REVIEW: Boy Harsher - The Runner (Film and Soundtrack)
The long-awaited film The Runner, written and directed by Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller of electropop duo Boy Harsher, has just premiered on Shudder. Darkest Wave Magazine doesn't generally do movie reviews, but we'll make an exception for a film that is, in essence, a themed music video album. There are three main ingredients that attract me to certain horror films. One is the music. The second is the monster. The third is the aesthetic. Boy Harsher's The Runner ticks all of those boxes.
The soundtrack to this movie will be Boy Harsher's fifth release. This nontraditional album contains 8 songs that are creatively featured in the film and tie the scenes together. Having enjoyed Boy Harsher's previous releases, especially their last album Careful, and having already heard Give Me A Reason and Machina (Ft. Ms. BOAN - Mariana Saldaña), I was already sold on the music. Perhaps the music will be the best ingredient in this film for most people, especially for fans who already know Boy Harsher’s work, but it will certainly be a bonus for those who aren't familiar with them. The opening track Tower couldn't have been more perfect to set the mood of the entire film. The other tracks were woven cleverly into the scenes, appearing as part of the story when the band does a performance for television, or playing in the background, with some delicately dark instrumentals giving a foreboding sense of tension in the film. The song Autonomy (Ft. Lucy - Cooper B. Handy) was used as a playful outro while showing outtakes of the entire cast. The soundtrack officially drops on January 21st in digital, vinyl, and cassette via Nude Club/City Slang.
Some of the most terrifying monsters hardly make a sound; Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, The Moonlight Man from Gerald's Game, for example, need not say a word to scare the hell out of you. In The Runner, the monster is a young woman, covered in blood, played by King Woman’s Kris Esfandiari. She says nothing, and, for the most part, remains emotionless, dead-eyed, and expressionless as she savagely kills and devours her victims. It's worth noting that most of the actual acts of carnage are simply implied, and not necessarily shown. I say "most" because there is at least one scene where it gets pretty gory. We do get an impression that deep down, this woman is struggling, perhaps fighting her urges, but the monster inside of her is inherently evil and cannot be controlled. The film’s cast also includes Ms. Boan Mariana Saldana, Lucy’s Cooper B Handy, FlucT’s Sigrid Lauren, and Kontravoid’s Cameron Findlay, to name a few.
Without trying too hard, the film conveys the nostalgic look and feel of the late 70s early 80s as far as furnishings and clothing, and lots of denim. It's definitely moody with dramatic lighting and lots of closeups. The locations where the film was shot create this world that's not on any specific map, but forms in our imagination as sort of a nondescript small town sprawled across some wooded area of the US, with somewhat scruffy and unsavory folks, and not much else. There are old TV sets and corded phones and ugly curtains and rusty camper homes. The attention to detail is phenomenal. We do see some hints that modern-day exists between the lines, and in the scenes where Jae and Gus perform, but the overall aesthetic is drenched in that nostalgic b-movie thrift store chic that just happens to go so incredibly well with Boy Harsher’s music.
The Runner has all of the best ingredients of a horror film, yet at just 40 minutes, this isn’t a typical full-length feature with a complex storyline. It's more like an extended music video with a central theme. Those expecting a deeper plot might be disappointed. As a fan, I would have liked it to be a bit longer, but I'm truly impressed with what they were able to achieve. It would definitely still hold its own among short experimental horror films and it would rival some of the other video albums I've seen in my lifetime. A must-watch for Boy Harsher fans and highly recommended for fans of horror short films. 8/10
Follow Sofia Blackweather on Twitter @aunt_sofia