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DON’T RUN (2019)

Directed by Ben Rood
Written by Ben Rood
Starring Danny Irizarry, Charlotte Arnold, Holly Arnold, Grant Brooks, Cody Cheatwood, Darlene Cooper, Jodie Dunn, Dan Foley, Cameron Hollstegge, Jeremias Iribarren, Wendy Keeling, John Newkirk, Barb Rood

DON’T RUN is a harmless, but effective little low budgeter that is sure to make youngsters and those who only dip their toe in the pool of horror shudder. If you have friends who don’t like to be scared or feel most horror is too intense for them, this is the film for them.

Peter (Danny Irizarry) is an introverted teen who might be slightly on the autism spectrum and takes medication for an unspecified condition. Peter and his mom have just moved to a new town in Ohio and though his mom encourages him, Peter has a feeling he’s going to fit into his new place as much as he did his old place. On the first day, Peter encounters a bully, a gal next door named Amy (Charlotte Arnold), and a kid who just gives Peter the creeps. Returning home, Peter continues to be socially awkward and takes it out on him mom. Immediately after an argument, Peter’s mom is taken by a mysterious man in a mask in his bedroom closet and Peter is stopped on his frantic run out of the house by another man in a mask. The man tells Peter that he is now cursed. If he doesn’t get into bed by sundown, bad things will happen. With his mom gone and Peter without a guardian, he is forced to oblige and make sure he is in bed before the sun goes down, lest harm will come to Peter, Amy, his dog, and anyone else in Peter’s life.

I felt like I was watching an episode of GOOSEBUMPS most of the way through this one as it lacks a lot of the gore, swears, and nudity often associated with the horror genre. Everything felt very quaint and safe—like a cautionary campfire tale told to children to get them to go to bed early. There are some pretty fucked up things that happen in DON’T RUN; such as the death of parents, but everything feels very low stakes and bloodless. I never felt the hero, Peter, was in trouble. Of course, I had that same feeling with the twisted film FOUND from a few years back and was beaten over the head with its soul- and gut-churning ending, but none of that power happened with DON’T RUN.

This might have been due to the amateur actors of the film. No one did a bad job. All of the cast did their part, especially Irizarry, who has to go through a lot to get to the end. But paired with the low fi sound, minimal production, and few effects, the acting simply didn’t elevate it past GOOSEBUMPS levels of quality. I can see why younger folk would love DON’T RUN. It definitely has some weight to the story and the whole thing isn’t written badly at all. It just didn’t hit me as a film geared toward my more jaded and mature sensibilities.

The script is a very direct one. It cuts to the chase in certain areas, such as when Peter simply does a google search to find someone else who is experiencing this same sort of curse. And then, Peter immediately is able to chat with that person and get his phone number. I was waiting for the person on the other line to be some kind of pedo-stalker, but the film never really goes thhere. It all just feels very innocent. DON’T RUN explains that tone of naivete by the time it all works out, but still, the ending felt like a bit of a trite cop-out that doesn’t add any more meat to an already lean story.

The masked monster men are indeed ominous. The plain and direct way their talk to Peter make for some really heavy moments. I don’t want to mislead people in thinking that this is a bad film. It’s not. It’s well made for what they had to work with. GOOSEBUMPS scared a generation of kids and I think that type of horror is important to indoctrinate a new generation of horror fans. But if you’re used to rated R horror, DON’T RUN doesn’t live up to it. Everything from the story to the way this film was made and acted feels like the work of someone who has a decent, but slightly innocent take on the genre. He needs some development in technique and maturity, but I’m definitely interested in what’s next for filmmaker Ben Rood. This no-frills film will definitely scare the younger horror generation and we need films like this to make sure horror lives on.

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