Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Runner, Music and Film by Boy Harsher

The horror genre used to get a lot of mileage from music videos back when they were a thing. Of course, there was “Thriller,” with Vincent Price and the other guy, but there were also official soundtrack videos, like Alice Cooper’s “The Man Behind the Mask” from Friday the 13th Part VI and J. Geils Band’s “Fright Night” video. The general idea of thirty-eight minutes of linked music videos telling a macabre story is a bit of a throwback, but the vibe here is more experimental. According to wiki David Lynch was an influence on electronica band Boy Harsher (vocalist Jae Matthews and producer Augustus Muller), but uncomfortably trippy movies like Calvin Reeder’s The Oregonian and Jason Banker’s Toad Road are more apt comps for the viewing experience of The Runner, which premieres Sunday on Shudder.

The blood smeared all over the face and clothes of this hitchhiker should be your first clue not to pick her up. She is a serial killer, who might even have supernatural powers. Yet, after each kill, she calls an older man, whose relationship to her is unknown, but he clearly understands her nature. Meanwhile, Boy Harsher and several of their special guests record in the studio and have their videos played on an 80’s-vintage
Night Flight-style variety showcase.

For an electronica band, Boy Harsher have a surprising facility with melodies. They also obviously enjoy playing with fetish imagery. There is a fair amount of blood and a few grisly practical effects, but the postmodern meta-ness and ultra-analog aesthetic never allow viewers to get pulled into the story, as simple as it is.

Still, Kris Esfandiari is pretty eerie looking as the titular drifter. Sigrid Lauren is a good sport when it comes to the gory prosthetics her character eventually sports. Gregg Araki fans will also enjoy seeing James Duval pop up in a cameo as a music executive. Nevertheless,
The Runner will leave most people cold, unless they are die-hard fans of the band (again, they get credit for their songwriting talent). However, they got us thinking about horror movie music videos, so maybe Shudder could offer a collection. It could also include the Ramones’ “Pet Cemetery” and the Fat Boys’ “Are You Ready for Freddy.” (Now there’s some odd nostalgia.) More interesting as music than as film, Boy Harsher’s The Runner starts streaming tomorrow (1/16) on Shudder.