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'Run' review: Hulu thriller is for 'Mommie Dearest' fans only

Kiera Allen (l) and Sarah Paulson (r)

Kiera Allen (l) and Sarah Paulson (r)  in Hulu's "Run." Credit: Hulu/Allen Fraser


WHEN|WHERE Streaming on Hulu

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen star as mother and daughter Diane and Chloe Sherman in this new movie with major Mommie Dearest-vibes.

Chloe is a teen with disabilities who has been home-schooled, sickened and kept totally isolated from everyone by mom. She starts to wake up to the malfeasance going on, particularly when it comes to the suspicious cocktails of pills she's regularly fed, and desperately tries to find a way out.

"Run," directed by Aneesh Chaganty (best known for directing "Searching," starring John Cho) and written by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, is streaming on Hulu.

MY SAY Completists in the subgenre of movies and TV shows centered on villainous moms should be sure not to miss "Run." If "The Act," "Sharp Objects" and the like have not satiated your appetite for this sort of thing, well, here ya go.

Otherwise, there is simply no compelling reason to elevate this run-of-the-mill thriller above the pack when it comes to the countless entertainment options available on the various streaming services.

It's got a weak script that relies heavily on cheap, lurid thrills and overwrought psychoanalysis, without ever grounding the drama in anything serious with regard to its depiction of mental illness.

It's possible to tell a story like this in a way that offers something beyond disposable entertainment: there are elements of truth buried within this toxic relationship in terms of its depiction of the drama and heartache inherent in a child leaving the parental nest.

But this movie displays little interest in pursuing any of that, instead filling time with ominous jump scares and low angles that frame Diane as a supervillain. Beyond a couple of sequences that generate genuine tension as Chloe tries to escape from her mom's clutches, there's not much in the way of suspense.

Mom poisons and imprisons her daughter simply because she's a malevolent figure. Chloe starts to recognize this because the filmmakers need her to do so. Plot devices help further her awakening to Diane's lifelong scheming, and the backstory is far less interesting than it could be.

Paulson, an excellent actor resting on her laurels here by operating squarely in her familiar "American Horror Story" mode, does little beyond glowering at the camera and affecting a menacing demeanor that suggests she's perpetually on the verge of losing her thin veneer of cool.

The true revelation is Allen, a remarkable actor making her debut who fiercely commits to ensuring that Chloe comes across as optimistic and determined as possible in spite of the enormous burdens facing her.

Allen, who really uses a wheelchair, is put through some impressively wrenching physical sequences here. The best scene in the movie involves an elaborate escape attempt from her character's room that showcases Chloe's strength and ingenuity, and the actor's genuine charisma.

It's a serious performance in a decidedly unserious movie and the introduction of a new name to watch. Allen has a promising career ahead of her, but even her total commitment to making Chloe as vivid of a character as possible is not enough to get this movie to where it's worth 90 minutes of your time.

BOTTOM LINE This is a silly, ordinary thriller that never does anything to distinguish itself from countless predecessors, but it does have the benefit of a legitimately great performance from newcomer Kiera Allen.

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