension
First Wide Release: November 20, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Writer: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Starring: Sarah Paulson, Kiere Allen, Sara Sohn
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Chloe (Kiera Allen) is dealing with the typical trials of a rising high school senior like calculus homework and college applications when she begins to suspect her mother (Sarah Paulson) is up to something sinister. Chloe is a wheelchair user and has a myriad of health issues that require her to take all sorts of medication, continue her education at home, and rely on her mom for more than she would probably like, which makes her especially vulnerable to bad faith actors. Aneesh Chagantry’s directs his sophomore feature Run, a follow up to the 2018 hit Searching.
Run is a taut psychological horror-thriller that boasts incredibly nerve-racking suspense amidst typical genre thrills.
I appreciate that Run doesn’t waste any time getting started, which is indicative of how the rest of the film operates. There is no room for breathing here. The audience knows something is up from the beginning, but it is unclear what exactly is happening. Chagantry does a good job of sewing doubt but it becomes obvious after the first twenty minutes what the motivations are. At least, most of it is obvious. Nothing is exceptionally original with Run’s story, but the budget really allows for the film to execute a tried-and-true concept with appropriate finesse.
As much as I love Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen is easily the best part of Run. When we are introduced to Chloe, we see a curious, cheery, and inventive young woman with a deep drive to succeed. Her everyday actions like building her own computer and pulling off a chocolate heist while her mom brings in the groceries show how thoughtful and quick-witted, she is without shoving it in the audience’s face. Much of Chloe’s success as a character is attributed to Allen’s full-hearted commitment to her character with every expression and articulation. Paulson’s performance is excellent as always. She really walks the tightrope between the concerned mother role and a manipulative narcissist quite convincingly.
This movie felt so claustrophobic that my insides were ready to pop out after ten minutes. There is something about the way they filmed that makes everything feel so cramped and restrictive. It doesn’t hurt that the house where Chloe and her mother live is already pretty tiny and closed off from the world. Everything potentiates this feeling of powerlessness, even the overhead shots of cars driving out in the country make Chloe’s world feel so isolating and lonely. The set is used to showcase how big the stakes are for Chloe. This is especially true in both the roof and staircase sequences, which are easily my favorites from the film.
Run is a no-nonsense psychological film that doesn’t feel the need to showcase flashy techniques to frighten the viewer. Its effect works are minimalistic and sparse, but realistic. Every scene feels needed and purposeful, without holding hands too much. But the sound is where Run really gets you. Chagganty ratchets up the sound to escalate the situation to almost unbearable heights. Conversations from other rooms can be screaming monologues or whispered pleas, cars driving up and away from the house act as a signal to take action, telephone operators become makeshift librarians, you get the point now.
One of the tensest viewing experiences of the year, Run laps circles around other films in the department of suspense. It’s frustrating and anxiety-inducing to watch the events play out in this film. I felt like I was right there with Chloe internally screaming at every roadblock or deviation preventing her plans to escape. Without many faults of its own, the biggest thing working against Run are attacks on the tightness of the story, which can be explained away by character revelations in the film. Hats off to Chagganty for creating such an immersive and rollercoaster ride of a film. I haven’t yet seen Chagganty’s earlier film Searching, but it is absolutely on my list now.
Both in terms of plain representation and nuanced characterization, Run can be interpreted as a win for the disabled community fighting to get better portrayals of their lived experiences in film. I have to begin with the disclaimer that I am not disabled and am not the authority on the needs of the disabled community. Here’s why I think Run does it right. Chloe is presented as a character with agency over her story. She is not there to serve other characters, to be in the background, or evoke pity. This is her story. Kiera Allen herself is a wheelchair user, the first to star in a film in over seventy years. Let’s hope that it never gets even close to that long ever again. With talent as strong as Allen’s, I’m optimistic that it won’t be long until we see her and other talented actors get their due.
Despite its formulaic approach, Run is an incredible thrill ride that boasts excellent tension and rock-solid performances. Between Run and Searching, I am sure that Chagantry has a bright career ahead of him in this niche. I know that before it was acquired by Hulu, Run was expected to hit theaters in May of 2020, which makes me disappointed I could not experience it on the big screen. Regardless, for fans of unhinged mother figures and those interested in supporting disability in horror representation done right, Run don’t walk to see this film.
Overall Score? 7.5/10