The hilarious and magical work that the Russian group Studio 188 does through its low-cost versions of movies have to be seen to be believed. Studio 188 uploads short videos on YouTube that are replicas of big-budget Hollywood spectacles, except done with household items. Their latest output is a version of Titanic (1997).
How does this work? The Titanic ship is, at various points, a clothes iron, a meat cleaver, a plate of salad, and a computer keyboard with the ship’s funnels reimagined as pieces of sausage. Jack and Rose at the edge of the deck becomes a toy action figure peeking from a man’s underwear. Toothbrushes stand in for the captain’s whiskers.
Low-budget film spoofs and parodies on YouTube have been around for a while. What makes Studio 188 stand out is the inclusion of humour in the videos. But it took the group a while for their work to get noticed.
“We adapted the low-budget remake format from the internet to participate in a competition and make money,” the group’s Evgeny Makhotin told Scroll.in in an email. “There is no such thing happening in Russia, so we thought it would be cool to do it in Russian. But among Russians, we never became popular, and as long as we filmed in Russian, we weren’t getting enough views.”
Studio 188 began uploading their videos on YouTube in 2018, starting with their take of the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer. The initial trailer remakes featured Russian dubbing. The Terminator 2 trailer remake was the first to feature the trailer’s English audio track, which boosted the views to over 3,60,000.
“Nobody noticed Terminator initially either,” Makhotin wrote. “Our first video that became a hit was our low-cost remake of anime Sailor Moon’s intro. Only when someone posted the Terminator video on Reddit, the views took off.”
The lengths to which the creators have gone to replicate tricky scenes from the special effects-heavy Terminator 2 deserves applause. The video happens to be one of Makhotin’s favourites – he plays the saviour cyborg in it. “The most difficult thing about shooting is to paint your body and walk like this for several hours,” Makhotin wrote.
Studio 188 comprises five long-time friends, four of whom are Russians and one Belarusian. Three of the members are screenwriters. “We focus on Hollywood films because that gives us a mass audience,” Makhotin added. “If there’s a Russian film which is just as popular, we will do it.”
The script is the easiest part of the low-budget trailer remake. “That takes just an hour,” Makhotin wrote. “But some of the shots sometimes takes 10 hours to pull off. Everyone thinks that shooting is fun, but it is not. After three hours, we are very sad and tired. I want to quit and play PS4 and drink beer. But we still continue to shoot. The most fun that’s had during shooting is when you need to shoot on the street.”
The more visually grand the film, more inventive the low-budget remake. Look at what they did with Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element. Studio 188’s most impressive video is for the 1998 science-fiction film The Matrix. What they have used to replicate the bullet-time effect made famous by the film is a riot. And yes, there’s a hilarious moment that takes place on the street.