Review: Boy Harsher’s ‘The Runner’ Sprints Onto Shudder With a Killer Soundtrack
An experimental Shudder original film from Northampton, MA based electronic music duo Boy Harsher isn’t something many people probably ever had on their list of “things that will actually exist at some point” but that’s precisely what The Runner is. A hybrid that falls somewhere in between film and visual album (though leans much closer to the latter), The Runner is a worthy effort in meshing the two artistic mediums into a singular experience. It’s quite light in the narrative department, choosing to tell it’s highly ambiguous, seemingly metaphorical story through a carefully plotted mixture of maximalist and minimalist imagery spanning it’s brief yet eventful thirty-eight minute runtime.
Upon opening with a Boy Harsher music video playing on a cathode ray television set beside a mutilated body in a hotel room paired with shots of what appears to be a young woman in distress running through the forest sporting a pair of bloody sneakers, it’s clear this is going to be a highly atmospheric watch. It quickly becomes apparent when the nameless young woman (King Woman’s Kris Esfandari) hijacks a truck after being picked up by a hitchhiker – who she presumably murders in the process – that’s she’s more of an aggressor in this situation than she initially appeared to be. The rest of the runtime follows her on a bizarre, bloody road trip through a rural Massachusetts community while evading an enigmatic force who’s ominous voice is only ever heard through a telephone. When interspersed with Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller of Boy Harsher conducting behind the scenes press interviews as they record new music and videos, the whole experience starts feeling very meta.
The needle drops consist entirely of original music produced specifically for this project, so anytime the angsty, emotional, modern synthwave sound Boy Harsher is known for kicks on it feels very organic and tonally on point. The music is also what provides the real meat of the narrative here since there’s very little in the way of dialogue aside from the aforementioned interviews with the musicians, which for most of the runtime don’t directly connect to the activities of the sinister young woman. This is all rounded out by some excellent practical effects, gorgeous lighting, and solid performances from the cast though The Runner will likely leave some viewers desiring more substance by the time the credits roll, especially if they came in looking for something more straightforward. That being said this forty minute exercise in stylistic storytelling will surely be a hit among fans of Boy Harsher and it’s a very safe bet to say this will garner them a heap of new fans too, which is almost what it feels designed to do in a way. That’s not a bad thing in the slightest though as The Runner works quite well overall, so hopefully Shudder continues to take risks on experimental projects such as this because there’s definitely a fan base for them and it’s very refreshing seeing such a unique project enter the service’s already diverse lineup. If this sounds like your type of trip then lace up your sneakers and go on the journey yourself as The Runner is currently streaming on Shudder and AMC+.