As a member of a short film selection panel for a major film festival in 2013 and 2014, I was quite surprised by the increasing number of submissions that sought to replicate big-budget Hollywood genre cinema. I suppose I had, quite ignorantly, entered with a preconception that short films were the reserve of art cinema. What surprised me even more, however, is how close some of these films came to actually achieving their goal of replicating the spectacle-laden effects of mainstream movies.
My thoughts on this were two fold. Firstly, I was a little concerned (AKA paranoid) that this indicated a trend towards independent filmmaking being subsumed by mainstream tastes. On reflection, I would suggest that this tension is an ongoing and unavoidable reality of the medium – one that will always be front of mind but never resolved in either direction. My second thought, and the one that sticks with me, is that the democratisation of filmmaking processes that allow the production of spectacle-laden cinema by independents is a great thing. A disruption in filmmaking practices can only have a positive effect (I hope), forcing the studios to innovate and rethink their current approach. Perhaps this is overly-optimistic – time will tell!
But it is on this note that I’d like to highlight the recent release of two impressive short films that demonstrate this democratisation in action – Kung Fury and Predator: Dark Ages.
David Sandberg directs this irreverent and spectacular ode to all things 1980s. Infused with the spirit of VHS, poorly thought out action films, video arcade games, Hanna-Barbera cartoons and David Hasselhoff, Sandberg’s explosive tale of time travel, computer hacking, dinosaurs and Nazis is a treat from start to finish. Yes, it may be follow in the irony-laden footsteps of Grindhouse, Machete and Hobo with a Shotgun, but Sandberg manages to find his own unique approach to retro-kitsch.
Funded by a kickstarter campaign that raised over US$630k, Sandberg’s film manages to achieve the perfect balance between visually stunning and downright awful. But if this film only cost 600k, what’s all this money in Hollywood actually being spent on?
Oh, and don’t forget to check-out David Hasselhoff’s Kung Fury music video.
Predator: Dark Ages
James Bushe directs this impressive fan-film, a short that takes the Predator films way back – focusing on a group of Templar knights who have been designated the task of slaying a demon that has been killing people in the area. The expected narrative developments occur, of course – but what’s impressive is how closely Bushe gets to capturing the spirit of the original Predator films.