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Crossing Over: Adi Shankar’s Bootleg Universe

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Welcome, FANGORIA Readers, to CROSSING OVER, our newest column that highlights the films, series and content out there outside of horror that is fashioned towards or pays tribute to our beloved genre. By shining a light onto these projects, FANGORIA hopes to open a world of entertainment perfect for fright fans that lies just beyond the borders of the horror community. So without further ado…

Pop culture, especially properties that are near and dear to legions of fans, can be very, very divisive. Scan through any message board or comment section and you can find people practically at each other’s necks over what is happening- and more often than not, what should happen- with various characters, stories and universes that they likely won’t have much influence over. And while most of the time, these opinions will float into obscurity in the increasingly wide world of the web, there is the occasional filmmaker to tiptoe along the fine legal copyright line and present a vision for a property that otherwise would never be realized.

When producer Adi Shankar isn’t producing subversive, adult work that walks the line of the genre, including DREDD, THE GREY and THE VOICES, he strives to elevate and legitimize the art of the fan film. His resume of online works, dubbed the “Bootleg Universe” One-Shot Films, offers Hard-R, adult-oriented twists on properties that would never dare find themselves in said territory. Sometimes, it’s merely to give now-adult fans of these properties a version that fits better in the dark, gritty worlds clamored for at conventions, while other times, Shankar offers a spin on properties that have gone down successful yet ultimately different routes. In any case, Shankar’s “Bootleg Universe” is a violent one, alternating between brooding and mischievous depending on the protagonist at hand.

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In the brooding section, you have Shankar’s first “Bootleg Universe” film, DIRTY LAUNDRY, which returns Thomas Jane to the role of Frank Castle a/k/a THE PUNISHER. While Jane had already been replaced in the role despite a well-received film and video game performance, the actor had expressed interest in returning to the role in a more realistic, bloody universe. With Jane, Ron Perlman and STATE OF GRACE filmmaker Phil Joanou in tow, Shankar put together DIRTY LAUNDRY, perhaps in hopes of getting attention on this vision or, at the very least, giving Jane a final hurrah as the character, and debuted the short film at San Diego Comic Con in 2012.

From there, Shankar offered a “Bootleg Universe” entry with a more wicked affair, giving WRONG TURN 2 director Joe Lynch the reigns to make a MAN BITES DOG homage with his KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM lead Ryan Kwanten, exploring the darker side of the Marvel character Eddie Brock. Entitled TRUTH IN JOURNALISM, this short grounded Venom and Brock as a more sardonic force, and even matched MAN BITES DOG’s video-crew run-in with a short, tounge-in-cheek cameo from Marvel villain Bullseye as well. Shankar then moved on to produce JUDGE DREDD: SUPERFIEND, an ultraviolent animated mini-series set in the JUDGE DREDD universe, although separate from that of the DREDD world in Shankar’s big-screen feature.

However, Shankar really made headlines in 2015 with back-to-back “Bootleg Universe” films that ruffled feathers and turned heads all around the internet. The first of which was POWER/RANGERS, a sex-and-violence-loaded short on what a real life POWER RANGERS universe would behold, akin to that of the non-Shankar-produced MORTAL KOMBAT: REBORN. RANGERS, which starred James Van Der Beek and Katee Sackhoff, received millions upon millions of views as well as glowing reviews from fans around the web, even at the cost of angering rights-owners Saban Brands. Shankar then offered JAMES BOND: IN SERVICE OF NOTHING, an animated twist on the Connery-era Bond, now an elderly assassin who strains to recapture the adventure of his youth despite the fading relevancy of spies. Bloody and much more in the mischievous category of Shankar’s output, IN SERVICE OF NOTHING is a fascinating take on a long-beloved character and one that does question where James Bond fits into the new millennium.

You can find all of Adi Shankar’s “Bootleg Universe” films HERE and the JUDGE DREDD: SUPERFIEND mini-series HERE.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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