A group of contestants competing for money. Ominous “hunters” tasked with chasing them down. A cash prize that gets higher and higher the longer they evade capture.
When the trailer for Netflix‘s reality game show Run for the Money landed last month, it sounded like a fun and deeply stressful new instalment in the streamer’s recent run of fun and deeply stressful reality shows (hello, The Mole).
But for Stephen King fans, it will also sound very familiar.
What’s Run for the Money about?
The concept is simple. 29 celebrities are released into a large contained area somewhere in Japan — essentially a small town — and given a head start before a group of “hunters” are released. These silent stalkers, all wearing sunglasses, suits, and face masks, are tasked solely with chasing down and catching each of the contestants. If a contestant is tagged, they’re out of the game.
While the contestants are hiding, a countdown timer in the bottom-right of the screen ticks down towards zero. And with each second that passes, the money they stand to win if they survive the game increases.
What’s Stephen King’s The Running Man about?
Written under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, Stephen King’s 1982 novella The Running Man tells the dystopian story of a man who enters a reality TV gameshow in order to win money for his family.
“The rules are simplicity themselves,” describes a character early on in the book. “You — or your surviving family — will win one hundred New Dollars for each hour you remain free. We stake you to forty-eight hundred dollars running money on the assumption that you will be able to fox the Hunters for forty-eight hours. The unspent balance refundable, of course, if you fall before the forty-eight hours are up. You’re given a 12-hour head start. If you last 30 days, you win the Grand Prize. One billion New Dollars.”
So essentially it’s a gameshow where you have to evade “hunters” in order to win prize money, and the longer you’re on the run the more the money goes up.
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So what’s the difference?
In fairness, Run for the Money isn’t exactly the same format as The Running Man. The former involves a large number of contestants in a contained place, for one, while the latter involves two contestants roaming anywhere in the world they want to. Run for the Money also mixes up its concept now and again, introducing missions in which contestants can add to the prize pool by taking additional risks (it does also allow players to snitch on each other’s locations, though, which is something civilians do in The Running Man).
It’s also worth noting that Run for the Money — which itself is a reboot of a 2004 series of the same name — isn’t the only show to follow a similar format. British reality series Hunted, which launched in 2015, saw contestants trying to evade a team of “Hunters” (made up of intelligent personnel and police) for a period of 25 days (it’s 30 days in The Running Man) for their share of a cash prize.
Maybe, if you combined these two reality shows, you’d end up with a game that’s even closer to King’s early ’80s nightmare.
In the meantime, though, we’ll always have that Arnold Schwarzenegger film.