Here’s the thing, the only thing, that got me through “Don’t Run,” 78 minutes of bad-flirting-with-merely-mediocre horror from writer-director Ben Rood.
His leading man, Danny Irazarry, looks and sounds a lot like Hal Hartley’s deadpan muse, James Urbaniak.
It helps to think funny thoughts, or that there’s funny intent, when you’re watching a thriller where the faceless, talking villain calls himself “Chester” and likes to make his threats in allegory form.
“A badger and its mate are living in the forest…”
“Don’t Run” is about 15 year-old fraidy-cat Peter (Irizarry), starting a new school and utterly deaf to Mom’s (Wendy Keeling) “I think you’re awesome” encouragement.
He’s a nervous wreck and a bully magnet, as his abortive “first day in your new school” demonstrates. He cowers, pops prescription pills for his phobias and pays no heed to Mom’s “This is NOT the way to solve your problems.”
But Pedro the Pomeranian (mix) smells something amiss in the closet. The dog always knows. A boarded up “passage” is the first hint that there’s someone — someTHING — downstairs, under the bed or wherever, always making itself known when Peter wants to leave the house.
Growls, threats and whispers, “Come on down and say HI,” follow the sock-faced “Chester” and his “badger” story.
Irizarry treats these threats with a sort of droll terror — hiding under the covers, protecting his dog. He knows the Urbaniak style.
Then Mom is out of the picture, and the aunt sent to care for him is snatched. Peter won’t let the social worker in, the bearded hipsters calling themselves cops show up, the bullies bully him INSIDE the house until one of them is nabbed and there’s nothing for it but to Google his dilemma in search of help.
You can see why I thought this was aiming for “comedy,” as it has just one mildly scary moment and one really well-composed good image. Imagining the kid as Urbaniak UNDER-reacting to all that occurs is one’s only salvation.
The “explainer” here is somebody the kid finds on Google. “Jack” is similarly trapped, and has been for years — “It knows EVERYthing….Welcome to your new life.”
Amy (Charlotte Arnold), the cute girl next door, decides bespectacled cowards who skip school are her “type,” people keep knocking at the door, the food runs out, the lights are switched off…
And why? Because SOMEbody isn’t facing his fears.
A few decent frights and a couple of intentional laughs would have gone a long way towards pulling this up to the bottom rung on the horror (or horror comedy) ladder.
James Urbaniak, at any age, would have made “Don’t Run” (he never does) worth watching.
MPAA Rating: unrated, some violence
Cast: Danny Irizarry, Wendy Keeling, Charlotte Arnold, Grant Brooks
Credits: Written and directed by Ben Rood. A Roundhouse release.
Running time: 1:18