Fan Film, Fan Films

The Gremlins Are Back and Taking Over Fan Films

When I interviewed MIT’s Henry Jenkins for my upcoming fan film book, , he made a comment that perfectly summed up what spurs so many people to create their own vision of a franchise with a fan film, explaining, “Fan-created production is borne out of a mixture of fascination and frustration…the idea that there’s something that fans are gravitating toward that’s really interesting to them, but that the end result is something that didn’t fully satisfy.”

That comment came to mind while I watched the awkwardly titled fan flick by Sacha Feiner. You don’t need to have seen 1990’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch to enjoy it, but some background will help.

See, the original Gremlins—directed by Joe Dante and produced by Steven Spielberg—was something of a horror film, but the sequel threw out the rule book; it was a wild, anything-goes comedy that owed more to Chuck Jones and Tex Avery cartoons than its direct predecessor. I mean, Tony Randall provided the suave, sophisticated voice of the lead little monster—a bizarre, surreal twist that created some of the movie’s best moments.

One of the best examples of G2’s anarchic pace came halfway through the movie with a sequence that made it appear as if the film had broken in the projection booth—thanks to some meddlesome gremlins up there. Their animated shadows appeared on the screen, with them quibbling as they ruined the film further before finally getting it running again. It was a hoot in the theater, but it wouldn’t work for home video, so when G2 eventually came out on VHS, they created a new sequence where the tape appeared to be torn apart and the gremlins busted into a John Wayne movie instead. Years later, when the film appeared on DVD, the theatrical version was restored to its rightful place.

Which brings us to Feiner’s unusual fan film, Gremlins 2 “Film Break” Alternate DVD Version—and Jenkins’ comment, because while Feiner clearly loves both versions of the film break scene, he wished there was a modern-day update to the VHS scene—so much so that he spent $3,000 US to make his own.

In Feiner’s fan flick, the gremlins take over your home entertainment system, start ordering Video On Demand (wait til you get your bill!), and start breaking into other movies; pretty soon, they’re beating up the mom in The Exorcist and hitching a ride on Michael Keaton’s Batmobile in Batman, for instance. The best moment comes in a clip borrowed from Raiders of the Lost Ark—Indy and his crew open up the Well of Souls, peer down into the gloom, and instead of a slew of slithering snakes, it’s like New Year’s Eve down there, thanks to thousands of digitized gremlins partying down. And the fan film only gets kookier from there.

To create his gremlins, Feiner, a Brussles-based professional filmmaker, did some old-fashioned analog copying. He owned a full-sized gremlin sculpture made from the same molds as the puppets in the feature films, so he made his own mold from the statue and used that to make new foam gremlin puppets (wow!). Over the course of two months, Feiner shot them on a bluescreen studio in his basement and enhanced them with CGI effects for running, jumping or facial expressions. The results are pretty impressive—check them out for yourself, but remember: Don’t order VOD after midnight!

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