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Run Coyote Run (1987)

Directed by James Bryan
Ciara Productions VHS

If you are a person who likes movies, Run Coyote Run is a conflict of interest.

Renee Harmon and James Bryan had a hand in some of the most remarkably defective American genre films of all time. From their working partnership (Lady Streetfighter; Executioner Part II) to their solo hits (Harmon: Frozen Scream; Bryan: Don’t Go In The Woods), any movie attached to their names is worth watching six or ten times before you die.

For many years, Run Coyote Run was assumed to be an alternate title for Lady Street Fighter, Harmon and Bryan’s ultimate illogical sleaze opus. Lady starred Harmon (and her thick German accent) as a cop who’s tracking down her sister’s killer. At the same time, the mob and the FBI are on the prowl for a mysterious “master tape” that may or may not have a connection to Harmon’s sister. Harmon spent most of the movie kicking villains, driving cars, and licking telephone receivers.

Run Coyote Run is not an alternate title for Lady Street Fighter. It’s a sequel. And also a remake. And also a patchwork shot-on-video anti-movie that makes the reckless, recycled nonsense of Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 and Death Nurse 2 seem logical by comparison. Our VHS copy of Run Coyote Run was found in the trunk of a used car in California and sent to us. The cover was photocopied on yellow paper that has water stains. The label on the tape was made with a rubber stamp and a dot-matrix printer. Discovering this unknown project isn’t just a victory for admirers of Harmon and Bryan’s work — it’s a victory for anyone who gets out of bed each morning because movies like A Night To Dismember and Cards Of Death exist. Run Coyote Run has no resemblance to a reality that scientists, therapists, or archeologists are aware of. It feels like it was assembled by a group of people who were suffering from dementia, but didn’t know it. This thing is a minor revelation. A cathartic regurgitation of Harmon’s psychic lightning. In the words of an FBI agent at the movie’s climax: “It’s like the day of last judgement.”

Anne Wellington (Harmon) is the sister of Lady Street Fighter‘s Linda Wellington (Harmon). Anne is a psychic police officer working for Interpol. She’s trying to find Linda’s killer while eluding some hitmen with familiar faces and the FBI, who are all searching for an incriminating audio cassette. This should all sound very familiar because it’s the same plot as Lady Street Fighter. But where that movie is an actual movie, this is new video and film inserts surrounded by lengthy scenes from Lady Street Fighter, Frozen Scream, Executioner Part II, and Hell Riders. There’s an attempt to establish continuity, but it doesn’t work, even when sets from the prior movies are revisited. Cars don’t match. Clothes don’t match. Mustaches don’t match. Two men brawl in an apartment and suddenly, it turns into the climactic warehouse fight from Executioner Part II. Harmon ages drastically from scene to scene. A stuffed animal appears on the chest of a corpse. People argue in blank rooms, a booby-trapped lamp causes a building to explode, and a priest is murdered in a confessional booth. There are also many scenic views of the San Fernando Valley.

Even to a seasoned viewer of Harmon and Bryan’s work, Run Coyote Run makes no sense. The disconnected, dreamy tone most closely matches Harmon’s self-deprecating Escape From The Insane Asylum, but here, the approach is taken fifty steps further. Run plays out like a 72 minute greatest hits compilation that was sequenced at random by Renee Harmon’s subconscious. In construction, it’s similar to Coffin Joe’s vignette-styled Awakening Of The Beast. But where that movie was visually insane, this one is mentally insane. Soundtracks overlap and change every ten seconds. Ghostly laughter appears at random. The sound effects in a fight scene are produced by someone hitting an empty bucket. There are flashbacks to scenes that happened ten minutes prior and new footage repeats itself, as if Bryan forgot that he had already used it.

The experience of seeing this collage of madness is enough in itself. It’s rarely boring and always watchable, solely due to the disregard of logic by Harmon and Bryan. But when you really think about it, this is an incredibly ambitious undertaking. Combining footage from five different movies with new footage that matches nothing in the hopes of creating a cohesive movie? It’s insane. And admirable. That combination of determination and lunacy is what makes this “movie” so endearing. If it turned out any other way, it wouldn’t be as special.