‘Kung Fury’, ‘Predator: Dark Ages’ and the Democratisation of Spectacle

Predator Dark AgesAs 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.

Kung Fury

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.

James Curnow is an obsessive cinephile and the owner and head editor of CURNBLOG. His work as a film journalist has been published in a range of print and digital publications, including The Guardian, Broadsheet and Screening the Past. James is currently working through a PhD in Film Studies, focused primarily on issues of historical representation in Contemporary Hollywood cinema.

10 thoughts on “‘Kung Fury’, ‘Predator: Dark Ages’ and the Democratisation of Spectacle

  1. Coming in late to say thanks for the tip on Kung Fury. Great fun, very 80s, and a good example of what’s possible with crowdfunding. Coincidentally Kung Fury had about the same budget as the truly awful Alien Vs Ninja, which is about as entertaining an surgery without anaesthetic.

  2. “But if this film only cost 600k, what’s all this money in Hollywood actually being spent on?”

    I think it’s kind of like wine. $50 will get you a pretty good bottle, but another $50 only gets you a slightly better bottle, etc.

    Anyhow, great pair of shorts. As a child of the 80s, “Kung Fury” really tickled me. Thanks!

  3. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels Predator Dark Ages is as good as the originals, more or less. The overall effect was certainly close enough for me, and without so much filler. I wish more remakes/re-imaginings were this good!

  4. Someone was just recommending Kung Fury. I feel like watching these right now, but I may want to bookmark them for play on the big screen, instead.

    Oh, and you know where Hollywood spends half their budget on: those multi-million-dollar celebrity salaries and marketing.

  5. ‘Retro-Kitsch’ is the perfect way to describe the first film James. It crams it all in, every cliche of the genre and many others, with a nod to the ‘Naked Gun’ films too. It is very accomplished, even if sadly not to my personal taste.
    The Predator homage is really very good, and it feels like a genuine sequel. Watched on widescreen, the HD video is superb, and the locations atmospheric too. I could easily believe that it was a teaser for a studio release, and even though I spent the first ten minutes worrying about how they would handle the ‘Predator Effect’, it came good. Very much the feel of the original film, as you say, leaving me mightily impressed, and wanting more.
    Thanks James, great stuff to watch on a dull Saturday morning, as well as an indication of real talent lurking in the world of the short film.

    Best wishes, Pete..

  6. You’ve highlighted an interesting trend, James–and not distressing, but something that seems to be an evolution of sorts within the genre. When in doubt, I guess, filmmakers can always go back to the Knights Templar when they want to do cheap horror. I wonder if there were any rights issues involved with the Predator flick, given the similarities to the original series. Good writeup (as usual).

    • Watching the credits to the very end Simon, I noted lots of disclaimers relating to any connection with the original Predator series, so I presume that was enough to placate the studio moguls. I found myself enjoying the Crusader v Predator idea. Just a personal thing perhaps, but I preferred it to ‘Predator 2’!
      Best wishes, Pete.

      • Fan-films tend to circumvent any issues as long as they avoid making money. There are plenty of Star Trek fan-films out there…

        At the end of the day, I suppose it’s the ultimate endorsement 🙂

Leave a Reply