Five Great Short Fan Films Available Online

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The whole point of a 'fan film' is that it's made simply for the simple love it, with whatever resources you happen to have available and with no intent of actually making any money from your efforts. It takes a level of passion and commitment that, I have to admit, I don't fully understand.

That non-commercial aspect of the whole process is especially important, too - since, along with the difficulties of actually making a fan film, there is also the small matter of its actual legality.

Some fan-made projects are met with acceptance, or even approval, from the owners of the particular intellectual property on which the film is based. But, in other cases, copyright holders have actively worked to put a stop to fan productions - sending out the dreaded 'cease and desist' letter, in an effort to ensure that the film remains unseen. The fans are, essentially, at the mercy of the copyright holder, here. They could support a project, allow it to proceed unhindered, or work to put a stop to it - all at their own whim. So, not only does the making of a fan film require passion and commitment, but it also comes with the element of risk that the result of your efforts will never actually be seen.

That aside, though, I do have to admit that quite a few of the fan-made short films that have been successfully released to the public over the years have been very impressive.

Like the five listed below, for example.

Dirty Laundry

When the resources that you have at your disposal happens to include recognizable actors like Thomas Jane and Ron Perlman, it might feel a bit like cheating to think of your effort as a 'fan film' in the usual sense. But, then, why can't celebrities also be fans?

In Dirty Laundry the focus is on the Punisher, Frank Castle - one of Marvel's more controversial comic-book characters, and the focus of a handful of films of various quality (one of which, you may remember, also starred Thomas Jane in the title role).

The film shows us a version of Frank Castle who is clearly burned-out by his seemingly hopeless war on crime, and who seems quite willing to try to ignore the violence currently taking place around him, in favor of simply doing his laundry. But, of course, that doesn't last long. Soon enough, Frank Castle feels compelled to take up the mantle of the Punisher once more - and, the result is unashamedly brutal.

One thing this film did make fairly clear to me is that Thomas Jane should definitely be given another opportunity to play this character - he seems uniquely qualified to take on the role and, based on his willingness to take part in this film, he definitely seems to have the enthusiasm for it.

Dirty Laundry brutal and violent in the way that the Punisher, arguably, always should be. There's definitely a content warning attached to this one.

Untitled Predator Fan Film

It seems strange, to me, that a group of people could go through all the effort of creating an entertaining fan film, only for it to be released without an actual title. I just don't get it. I mean, given the film's premise, they could have just called it Predator: World War 2, or Predator: Brothers in Arms - or, something.

But, it doesn't have any sort of official title - so, let's just move on to the film, itself. Dwelling on its lack of a title doesn't do anyone any good.

The alien creatures of the Predator franchise are a fascinating creation - powerful and dangerous warriors who hunt their chosen prey relentlessly, but who seem to live by a strict code of honor. More has been established about them in various other media (where they have been matched up against the aliens from the Aliens franchise), but in the solo Predator films, they are always an entirely unknown threat for whoever is unfortunate enough to attract their attention.

This film follows along with that basic premise fairly closely - with a squad of American soldiers during the second World War capturing a Japanese soldier who they, initially, believe is responsible for the killing, and mutilation, of other soldiers found nearby. Though, they quickly learn that there is something much more dangerous in the area.

It's a very well-made, and genuinely enjoyable, short film. Sure, the performances given by its cast vary in quality, a bit - but, that shouldn't be enough to seriously detract from the fun of the experience.

Predator: Dark Ages

Another film that shows how wonderfully simple the basic premise of the Predator franchise can be. Much like the previous film on the list (and, of course, like the theatrical films, themselves), Predator: Dark Ages relies on the basic set-up of an encounter between a Predator and its chosen prey. This time, though, its targets are a group of Templar Knights, back from the Crusades and charged with slaying a 'demon' that has been terrorizing the area, and a Saracen scholar who has encountered the alien creature, before.

Predator: Dark Ages would have to rate as one of the most 'professional' looking fan-made films I have come across - due, in large part, to the fact that it was a professional production in a variety of ways. With much of its cast and crew made up of talented film industry veterans, Predator: Dark Ages manages to achieve an impressive level of polish. It looks great, and it features a genuinely talented cast giving great performances.

It should probably also be mentioned that there was a bit of crowdfunding support behind this film, which may seem to go against the grain with regard to what a 'fan film' is supposed to be. I don't have any real problem with it, though - crowdfunding just opens the whole process up to a broader community of fans. And, if asking for money to get a fan film made gets the creators into any trouble? Well, that's between them and the copyright holders (also, in this case, it doesn't seem to have been a problem, anyway).

Spawn: The Recall

Spawn is a franchise that, I admit, I'm not all that familiar with. I know that it's a long-running, horror-tinged, comic book series - but, it also always struck me as being firmly mired in the 1990s bizarre obsession with grim and violent anti-heroes. So, I was never all that interested.

Spawn: The Recall, though, feels like something entirely different - telling us a tale about a woman convinced that something unnatural is hunting for her, and her young son. When they make a necessary stop at a grocery store to buy food, she learns that the dark forces after them seem to have caught up to them when her son suddenly vanishes.

I imagine that the film was intended to pick up on some plot-line from the comic-book series, perhaps, or was a return to a character that featured in the series at some point - something that fans would be able to recognize and appreciate. But, I've only ever read a single issue of Spawn, years ago - so, while I was able to pick up enough to go on, I have no idea what greater context there may have been to this film for long time fans to enjoy.

But, that aside, the level of quality that went into the production of Spawn: The Recall is fantastic. It is a definitely an impressive looking film. And, the way that it goes for a more surreal brand of horror (which reminded me of the best moments of the earlier Silent Hill video games), rather than the occasionally somewhat bland 'monster/gore' style, made it especially interesting to me. In all, Spawn: The Recall is definitely an improvement over the 1997 attempt at a live action Spawn film.

Nightwing: The Series

A fan-made series, this time, rather than a single film, Nightwing places itself firmly in DC's comic-book universe - with a new take on stories that may already be familiar to many comic-book fans.

Dick Grayson, once known as Robin, has a falling out with his long-time mentor after his girlfriend is killed - eventually setting himself up, in a new city, as the hero, Nightwing. Having been trained by the Dark Knight, himself, Nightwing naturally thrives in his new role protecting the people of Bludhaven. But, things change when a mysterious assassin, known only as Deathstroke, arrives - targeting, and brutally killing, the citizens of Nightwing's city.

Nightwing: The Series is another fan-made project that has some crowdfunding support behind it - and, the extra income the creators were able to invest into the fan project definitely shows. It might not achieve the level of polish you would expect from any of the superhero related TV shows currently airing - but, it's still a very impressive effort.

Below, you can find the first episode of Nightwing: The Series - but, be sure to follow the link back to YouTube to watch the rest, if you liked what you saw.

© 2015 Dallas Matier

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