Five Great Short Fan Films

Updated on July 1, 2019

The fan film is a concept that I have always been fascinated by. The entire point is, after all, is that is something made purely out of love for whatever franchise serves as its inspiration, with whatever resources those behind it happen to have available. There is never an intent to make money behind the making of a fan film—legally speaking, there can't be.

In short, making a fan film requires a level of passion and commitment which, I have to admit, I just don't fully understand. Beyond the simple difficulties of filmmaking, the fact that the people behind these films have to keep their project strictly non-commercial as they attempt to tip-toe around the legalities of working with a franchise that they have no ownership of would seem to pose a fairly significant challenge.

Some fan-made projects are met with acceptance, or even approval, from the owners of the intellectual property on which the film is based. But in other cases, efforts to finish a project have been grounded to a halt with the arrival of the dreaded cease and desist letter. The people behind these films are entirely at the mercy of the owners of the intellectual property in question—they can actively support and encourage a project, allow it to proceed unhindered, or work to actively shut it down. All of this means that, on top of the difficulties associated with making the film in the first place, there is also a very real risk that the end result of their time and effort will never actually be seen.

With that in mind, it is actually genuinely impressive that there are so many fan films available. Below, I have listed five that I consider to be particularly entertaining.

Dirty Laundry

When the resources that you have at your disposal happens to include high-profile 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 favour of simply trying to get through the day. Of course, that doesn't last. It is while Frank Castle is attempting to do his laundry, of all things, that he finds himself compelled to take up the mantle of the Punisher once more. The results are unashamedly brutal.

Dirty Laundry is brutal and violent in that way that a character like the Punisher, arguably, always should be. It's also a film not afraid to take on some grim and unpleasant subject matter. Honestly, by the time that violence does break out, the escalating tension has grown so strong that it almost feels cathartic.

It's a little strange to think that, at least until Netflix's own take on the character, this short fan film may have been the best, and most accurate, take on the character. But, at least in my opinion, that's exactly what happened. You can watch Dirty Laundry by following this link.

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.

The fact is that this film just doesn't have an official title. And that's not likely to change at this point. So, let's just set that aside and move on to the film itself.

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 honour. More has been established about them in various other media (where they have, on occasion, even 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 to be responsible for the mutilated bodies of soldiers found nearby. Of course, they quickly learn that there is something much more dangerous in the area.

Despite its lack of a title, this is a very entertaining little film—one that was, apparently, made with a budget of only $500. Sure, the performances given by its cast might vary in quality, but that shouldn't be enough to detract from the enjoyment of the experience.

You can watch the film by following this link.

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, 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 terrorising 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 crowd funding 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—crowd funding 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, judging by the availability of the finished product).

You can watch Predator: Dark Ages by following this link.

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. I do recall watching the 1997 attempt at a live-action film, though, but I don't remember being all that impressed.

Spawn: The Recall feels like something entirely different to what I would have expected, though. Pushing the franchise's violent anti-hero protagonist into the background, the story focuses instead on a woman convinced that something dark and unnatural is hunting her and her young son. Keeping themselves constantly on the move, the pair are eventually forced to make a stop in a grocery store to buy food. It is there that the mother learns that the sinister forces they have fled for so long seems to have caught up to them when her young son suddenly vanishes.

While watching Spawn: The Recall, I got the distinct impression that it was a film intended to pick up on some plot line from the comic series, or as a return to a character featured in the long-running series at some point. It just felt as though we were expected to already know who these characters were, and that the whole project was intended to give long-time fans something that they would recognise and appreciate. Not having read a single issues of Spawn, though, I honestly have no idea if this is actually true. It's just the impression that I was left with.

That aside, the level of quality that went into the production of Spawn: The Recall is genuinely impressive. It is a great looking film, featuring some great performances. Also, the fact that it goes for a more subtle and surreal brand of horror, rather than the occasionally somewhat bland "monster/gore" style of horror, is something that I personally appreciated. In all, it definitely felt like an improvement over the theatrical film.

You can watch Spawn: The Recall by following this link.

Nightwing: The Series

Let's go with an entire fan-made series, rather than a single film, for this last entry. Nightwing is a five-part series which places itself firmly in the DC comic book universe—offering a new take on characters and stories that many fans are already likely to be very familiar with.

Dick Grayson, once known as Robin, has had a falling out with his long-time mentor following the death of his girlfriend. He has left Batman behind and has set out on his own. Set in the city of Bludhaven, Dick reinvents himself as a new costumed hero, Nightwing, and sets out to become that city's protector. Having been trained by the Dark Knight himself, Nightwing naturally thrives in his new role—though, that all changes when a mysterious assassin, called Deathstroke, arrives and begins targeting the citizens of Nightwing's city.

Nightwing: The Series is another fan-made project that has some crowd funding support behind it. 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.

You can watch the first episode by following this link. From there, you will be able to find links to the other episodes in that videos description.

© 2019 Dallas Matier

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