Run Sweetheart Run Review: The Most Dangerous Date [Brooklyn Horror Fest]

As horror evolves, it calls upon prevalent societal anxieties like in the bad date boogie "Run Sweetheart Run." In the wake of #MeToo movements and corrective backlash against gender inequality, writer and director Shana Feste dares to imagine a dystopian hunt-for-sport that's essentially The Most Dangerous Date. There's so much bottled agitation in a movie about how a single romantic encounter could turn into a nightmare, as a predominantly women-led production — both in front and behind the camera — uses exploitation touches to highlight a horrifying issue. If "The Rental" is Airbnb alarmism and "Spree" tackles rideshare terrors, "Run Sweetheart Run" is a vicious powder keg for the online dating generation where predators can hide behind a sexy selfie and "nice guy" profile curation.

Ella Balinska stars as Cherie, a single mother and hopeful lawyer stuck as a glorified secretary for current firm partner James R. Fuller (Clark Gregg). After an accidental double booking in Fuller's schedule — or so Fuller claims — Cherie ends up taking a client meeting with megarich playboy Ethan (Pilou Asbæk). Although, their chemistry quickly turns from business casual to intimately flirtatious. Ethan drives Cherie back to his gorgeous Los Angeles estate, invites her in for one last drink, and shuts the door with a wink — only for a battered and makeup-dripping Cherie to burst back outside moments later, fleeing from Ethan.

Feste wastes little time endangering Cherie because "Run Sweetheart Run" is far more than a title — it's the drum-beating mantra propelling Cherie's frantic escape. As she busts past Ethan's heavy wooden door, the word "RUN!" in block-red font smashes into the screen to kickstart survival thrills. There's a desperation and ringing intensity in the way Feste barrels forward like something akin to John Carpenter's action catalog or "The Warriors," operating in this fantasy world that's more feral, territorial, and without support. It fits into a category of fiery social commentary like "Promising Young Woman" and "Assassination Nation" not removed from reality, just hyper-enhanced to drive a point home like a stiletto heel to the heart. Feste keeps pace with a stalk-and-chase format that's bruised, vulnerable, and ready for a fight, highlighting the best and worst attributes of Los Angeles (like being told Yamashiro serves the city's best sushi).

A formidable cat and mouse game

Balinska and Pilou Asbæk are a formidable cat and mouse, an alpha toying with his next meal who's far more cunning than he's willing to admit. Balinska's exhaustion and resilience are a testament to many women's experiences, playing against Asbæk's Terminator-esque Business Bro abuser. There's a confidence and snideness that Asbæk oozes because Ethan lives in a world catered to wealthy white men who can erase women like Cherie from existence — Asbæk is a terrifying manifestation of patriarchal demons. The way he breaks the film's fourth wall and physically turns the camera away so he can become his true self when no one's watching is absurdly vile and works gangbusters. Balinska plays a disheveled victim well, but when the tides shift, she becomes another badass warrior licking her wounds and screaming back at boogeymen like Ethan. Cherie is cunning, done waiting for fair treatment, and ready to be the change the world needs — especially if that means making some misogynist monster like Ethan feel every ounce of pain he's inflicted without consequence.

Co-writers Keith Josef Adkins and Kellee Terrell, alongside Feste, draw excitement from the otherwise barebones narrative by using exploitation absurdity. Without spoiling too much, this isn't simply a man tailing a woman — it's implied that Ethan bribes law enforcement and, worse yet, could be supernatural (sniffs blood like a shark). Some murky plot advancement succumbs to the film's breakneck design, which is more symbolic than functional. Feste doesn't shy away from the female experience, as societal taboos like period blood become an integral device to Cherie's survival, but can struggle to contain full thrusts into a finale complete with black goo, secret underground societies bathed in red lighting, and some "Kill Bill" tethers. If you're able to find yourself lost in Ethan's increasingly disturbing tactics, from blood-slathered grins to inhuman movements, and can appreciate Cherie's unification of similarly harmed women, then where Feste veers shouldn't be a bother. That said, there's an abandonment of structure that is a bit jarring at points, as the film keeps burning rubber and leaving past scenes in the dust.

"Run Sweetheart Run" is a passionate Los Angeles marathon that severs heads, scolds abusive norms, and gets loud about the ways society needs to reflect upon bettering itself. Shana Feste finds action-packed elegance in rage and reflection, borrowing from fast-moving midnight flicks that aren't afraid to challenge oppressive stigmas. Every time "RUN!" hits the screen and composer Robin Coudert's beats crescendo, our blood pumps, and Ella Balinska ignites like a supernova. "Run Sweetheart Run" achieves what it sets out to accomplish, and while there are minor bumps in the road, Balinska and Pilou Asbæk are too good at playing angels and devils in this knock-down, drag-out thriller covered with unconventional war paint.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10