So I watched Sharknado by myself on a Friday night while eating cake and drinking wine, and I know I should be very ashamed. But it’s the last day of summer, the country is imploding, and sometimes, Hollywood delivers just the right amount of absurdity to complement our daily lives. Certainly there are better ways I could, should, have spent the evening, but none would have been as satisfying. This horror-action-comedy-thriller wears its campiness on its sleeve and makes the most of what it is, a Syfy channel B-movie. The film’s willingness to embrace the cheesiest aspects of its genre(s) is precisely why it’s so fun to watch. The plot is bonkers, the acting strained, and the effects laughable, but Sharknado is hilarious in its audacity. What kind of genius thinks, I know what the culture really needs – sharks and tornados, together. But here we are.
The first half of the movie is quite the ride. A freak hurricane hurls towards southern California sweeping pods of sharks along with it. The bloodthirsty killers make landfall before the storm and immediately begin feasting on beach bodies. These beasts dig in with abandon, as if they’re dining at the $10 all-you-can-eat buffet. Down goes one swimmer, then another, and yet another! It’s looking like Saving Private Ryan when the hurricane finally hits, unleashing even more mayhem. The gusts send sharks crashing through windows, and mile-high waves dump more water and more sharks into the streets. But why stop with one natural disaster when you can have two? As the hurricane barrels inland, it morphs into a tornado, kind of like the movie then morphs into a Jaws and Twister hybrid.
Some manage to survive the initial massacre, including bar workers Nova (Cassie Scerbo) and Baz (Jaason Simmons – yes, Baz is Australian), and local drunk, George (John Heard). Bar owner and ex-surfer Fin (Ian Ziering) finds himself playing hero several times. After escaping the beachfront, he takes his crew on a detour to rescue his ungrateful ex-wife, April (Tara Reid), and their children, Claudia (Aubrey Peeples) and Matt (Chuck Hittinger). Fin tries to lead the group out of harm’s way because what good is a name like Fin if you can’t even do that, but he discovers it’s not so easy when the gutters are belching out sharks and – OMG why are the monsters flying out of trees and chewing through the car roof?!
It’s not all sharks all the time, however, and the writers add some personal drama because character development, y’all. Fin and April remain in a state of war and would probably feed each other to the sharks if they weren’t arguing over whether or not Nova is a stripper. (She is not.) Fin also has a strained relationship with Claudia and has no clue that Matt has enrolled in flight school. These conflicts don’t get a lot of air, and frankly, it doesn’t matter because no one’s watching Sharknado for family therapy session. We’re really watching it so we can see April’s smug boyfriend get torn to pieces by a shark.
I have to applaud Ziering, Reid, and company for their effort. They act the shit out their roles and are so committed to freaking out over a shark storm. Even the extras are a riot – the screaming and flailing, the willingness to endure extreme bloodletting and death. The crew are true professionals and deserved a People’s Choice Award at the very least. It’s serious acting when you have to convince everyone that the only way to stop a sharknado is to fly a helicopter into the twister and drop some bombs into that bad boy. I can’t get over the proud abandonment of common sense, storm safety, and physics necessary to pull that off.
The sharks are the real stars though, not that there’s any attempt to render them in a lifelike way. This is why we have the Discovery Channel. The movie instead leaves us with fins, flashes of teeth, and lots of shadows. The suggestion of sharks, hundreds of them, lurking just a few feet below the water is enough to get the adrenaline pumping. What will get you howling, however, is seeing these things whip through the air and sucked into funnels. That’s when you realize you’re watching one of the dumbest things ever.
The stupid fear that we might encounter a real sharknado could be what convinces climate change deniers to give a damn since they’re obviously not watching An Inconvenient Truth. The film makes it clear that climate change is behind this phenomenon, and look, if you don’t do something about this (register to vote here), you too may have to chainsaw your way out of a shark’s belly some day.
Prod: David Michael Latt
Dir: Anthony C. Ferrante
Writer: Thunder Levin
Cast: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, Jaason Simmons, John Heard, Aubrey Peeples, Chuck Hittinger
Time: 85 min
Country: United States