Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2017
With a wonderful vision, soundtrack and a great sense of dread, Luke Shanahan’s Rabbit is a great way to exercise your brain and have a grand time at the movies again, without the need for explosions and aliens and comic book characters coming out of your ass. Part psychological, part well-crafted insanity, this is a movie that will have you thinking about it long after you’ve left the theater.
The story centers on twins Maude and Cleo, wonderfully played by Adelaide Clemens, and the search by Maude for her missing and presumed dead sister. Maude is convinced her sister is still alive, jarring and disturbing nightmares/visions of Cleo being held captive somewhere visit her often, and so she sets out to find her. She is aided on her quest by Cleo’s partner/fiancé and almost over the top helpful Ralph (Alex Russell) and the down and out detective on the still open case Henry (Jonny Pasvolsky), both of whom are creepy in their own right.
There is a scene where Maude comes home and is having dinner with her parents that is excruciatingly painful to watch, and I mean that in the best way. Here we have the parents who want nothing but to put this behind them and a daughter who is right across the table from them, thinking she is still alive. The silence at times it heartbreaking, making the scene that much more powerful.
Leaving the disturbing home front, our trio carries on and makes their way into territories that are filled with gypsy-like characters that you might see in a David Lynch film. They are an odd bunch but soon Maude meets a couple that changes the direction of her search, for better or worse. Veerle Baetens gives a great performance as Nerida, the seemingly simple wife who gives a very layered and powerful performance.
There are a lot of disturbing and painful images that Maude is forced to endure concerning her twin sister, her being trapped, tortured and alone, and this is made even more intense by the big and booming score. It is a strange mix of classical and approaching-doom techno that sometimes assaults your senses and other times disappears completely, leaving you with a deafening silence that is even more creepy than the ‘here comes trouble’ musical lead-ins.
The film also has some weirdly beautiful cinematography, very detailed in parts coupled with immense long shots of the countryside. It works very well with the soundtrack and helps bring the overall film into view so to speak, one which is bizarre, terrifying and bold. There are times where the film lapses into some tedious moments, long silences or dialogue that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, but these instances are few and far between. However, writer/director Luke Shanahan keeps this crazy ass ship rolling right along, for the most part, weaving a strange and eerie story together like a veteran, even though this is his first feature film.
Society as a whole loves to put almost everything in specific categories so it makes it that much easier to understand. Movies are a great example of that, horror over here, sci-fi there, comedy over there…it has gotten so nothing is really surprising anymore. Then along comes a film like Rabbit, which defies any real definition in terms of genre and then proceeds to shock, surprise and baffle you in all the best ways possible.
Four stars out of five
Rabbit is playing Sunday, Oct 15th, 4 pm at Scotiabank Theater during the Toronto After Dark Film Festival
- Wonderful performances by Adelaide Clemons and Veerle Baetens
- Film is not easy to digest and will stay with you for a while
- Great sound and cinematography
- Some scenes go bogged down with either too much uninteresting dialogue or too much silence.