Originally meant for theatrical release, Aneesh Chaganty’s Munchausen syndrome thriller debuted on streaming service Hulu just before Thanksgiving. “Run” is director Chaganty’s sophomore feature effort after his collaboration with Timur Bekmambetov’s Screen Life on the internet mystery “Searching”. “Searching” took place entirely on computer and phone screens. “Run” also sets most of its action in a small space—a house.
Chloe Sherman (Kiera Allen) is homeschooled by her mother Diane (Sarah Paulson) because of Chloe’s many physical maladies. She takes a cocktail of pills every day. Doctor’s visits are regular. Diane controls every aspect of Chloe’s life, a burden Chloe hopes to shirk off once she goes to college. That is if she gets accepted to a college. Chloe quickly begins to suspect that all is not as it seems and that her mother may be hiding some very dark secrets.
“Run” has become one of Hulu’s most successful originals and it is easy to see why. Chaganty is great at making crowd-pleasing thrillers, even if he cribs plot threads from other better films in the genre. A key plot twist seems ripped almost wholesale from Stephen King’s “Misery”. This is likely intentional as the film includes a character named Kathy Bates. While I appreciate a good homage, taking an complete plot point and putting it into your film feels like a bit too much. Besides unoriginal plot points, the film never quite gets to the climax that it should have.
In fact, the movie never runs full speed as the title might suggest. Very little happens for almost two-thirds of the film. The audience, or at least me, is typically a few steps ahead of Chloe. I found much of the slow building-up to be less creating suspense and more predictable tedium. There is almost no tension because I cannot say the film ever took a turn I did not expect. Without this tension, scenes like a crawl across a house roof feel like an eternity. “Run” also does to the dark places it could have. That is not to say the film is light, just lighter than many similar films. It is worth pointing out that many viewers have not found the film to be tedious or predictable.
Kiera Allen and Sarah Paulson both fit comfortably into their characters. Paulson plays the kind of manipulative and terrifyingly caring woman she frequents in shows and films like “American Horror Story” and “Ratched”. She does as well as one would expect given her experience. The real standout is Allen, who has already garnered a Spotlight Award from the Hollywood Critics Association. Allen balances a sensitive meekness with a hidden anger that becomes increasingly less hidden as the film goes on. In real life, Allen uses a wheelchair like her character in the film, adding to the performance’s authenticity.
“Run” may have made good Thanksgiving streaming entertainment for some but it is unlikely to make much of a greater impact. The film has little to say about the issues it explores. Many of the twists that will excite viewers ultimately feel pointless. Why this story? Does Chaganty have some vendetta against homeschoolers? Is he piggy-backing off of the interest in the Gypsy Blanchard story? These questions have continued to frustrate me because the film itself was not entertaining or fun enough to be a grindhouse joy. I can shrug off the point of, say, “Valerian” because the film is entertaining on its own as sweet pastry. Often too serious– most of the film’s spaces are purposefully dim. And yet “Run” is not particularly disturbing or scary. More like “Stroll”.