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Film Review: Rabbit

Director:   Luke Shanahan

Cast:   Adelaide Clemens, Veerle Bætens, Alex Russell, Jonny Pasvolsky, Charles Mayer

Rating:   MA

Running Time:   103

Australian Distributor:   Vendetta Films


Rabbit is a very good Australian thriller: well-paced, smartly plotted, and brilliantly unsettling. It boasts several strong lead performances, some great surprises and plot turns, and a fairly innovative approach to music, editing and story structure. For writer/director Luke Shanahan it represents a confident and accomplished feature debut.  

Maude (Adelaide Clemens) is an Australian medical student living in Germany. A year ago her twin sister Cleo disappeared from her home in Adelaide. While their family has moved on – even holding a funeral with an empty casket – Maude is haunted by dreams that Cleo is alive. Returning home, she follows a string of clues to a strange community out in a South Australian forest.

Maude suffers a collapse in her German medical school and is sent home to Australia. She argues with her parents over whether or not Cleo is still alive, revealing a very broken family in the process. The story takes a tyre-burning right turn into an entirely different kind of thriller. The mystery of Cleo’s disappearance is replaced by the mystery of what precisely has happened to her since. This discomforting new direction is accompanied by jarring visual and musical cuts and an ambivalent emotional tone.

Much more than just a psychological horror movie, Shanahan’s film is a beautiful celebration of Euro cinema from the ’70s, yet it still feels wholly steeped in this twisted modern reality where nothing is as it seems, and the horrors awaiting viewers go much deeper than just jump scares and gore. 

Rabbit expertly blends together several genres—sci-fi, medical horror, and psychological thriller—and goes in some very unexpected directions. As a first-time feature-length filmmaker, Shanahan proves with Rabbit that he’s primed to tackle complicated and nuanced storytelling, and I am eagerly looking forward to whatever he does next as a director.

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