Combustible Celluloid Review - Run Sweetheart Run (2022), Shana Feste, Keith Josef Adkins, Kellee Terrell, Shana Feste, Ella Balinska, Pilou Asbaek, Clark Gregg, Betsy Brandt, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Dayo Okeniyi, Carmela Zumbado
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With: Ella Balinska, Pilou Asbaek, Clark Gregg, Betsy Brandt, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Dayo Okeniyi, Carmela Zumbado
Written by: Shana Feste, Keith Josef Adkins, Kellee Terrell
Directed by: Shana Feste
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence, bloody images, language, sexual references and brief nudity
Running Time: 104
Date: 10/28/2022

Run Sweetheart Run (2022)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Date and Switch

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

While its message of gender equality is spooned on a bit thick, this brisk, biting horror pic (with notes of comedy), offers many nifty, prickly shocks and surprises, despite some lazy plot shortcuts.

Cherie (Ella Balinska) is studying law and working a thankless job as a secretary for a powerful white lawyer, James R. Fuller (Clark Gregg). On her way home one day, Fuller calls her, irate that she has double-booked a meeting on his wedding anniversary. He asks her to take over the meeting. She rustles up a babysitter, puts on a nice dress, and meets the man, Ethan (Pilou Asbæk), at his mansion. He seems nice, and they enjoy a lovely dinner and even some roller skating.

After, she reluctantly decides to join him inside for a drink, but comes running out minutes later, having survived a violent attack. She runs for her life, but is dismayed to discover that Ethan is following her, and somehow always knows where she is. Can she survive the night?

Director and co-writer Shana Feste, making her first foray into horror, sets up Run Sweetheart Run with an effective montage of pretty secretaries, emptily serving their male bosses (one boss plunks an empty coffee cup on one woman's desk). Indeed, even the title "sweetheart" is a condescending term rather than an affectionate one. But we have hope for the bright, sweet Cherie (Balinska gives the role her all). We root for her happiness. That's perhaps why the first turn, when her date goes bad, is all the more shocking. Feste chooses to show us only a door, with an unholy ruckus going on behind it; the sequence ends with a disheveled Cherie bursting through it, and a single word pops up onscreen, in all caps: RUN!

A second turn, which is better left unsaid, is even more bizarre and shocking, although Feste once again uses the technique of looking away from the horror and giving us only the sounds of it, and the look on Cherie's terrified face. Overall, Run Sweetheart Run does a wonderful job with its chase, Cherie doing her best to stay a couple jumps ahead, and then having to outwit her foe when he unexpectedly turns up.

It's a pity, then, when the movie takes shortcuts, like Cherie being rescued by a random character who had, moments before, been introduced as a threat. Perhaps most disappointing is the First Lady character (played by Shohreh Aghdashloo), a pretty typical deus ex machina. Perhaps if this section had been played more for comedy, it could have worked, but by this time, the movie's main focus is its message. Nonetheless, it still crosses the finish line in a mostly satisfying way.

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