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Giddy. I love finding craziness that is right there hidden under the pantry. I was just hoovering here and there, just trying to see if I could find anything new to bring you all. (Yes, I am trying my best to work through your immense pile of recommendations. Trust me.) And out popped this fantastic little gem from the land down under. So why don’t we chat a bit about why the Australian movie Rabbit is a suprasubliminal mindjob. But first, suprasubliminal, what the heck does this horrific word mean? Well, come on, you know… it means, just above, the below the surface consciousness. Maybe possibly barely liminal… but not 100%? (It’s a word coined by the greatest author of all time, David Foster Wallace, in his book Infinite Jest.)
So Rabbit, right, stay on target. Rabbit is a story about a sister – nay, a twin – that has gone totally missing, completely without a trace. She was there one minute, and gone the next. But a while later, the remaining twin is starting to have visions. Something isn’t right. And this story is a twisting thread that won’t reveal its secrets until the absolute ending. And even then, there is still plenty of space for us to conjecture, argue, discuss what happened in this fantastic little film. The science of it. The paranormal of it. The “WHAT?” of it. Anyway, if you generally dig the movies that I push here, this is right in the sweet spot. I promise… it’s totally worth your time. (Oh, side note, if anyone knows of a way to raise Luke Shanahan, (the writer and director) I’m dying to talk to the guy. If anyone has an email, twitter handle, psychic telegram address… I’m willing to mail you a beer in return. (Not exactly sure that would end well…))
So yes, its a twisted, neo-classical, mind job, psychological thriller. Um, I just won the THiNC. buzzword BINGO! So let’s dive in shall we? As ever, spoilers abound, please don’t continue if you don’t want the movie to be spoiled. And heck ya, there’s a lot to be spoiled here. You’ve been warned.
Rabbit Movie Walkthrough
Claire and Maude (both played by Adelaide Clemens) are twins. Claire, or as she is better known by her sister, Cleo, has gone missing. For some unknown reason, Maude has moved from her family’s home in Australia, and started training to be a doctor in Germany. But she is seeing visions. She’s dreaming more and more about her sister, trapped, alone, and afraid.
One particular vision (waking nightmares, dayscreams? heh…) keeps coming to her of Cleo, trapped by older people in a restaurant, or cabin, and there are sandwiches. (Yes, sandwiches.) Maude is certain that Cleo is still alive, but her family isn’t. Especially since they just conducted a funeral that she refused to attend. “You just buried some wood!” Well, one day, after fainting after a particularly horrible vision, Maude decides she has got to go home and look for where these visions might be coming from.
And when Maude gets back home, we meet the twin’s parents, as well as Cleo’s fiancé, Ralph (played by Alex Russell, who was awesome in the movie Chronicle). We also quickly meet the local policeman, Henry (played by Jonny Pasvolsky) who has been searching for Cleo since she went missing. Oh, and by the way, Henry may also have been attracted to Claire at some point in the past. So, suddenly, we have serious love triangle, pop up out of nowhere. We have Maude. We have Henry. And we have Ralph. The Cleo Hunting Trifecta… or something.
Soon enough, following Maude’s visions, they arrive at the RV park where Cleo went missing. (How? That is unclear. The only identifiable mark on the house is “Flo’s”.) But soon they are moving deeper and deeper into the RV park and the forest nearby tracking only a trace that Maude can smell. Soon enough, they find Dr. Nerida and Nerida’s husband – who admit to seeing Cleo at the RV Park. So, the trifecta now know that they are on the right track. But, then suddenly, Maude wakes somewhere else. Suddenly she’s trapped in the big house mentioned by the woman with special needs. It’s a huge house, and somewhere is playing the zauberflöte (you know the one, The Queen of the Night aria – the one with the High F. So good). It’s some sort of house for twins. And no one seems happy to be there. And they’ve done something to Ralph’s eyes? And we all get the distinct impression that something not good – and really weird – is happening here.
Visions continue to come to Maude. She sees Cleo in pain caused by Dr. Nerida’s sister, Elizabeth. Nerida’s twin. Maude sees a deformed man with a crude rabbit’s mask named Richie try to help. And when Cleo is cut, we see that Maude also bleeds. And this seems to send Dr. Nerida into some sort of near spiritual euphoric bliss. And eventually Maude finds Henry tied to a tree, with his throat slit.
And in a scene straight out of the movie Get Out, there are rich individuals coming to see Dr. Nerida’s latest results from her latest research. And as they come to watch, Maude wakes, breaks out of the house, and lights on fire one of the expensive cars in the parking lot. Then she runs to a cabin, where she finds Ralph, who, we have learned, was a plant. That Ralph was trapped by Nerida, that he also has a twin, and that Richie – the Rabbit boy -is his brother. And then we learn that the hunters are coming for Maude, but they inadvertently shoot Ralph, and kill him. And Maude runs for it.
Meanwhile, one of the other twins walks up to Dr. Nerida in the kitchen back at the big house and begins stabbing her in the gut. As she crumples on the floor we can see Dr. Nerida is wondering what just happened. And all I was wondering was if Dr. Nerida’s sister Elizabeth felt it! hahaha. But, we can’t stop to think about all this, because there goes Maude, out to a nearby road. And the movie ends with the quote: “I now realize that we may be able to alter fate, but we can’t accept it.”
What’s With This Sir Francis Galton?
Dr. Nerida mentioned Sir Francis Galton and I literally almost fell out of my chair. I was like, oh wow, this is going to go in a really bad direction. And suddenly I realized that Galton was Nerida’s academic predecessor.
Now, knowing this, we can work backwards from the ending to the beginning with a much better understanding of what was happening in this movie. We know that Dr. Nerida was a philosophical predecessor of a man named Sir Francis Galton who was a pioneer of behavioral genetics (which is the study of genetic and environmental influences on behaviors.) Oh and by the way, he coined the phrase, “nature vs. nurture”. Better yet, he was also the inventor of the idea of, wait for it… eugenics. So Galton was fascinated about whether abilities were hereditary. He posited that eminent men (not Eminem, he’s different), if their skills were hereditary there would be more eminent men from certain strong families. He created an idea of historiometry that measured these connections. If you are dying to know more, find his book entitled Hereditary Genius that was published in 1869. But basically, he showed that eminent relatives dropped as he moved from first degree relatives to second, to third, and so on. (And thus he reasoned that abilities were hereditary.)
But he also knew that this book and its thinking were flawed. And so he reasoned it would be better if he compared and contrasted data from twins instead. He wanted to test twins separated at birth to see if their abilities differed as a result of their differing environments. And he did this in his book, The History of Twins in 1875. And voila, Galton basically invented the field of behavioral genetics that relies on twin studies to obtain its data. And from this data he proposed a slew of adoption studies to dive deeper into this data (including trans-racial adoptions, etc). But ultimately he concluded that nature was the winner over nurture.
It was his system and definition of marks for merit applied to families that got really wild, and scary. So yeah, he even espoused that strong marked families should be encouraged to converge through proposed marriages via monetary incentives. And the families that didn’t match high marks were “dysgenic”. And not only should matches be made, but high marked couples should be encouraged to have children. Let’s let Galton speak for himself from his book ‘Hereditary Genius’:
The best form of civilization in respect to the improvement of the race, would be one in which society was not costly; where incomes were chiefly derived from professional sources, and not much through inheritance; where every lad had a chance of showing his abilities, and, if highly gifted, was enabled to achieve a first-class education and entrance into professional life, by the liberal help of the exhibitions and scholarships which he had gained in his early youth; where marriage was held in as high honour as in ancient Jewish times; where the pride of race was encouraged (of course I do not refer to the nonsensical sentiment of the present day, that goes under that name); where the weak could find a welcome and a refuge in celibate monasteries or sisterhoods, and lastly, where the better sort of emigrants and refugees from other lands were invited and welcomed, and their descendants naturalised.Galton’s ‘Hereditary Genius’ page 362
So, with Nerida flashing Galton’s name, she is indicating a whole pile of racist and eugenic overtures about what she is actually trying to do here.
What’s With the Get Out Ending?
As I mentioned in the overview, we see a gaggle of old men head into the big house for something important. But what is it? Are they there to bid with Bingo Cards for the soles of loved ones inhabiting black individuals? Hahahah. (That was a reference to the movie ‘Get Out‘ for those that missed it.) Well, no. They are not. But they are there for a purpose.
Well, to understand that assembly, you have to first understand how Nerida has been conducting her experiments. Instead of building a lab, and then bringing twins in, and walking them through experiments, she has been abducting a singular twin out of the wild, and watching the remaining twin closely.
Walk back to the beginning of the movie. Nope. Further back. Before the movie’s timeline starts, we are told, that Maude leaves Cleo and heads to Germany. Meanwhile, Ralph and Cleo fall in love, get engaged. But we know that Ralph is a twin that has been dropped into Cleo’s life for the sole purpose of watching her… and then watching Maude when she came running after Cleo went missing. So Ralph is there as a specific experiment lab facilitator. And when Maude is taken to the big house, they all come to see if Maude will follow exactly the same path that Cleo took towards her death. Which then caused Maude to faint, and then come running.
This isn’t the first time that this has happened. It’s actually the culmination of years worth of study, abductions, and pain inflicted on one twin, while the study searches for indications of sensations produced in the other sibling. Thus the child missing an eye. Thus the scars on Ralph’s back. Etc etc. And we get the sense that the men are investors in Nerida’s extrasensory experiments between twins. They are there to see if Galton’s eugenic experiments have been extended out into the world of the paranormal by Nerida’s tests. Which is why we see the slide stating, “Stage 4: Cryptophasia”. (Which just means a secret language developed between twins.)
But What about the Ending?
So, as Maude runs away, she comes to a road. The road goes left, and it goes right. Which way will she choose? We don’t know what way she goes ultimately, but we get the sense that she could break the cycle of her sister’s choosing, and instead go her own way… maybe. But at the movie’s ending, the top is spinning (and that, for the eternally slow among us, is a reference to Inception), and we aren’t certain if it will fall or not. But with Nerida being dead, killed by one of the other twins in the house, there is a sense of inevitability to Maude breaking the cycle and going her own way. Oh shoot, but isn’t Elizabeth still alive out there? Hrmmm. No. Gazza, commented below that it was mentioned a couple times that Elizabeth had died years prior. So we’ll call that book closed.
Rabbit is a confusing mixup of a lot of different kinds of thrillers. I liken it mostly to I, Origin in that it is scientific and yet it is spiritual simultaneously. But it also has elements of Get Out going for it as well. Which was fascinating. But the horrifying nature of the research more mirrored the world of The OA. And I enjoyed all three of those movies. But what did you think of Rabbit? Had you heard of it before I mentioned it? Love to hear your thoughts.
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