Amazon Studios has a lot of horror offerings, especially from Blumhouse, and a lot of them are perfect watches for a scary night in. The latest Prime Video film that fits this bill is Run Sweetheart Run. Directed by Shana Feste, written by Feste, Keith Josef Adkins, and Kellee Terrell, and stars Ella Balinska, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Pilou Asbæk, Clark Gregg, Aml Ameen, Dayo Okeniyi, and Betsy Brandt.
Starting with run-of-the-mill everyday bullshit that women deal with. From HR reports about improper comments to a creep on the bus, Run Sweetheart Run starts by setting up its lead, Cherie (Ella Balinska) as completely relatable. A single mother, Cherie is a ball of stress. Pre-law and working at a law firm, she’s just trying to move up in life. Initially, Cherie is apprehensive when her boss insists she meet with one of his most important clients, the charismatic Ethan (Pilou Asbæk). She hasn’t bought new clothes since she had her kid, she’s already stressed from a mistake at work, and just the general thought of meeting a man alone at night. But she’s lulled by his charisma and the influential businessman defies expectations and sweeps Cherie off her feet.
This has more of a rom-com setup than a horror one right? Well, when the night ends, the switch flips, and this dark thriller kicks off. Ethan reveals his true and violent nature. Battered and terrified, she flees for her life, beginning a relentless game of cat-and-mouse with a bloodthirsty assailant hell-bent on her utter destruction. Cherie has to survive the crosshairs of a conspiracy stranger and more evil than she could have ever imagined.
As a final girl, Balinska as Cherie is perfect. She’s resilient and tenacious and that strength helps propel her through awkward conversations and violence just the same. From correcting the dashing Elliot to fighting him for her life, she is just stunning. After what serves as a sweet rom-com opening of sorts, Balinska gets directly into the action. And she runs and runs.
Run Sweetheart Runs knows when to show and when to tell what’s happening. Without seeing what happens to her, the audience is tasked to assume the worst, and ultimately believe Cherie when she asks the people around her for help. The real horror of Run Sweetheart Run comes from how Cherie isn’t believed. First, by women, she asks for help, and then by the police. Even when she finds sympathy in her boss, his demeanor centers himself and ultimately talks over Cherie’s experience.
As a take on how women are treated by the men around them, Run Sweetheart Run succeeds. Sure it uses a large conspiracy to unravel the ways that sexual assault and abuse are ignored so long as a man has enough power, but the helplessness it executes is palpable. While this isn’t a film that would qualify as a rape-revenge horror film, it’s adjacent. It’s cathartic and it’s brutal, and the wringer Cherie is put through makes the finale worth the watch – especially with the hard pivot into the supernatural.
Sexism and the rape culture it props up is the boogeyman in Run Sweetheart Run but it manages to do this without ever feeling hamfisted. Add in the fact that she is just one in a long line of women, specifically Black women (as detailed on the missing posters) who have gone missing for Ethan’s gains hurts all the more. While the racial elements of the film aren’t as explicit beyond the fact people of color are pretty much the only ones who help Cherie, to their own demise, they are there. However, to feel the full weight, they needed to be as explored as the gendered elements.
Ultimately, Run Sweetheart Run is heart-pounding and unsettling. It’s frustrating to see Cherie thought to be a liar by everyone around her and stalled at every turn she tries to take. Cherie isn’t running from just Ethan, she’s running from the power he wields, the people who put him there, and the people that allow what happened to Cherie to keep happening. But this frustration as every door closes all happens all serves a tension-building purpose for the film’s ultimate playoff.
Run Sweetheart Run
Run Sweetheart Run is heart-pounding and unsettling. It’s frustrating to see Cherie thought to be a liar by everyone around her and stalled at every turn she tries to take…But this frustration as every door closes all happens all serves a tension-building purpose for the film’s ultimate playoff.