No other guerrilla production company is willing to take the piss out of so many hit movies as The Asylum, which pumps out up to 15 films a year with titles such as Paranormal Entity, Transmorphers, The Da Vinci Treasure and The Day the Earth Stopped.
Titanic II, its latest 'mockbuster,' is being launched in the US on August 24, direct-to-video in common with most of The Asylum's output. Needless to say, James Cameron wasn't involved.
Set 100 years after the original vessel sank, the plot centres on a modern luxury liner christened Titanic 2 which follows the path of its namesake. When a tsunami hurls an iceberg into the ship's path, the passengers and crew must fight to avoid a similar fate.
The movie was directed and written by Shane Van Dyke, 30-year-old grandson of that wonderful comic actor Dick Van Dyke, and grand-nephew of Jerry Van Dyke. Shane wrote a role for himself as the new ship's designer, appearing with Bruce Davison, Brooke Burns and Marie Westbrook. The young Van Dyke also wrote and directed the Paranormal Activity spoof Paranormal Entity, and as an actor he was a regular in the TV series Diagnosis Murder.
I don't think any Australian distributor has acquired Titanic II yet but the trailer looks funny (yes, trailers can be misleading) and other Asylum productions have been released in Oz so I expect Titanic II will dock here eventually. I love the trailer's line, “It looks like history is repeating itself.”
Founded as a distributor 13 years ago, The Asylum branched into production in 2004, shooting direct-to-video genre titles before its executives stumbled on the idea of riding on the backs of popular Hollywood films.
“Admittedly the concepts themselves are ridiculous, but they're played totally straight and I think that is one of the reasons why they work,” co-founder Paul Bales told the BBC last May.
Co-founded David Rimawi agrees, “It's not our intention at all to fool the audience, but we found that there is a market for satisfying the need to see a similar type of movie on the video platform."
In an era when lawsuits are rife, particularly in Hollywood, how does this small independent company avoid legal action? "We have lots of cease and desist letters," says Rimawi. “They are threatened lawsuits from some of the most serious studios that basically say 'stop doing this or we will destroy you'."
The founders say they've managed to avoid lawsuits by showing the studios art work and other details of the campaign. I suspect they didn't run the script of their latest film past James Cameron.