RUN (2020), directed by Aneesh Chaganty, is pretty much your standard “get out of the house!!” thriller. It actually has a lot in common with genre staple MISERY (1990): things seem totally fine until suddenly they don’t, and then our plucky protagonist must find a way to escape without the use of their legs. A big difference that has people excited for RUN is that it is the first action film to ever star a real-life wheelchair-user, actress Kiera Allen. Another big difference is that Allen’s character Chloe is the genius horror heroine I’ve always fucking wanted.
Here is my attempt to tell the story of RUN without spoiling anything from the second half of the film:
Chloe (Allen) is the 17-year-old daughter of single mother Diane (the flawless Sarah Paulson). Diane monitors Chloe’s health and regimen of drugs, but Chloe is preoccupied with two main interests: waiting for college acceptance letters and fixing various gadgets and gizmos. She’s a plucky future tech-bro (but not an asshole) on her way to “garage” startup fame. Chloe and her mom have a seemingly healthy relationship until Chloe one day discovers that Diane has been slipping her drugs that were prescribed for a family dog that does not exist. When she tries to run away, she discovers her mother has locked her in. She has to use all her cleverness and ingenuity to escape. Dun, dun, dun!!!!
So it’s incredibly cool that Kiera Allen really uses a wheelchair. Yay representation! But I’m most excited about the writing in this movie. It is a little predictable. But boy is it tense. At 91 minutes RUN is exactly the length I think action thrillers (and actually most movies) should be. OK, fine, we pretty much know what the twist will be from the beginning (what the hell else would it be?) but it’s paced at a nice clip–we spend much longer wondering how Chloe is going to escape than we do wondering if that will be necessary.
I am also chuffed that RUN never enters the territory of “Why is everyone so stupid?” horror. Nobody ever hears a scary noise in the dark and goes to “check it out” like an idiot. Nobody ever fails a simple yet essential task like unlocking a door due to clumsiness. Once Chloe begins to believe that Mom is a dangerous kidnapper, she’s never implausibly convinced otherwise by a kind maternal monologue. When the friendly mailman tries to help Chloe in a later scene, he isn’t a doofus that can be bullied or tricked. At every point where I was shouting at the screen “run away!” people did (or tried), and every time I shouted “don’t do THAT”: they didn’t. Maybe this is a low bar, but I really love that everybody in RUN has a brain and uses it.
The thing that makes this movie a home RUN (lol) for me is its protagonist. Chloe is brilliant and the film makes optimal use of her brilliance. I really hate a movie where a character gets called a “genius” and then they put on glasses, do one math problem, and then never do anything impressive again. Nobody calls Chloe a genius, but she’s constantly fixing electronics in her spare time. When she needs to Escape From Murder Mom Manor, she comes up with clever solution after clever solution (using science!) to her problems and executes them fucking flawlessly. I’m particularly obsessed with this daring escape:
In the end, RUN is a little predictable, but it has a stellar cast, a fabulous heroine, and a deeply satisfying ending. Recommend!
Does it pass?
- The Bechdel-Wallace Test: Flying colors.
- The Sexy Lamp Test: Yep!
- The Willis Test: …I’m not sure. It feels like a very gendered-female story to me. Discuss.
- The Ko Test: No. There is a WOC character (Nurse Kammy, played by Sara Sohn) but she’s only in like 2 scenes.
- The Roxane Gay Test: Mostly but a few points are iffy: nearly everybody is white, which doesn’t seem in keeping with the spirit of the Gay test. Also, they live in a pretty nice house and Chloe presumably has massive medical bills, but Diane doesn’t appear to have a job. I’d say ultimately it does not pass.