Rabbit Review: A women searches for her missing twin in this Kubrick-esque Australian horror.

Rabbit review by Steve Palace, October 2017.

Rabbit Review

 

While you feel you may have seen your share of horror movies influenced by Davids Lynch and Cronenberg, the films of Tobe Hooper and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man, it will reassure you to know that eye-opening results can still be obtained if you find a way to handle those influences in an original fashion. That’s what writer/director Luke Shanahan has done with Rabbit, a bold and well-sustained tale that promises much for the debut helmer down the line.

Maude (Adelaide Clemens) is an Australian living in Germany, who is hoping to escape the tragedy of missing twin sister Cleo. However when her dreams seem to show Cleo’s bizarre and brutal fate, she feels compelled to return to Oz, where friend Ralph (Alex Russell) and detective Henry (Jonny Pasvolsky) help her track down her relative and finally crack the mystery behind what happened.

Rabbit Review

With its stark, sparing yet familiar images of country folk in strange, ritualized costumes Shanahan appears to lead us down a well-trodden path… at first. Turns out he’s a wiser director than I gave him credit for, as the narrative takes a turn that to me was unexpected, taking viewers into arguably a different territory altogether. I’ve already said too much perhaps but it’s worth noting the Kubrick-esque atmosphere created from this point, via striking colours and a strident electronic score (by Michael Darren) mixed in with classical music. There’s a welcome understanding that less is more, and when the big shocks come they are shoved right under your nose amongst an atmosphere of clinical calm, making them very effective.

Rabbit Review

The other interesting thing about the production is how it grows in confidence. At first I found the performances reasonable but nothing earth-shattering, but as the story went along and I got caught up in it I found myself invested in the characters – especially Clemens, who puts in an understated central performance(s). Veerle Baetens is also well-cast as Nerida, a sophisticated adversary with her own complexities.

If there’s a problem with Rabbit, it’s one that plagues many horror films. The question of why characters would choose to stay somewhere that’s clearly life-threatening naturally rears its head. I’ll also venture that not everyone will be happy about the elegant, philosophical conclusion when they were perhaps expecting something more cathartic. Yet these are minor criticisms of a tense and engrossing effort from an emerging talent who succeeds in keeping you on tenterhooks throughout.

Rabbit review by Steve Palace, October 2017.

Rabbit is currently playing as part of the Grimmfest programme.

 

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