Whether she intentionally sought this title or not, out actress Sarah Paulson qualifies as a scream queen.
Her work with Ryan Murphy on his various seasons of “American Horror Story” as well as Paulson’s recent stint in Murphy’s “Ratched,” and her early role in the '90s series “American Gothic,” all lend her career scream queen cred.
In “Run” (Hulu/Lionsgate), the second full-length feature from Director Aneesh Chaganty (2018’s “Searching”), Paulson plays Diane, an overbearing mother of a teenage daughter, Chloe (Kiera Allen in her feature film debut) with a number of debilitating health issues including arrhythmia, hemochromatosis, asthma and diabetes. Chloe is also a paraplegic and uses a wheelchair. We are led to believe that these disabilities are related to her premature birth.
Diane, who homeschools Chloe, claims to be fine with the idea of her going off to college in the fall. But Chloe, who is anxiously awaiting letters from schools, is always beaten to the mailbox by Diane who tells her that no such correspondence has arrived as yet. Meanwhile, Chloe follows her mother’s strict regimen of medication and education.
Chloe, who is extremely bright, begins to notice cracks in her mother’s foundation. She innocently snoops and makes a shocking discovery about one of her medications. When trying to further research pills, she finds out that there’s no home internet access. After other attempts fail, Chloe devises a plan that will get her close enough to the local drugstore so that she can consult with the pharmacist. That plan backfires and she is even more at the mercy of Diane who is increasingly losing her grip.
Locked in her room, Chloe executes an intense escape plan involving extension cords, a power strip, a soldering iron, a mouthful of water and all her upper body strength. After surviving a tumble down a set of stairs, Chloe is struck with the realization that she can move her toes. This whole scene is sure to bring more than a few viewers to the very edge of their seats.
Back in her wheelchair and out the door, Chloe encounters mailman Tom (Pat Healy) who attempts to help her. Unfortunately, an unhinged Diane shows up to put a stop to that, much to Tom’s detriment.
Now locked in the basement, Chloe has a chance to learn more about Diane, much of which is shocking and terrifying to say the least. As a last resort, Chloe self-harms which lands her in the hospital. But this state of affairs can only lead to Diane’s ultimate incrimination, especially since Chloe is now considered an at-risk teen who attempted suicide, and she can’t have that.
“Run” is a vivid and terrifying portrait of a twisted family relationship driven by a Munchausen syndrome by proxy situated somewhere between Mommie Dearest and Baby Jane Hudson. However, the table-turning “seven years later” conclusion may be a bridge too far even for the most invested audience members.
Screen Savor is a weekly column from SFGN’s film critic Gregg Shapiro. Shapiro is an entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in regional LGBT and mainstream media outlets. Shapiro is the author of seven books including the 2019 chapbooks, Sunshine State and More Poems About Buildings and Food. Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.