RUN (2020)


Studio:      Hulu
Director:    Aneesh Chaganty
Writer:      Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian
Producer:  Natalie Qasabian, Sev Ohanian
Stars:     Sarah Paulson, Kiera Allen, Pat Healy, Sara Sohn

Review Score:



A paralyzed teenager suspects her overprotective mother may in fact be keeping her captive in their own home.



In a gross abuse of the ¡°starts with a quote¡± clich¨¦, ¡°Run¡± opens on a tower of text featuring five full dictionary definitions. There must be a better way to tell us 17-year-old Chloe Sherman suffers from arrhythmia, hemochromatosis, asthma, diabetes, and paralysis. A single line of dialogue would suffice rather than relying on a screen that looks like the title sequence for ¡®Merriam-Webster: The Movie.¡¯ Nevertheless, that¡¯s how we initially get to know the girl.

We get to know Chloe¡¯s mother Diane from a sob-heavy session of mothers dealing with college departures for their home-schooled children. Distracted Diane is the only woman who doesn¡¯t take a tissue from the Kleenex box passed around the room. It seems she knows Chloe leaving home isn¡¯t something to fret over. The thousand-yard stare on Diane¡¯s face further suggests she stuffed some cards up her sleeve that give her the confidence to know she¡¯ll never not be in control.

Chloe senses her mother¡¯s scheming too. That¡¯s why when she starts snooping around a bag of groceries, Chloe takes the time to do a little digging into the details on some prescription pills. Being bound to a wheelchair doesn¡¯t inhibit the girl¡¯s ingenuity. Neither does not having access to the internet. Chloe could make Sherlock Holmes jealous with analog sleuthing skills that have her operating outside Diane¡¯s Sauron-like eye to investigate suspicions about the medication mom puts into her mouth every night.

I was caught unaware by how well ¡°Run¡± shapes suspense out of somewhat mundane moments. ¡°Run¡± drops Chloe into a simple scene of having to find out what a particular pill is by using a landline. Chloe¡¯s first ¡°beat the clock¡± scenario comes when she wades through an annoying series of automated menus while also keeping watch on Diane outside in the garden. When 411 leads to a dead end, Chloe next dials a random number and has to hastily solve a misogynist man¡¯s personal problems before he¡¯ll do the favor of Googling a name for her.

Thrillers usually fashion ¡°will she get caught?¡± tension by putting their heroine under a bed with a hand over her mouth while a killer creeps around. Here we just have a girl on the phone, yet her rush to accomplish something otherwise ordinary results in a surprising amount of involuntary nail biting. ¡°Run¡± gets these boosts because this early on, we can be sure Diane hides a big secret. Except we¡¯re still in the same dark as Chloe, with no idea how deep Diane¡¯s deviousness goes. Our stress escalates at the same pace as Chloe¡¯s, creating a sense of increasing uneasiness in the process.

Of course, Chloe¡¯s condition turns out to be something other than what Diane makes it look like. Mom has been playing Annie Wilkes all this time, and unwilling captive Chloe is her Paul Sheldon. Armed with this info, Chloe wants out from under Diane¡¯s thumb. Unfortunately, getting out of the house is easier said than done when you¡¯re unable to walk and your manipulative mother rarely lets you out of her sight.

Largely thanks to Ryan Murphy¡¯s obsession with making her his DeNiro, overexposure has given a great deal of genre fans fatigue for Sarah Paulson. For those not currently tired of the prolific actress, Paulson turns in another reliable performance, even if Diane is more or less a routine role for her. Paulson appears to apply some autopilot, though that¡¯s acceptable due to her talent to deliver high speeds at low RPMs. Diane doesn¡¯t demand that Paulson reach too deep into her bag anyway.

In spite of embodying a rote archetype, Paulson makes Diane uniquely frightening. Paulson chooses to present Diane as a sad, broken woman instead of as another crazed psychopath. She¡¯s not quite sympathetic, but there¡¯s a pitiable quality to Diane that gives her an additional layer of emotion this kind of character doesn¡¯t usually have.

Speaking of characteristics, ¡°Run¡± only gives its denizens the minimum amount required to motivate their actions throughout the movie. Anything introduced about a person¡¯s behavior, background, or abilities is a Chekhov¡¯s gun you can count on coming into play when ¡°Run¡± is ready to fire. Standard strands in its DNA mean ¡°Run¡± would be DOA as a theatrical release. As a ¡°nothing else is on¡± choice while surfing Hulu however, ¡°Run¡± can provide stock thrills and decent drama in a pinch.

Obviously, this isn¡¯t the first Munchausen by Proxy scenario used in a horror film. The other aspect to the twist is hardly a shock either. But there¡¯s a sting to the epilogue that¡¯ll bring a satisfying smirk to anyone who wants to see good triumph over evil in a very grey way.

Pop culture nods like naming characters after Kathy Bates and Linda Kasabian, a movie titled ¡°Fake News¡± on a marquee, and a throwaway reference to Derry, Maine clue us in to the fact that the filmmakers want their movie to be a little bit fun. They know they¡¯re not creating the next ¡°Psycho¡± as far as suspense films go. As long as you¡¯re in the market for simple fare, you¡¯ll appreciate their no-frills approach to a familiar chiller.

Review Score: 65