The plot of The Runner loosely follows a woman (Kris Esfandiari) making her way through a small town, leaving gruesome deaths in her wake. She never speaks; instead, the silence is filled by the dark vibes of Boy Harsher’s new album. Intercut with the story is footage of Boy Harsher performing, and responding to interview questions documentary-style.
It is a bit of a stretch to call The Runner a film. Between the 30-ish minute runtime and all the cutaways to Boy Harsher performing/being interviewed, it’s more like an elaborate, extended album music video. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – I just want to manage expectations here.
For existing fans of Boy Harsher, The Runner is a novel way to listen to a new album, and even get more inside the heads of the artists you care about. Are you just going to stream the tracks on Spotify afterwards? Yeah, probably. I don’t know that The Runner is the kind of thing fans would want to visit over and over again. But it’s a fun, atmospheric way to experience new music.
I’m inclined to say The Runner isn’t the kind of project that would bring new eyes on the band. That largely, it will be existing fans looking to press play. But at the same time, I wasn’t personally familiar with Boy Harsher prior to watching The Runner. And yet, after I started the film, I felt drawn in right away. I even looked up the band’s previous releases afterwards. So hey, if nothing else, it seems like an effective enough album marketing strategy.
Perhaps The Runner’s best quality is its ability to charm the viewer. It’s hard not to enjoy something obviously crafted with such care and love for music, for cinema, and for horror. (Boy Harsher’s members, Jae Matthews and Augustus Muller, actually met at film school. The Runner might be the first time I’ve watched something and thought, “I think the creators went to film school” and meant it as a compliment.)
There’s no doubt the atmosphere of The Runner is immersive. It’s shot in a manner reminiscent of old-school horror flicks. The Runner herself commands a sort of ominous, can’t-look-away presence. And of course, it’s all set to the dark, moody vibes of Boy Harsher.
Honestly, all in all, this one’s worth a stream, whether you’re an existing Boy Harsher fan, a horror lover, or just someone looking to experience new music in a cool way.
The Runner begins streaming on Shudder Sunday, January 16.