Starring Adrian Bouchet, Amed Hashimi, Sabine Crossen, Ben Loyd-Holmes
Directed by James Bushe
It’s never been personal custom to review fan films. A great deal of these passion projects call for attention, and we’ve given you quite a bit of FF love here on Dread Central. So fan film reviews are not common practice, but James Bushe’s Predator: Dark Ages isn’t a common fan film, not in the least bit. It’s also not one we’ll see slink into the past without many mental notes from fans. Simply put, the flick deserves a whole hell of a lot better.
The story follows a Templar knight and his small posse of warriors as they hunt an elusive monster who’s been wreaking havoc on the countryside. Very few have ever seen this feared beast, but soon this group of ill-prepared hunters will know what true horror looks like (well, those who live long enough to see it without that nifty camouflage capability). As they delve deeper into the woods of England, the hunters quickly become the hunted. As is tradition, the Predator systematically disposes of these poor bastards, and his means of execution are as varied as they are shocking.
Ultimately, the fight for survival comes down to one monster, one man and a seemingly out-of-his-league Saracen. But can two unlikely survivors walk away from a living, breathing machine that exists only to slaughter and collect skeletal trophies?
Bushe, who writes in addition to directing, does a great job keeping true to the established patterns of the Predator and delivering a product that fans can relate to. He keeps things feeling nice and familiar, which at this point in time is something franchise followers cling to. We’re not likely to see some groundbreaking narrative unravel in a Predator feature; the monster isolates, hunts, kills and take spines to show off to its buddies. That’s what Predator is, in a nutshell, and has been since 1987. To remove him from that mold has resulted in mixed reviews, as evidenced by Predator 2 and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, in particular. Bushe makes no gambles but still somehow offers something slightly unique, at least in the sense that this is a period story in a location the Predator has thus far been foreign to. It’s an intelligent tactic that fits the limitations of a short film but still in due course pays off.
Although Dark Ages does very little to expand the story or unfold any hidden wrinkles, it is a thoroughly enjoyable and very entertaining affair. We don’t have a lot of time (the film, including credits, barely clocks in over 27 minutes) to get to know and love the primary personalities (a key strength of the original Predator) within the story, but we are treated to a crisp picture that showcases a few memorable death scenes, some strong performances and one of the coolest fan-created Predator costumes (there are tons out there, for the record) ever shot on film. The breakneck pace of the second half feels loyal to a final act of any major Predator release, and that helps negate the impression that the characters aren’t properly excavated and the character development is a bit neglected.
Technically speaking, just about every other element of the picture is on point. It’s easy to forget you’re watching a fan film, which instantly distances Predator: Dark Ages from the vast majority of the pack. Fans won’t feel deeply enlightened by the short, but they will receive a respectful dose of Predator action and terror, which is a nice aid in helping keep the cravings at bay while we impatiently wait on a new studio release. Whether you’re big on fan films or not, if you’re big on Predator, Dark Ages is a serious must-see movie.