Bad Karma: The Running Man

Just to clarify, this is not the Schwarzenegger vehicle of the same name nor is it Carol Reed’s 1969 film but an 80’s anime short of rather different character to both.

I’m actually familiar with the director Yoshiaki Kawajiri’s later work and honestly much of it’s the kind of  ‘violence and sex’ fare which has characterized the west’s typical view of the medium. However, while this short certainly has its fair share of shocks in common with such video nasties, it’s an altogether more sophisticated affair than might be expected.

Still, I will caution you that the video contains several moments of strong horror. Consider yourself forewarned:

There is a cut down, english dubbed version on youtube which was apparently shown on MTV, but beside suffering lower image quality I chose the untranslated video as it illustrates how much of the story is told in the visuals.  It would be a stretch to call it subtle, but it is atmospheric and – most importantly – memorable.

The telekinesis the champion racer – Zach Hugh – uses to destroy his rivals and the eerie conclusion arguably pushes things into supernatural territory, but the aesthetics and theme of karma being repaid definitely have a cyberpunk feel to them. There’s clearly high technology on display (especially if his powers were created artificially)  and the low humanity is starkly portrayed in his ruthless elimination of competitors.

It makes for a nice narrative crescendo in the way the race begins as a fairly gritty, realistic affair but progressively becomes stranger and more disturbing, cumulating in the otherworldly victory lap; something which again echoes the cyberpunk tendency of revealing chaotic darkness beneath seemingly ordered surfaces.

It’s simple and perhaps not palatable to everyone, but as an uncompromising piece of sci-fi horror it’s got plenty of impact.


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