I was 14 when Columbine happened. It was a national tragedy. I remember seeing the same parking lot footage looped on the news for days. Intellectually, I understood what had occurred but that kind of horror just didn’t seem like something that could actually happen in real life. Then more school shootings happened…and kept happening…and the victims got younger.
For a while, it felt like mass shootings had become common occurrences. When you would see a news ticker about a shooting, be honest with yourself here, you instinctively looked for the number to see how big of a story it would be. Desensitization is a natural coping mechanism but the cruel twist is that it also allows ambivalence to flourish where outrage ought to take root.
Run Hide Fight is a taut thriller that sparks outrage exactly where it should. Why do these shootings keep happening? What are schools doing to prevent or, at least, mitigate disaster? By bringing the camera inside and giving equally long looks at both the heroes and villains, Director, Kyle Rankin, creates an terrifyingly immersive experience that forces you into panic and asks, “What would you do?”
There are a few moments in Run Hide Fight that dance on the line of glamourizing violence and those are important moments. In humanizing the weaker set of villains, Rankin flirts with the concept of justification before immediately condemning it. The main architect of terror, Tristan Voy, intrigues with promises of important meaning only to be revealed as the banality of evil personified. By almost letting the violence of the movie slip into entertainment, Rankin demonstrates just how easily kids, be they damaged, ignored, or merely dumb and narcissistic, can be tempted into a heinous action. It is difficult to reconcile that for all the pain and trauma the survivors and their families will deal with forever, there is no reason this ever has to happen.
Eli Brown plays Voy brilliantly. He puts on a dazzling performance that lands somewhere between James Franco in Freaks and Geeks and Ryan Gosling in Murder By Numbers. But, for as charismatic and utterly watchable as Brown is, Isabel May’s Zoe Hull is the driving force behind Run Hide Fight. As her school’s guardian angel, May delivers an incredible “I’m-not-even-supposed-to-be-here-today,” performance that ranks right alongside John McClane and Ellen Ripley.
Not since No Country For Old Men has a movie evoked in me such a visceral feeling of dread. Make no mistake, Run Hide Fight is absolutely gut-crushing. But it is also incredibly redeeming for the human spirit. Watching the moment a normal person realizes they are willing to trade their life to save others is awe-inspiring. We don’t need superheroes, we just need heroes.
After the credits are finished rolling, the movie has provided no solution to the pandemic of violence. Run Hide Fight isn’t intended to be an answer. It was made to drop us into a place that most of us have only heard about on the news – a place we have become desensitized to. It was made to awaken righteous indignation. The heroes in the movie are kids but the heroes in real life need to be the adults. Somewhere, there is a balance between rights and recklessness, freedom and control, and kindness and strength. Good movies entertain. Great movies provoke.