– Summary –
Director : Anthony C Ferrante
Year Of Release : 2013
Principal Cast : Tara Reid, Ian’s Earring, John Heard, Cassie Scerbo, Jaason Simmons, Chuck Hittinger, Aubrey Peeples.
Approx Running Time : 86 Glorious Minutes
Synopsis: A tornado whips up a massive group of sharks from the ocean, and dumps them on Los Angeles. Carnage ensues.
What we think : It takes a special type of person to hate a film with a name like Sharknado. Easily one of the “awesomely horrible” category, whereby one overlooks the dire effects, the lamentable acting and atrocious scripting to enjoy the film for its vicariously idiotic central premise, Sharknado delivers exactly what it says on the box; whether you enjoy this kind of thing or not, there’s no denying that it delivers (sigh) sharks in a tornado.
Enough said, indeed.
If you want a laugh, I can suggest Googling the film studio The Asylum, maker of this atrociously self-aware schlock-fest, and running your eye across some of the titles of their output. Sharknado notwithstanding, they first appeared on my radar with the release back in 2009 of Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, perhaps one of the easiest “gee, I wonder what that film’s about” titles ever to grace the bottom shelf of the local DVD rental house. Some digging tells me that fernbyfilms.com alum Michael Kubler reviewed one of their earlier efforts – The Transmorphers, way back in 2008. The Asylum seems to pride itself on putting out some truly shocking films (in the really bad sense), usually cheap knock-off cash-in’s on currently popular titles. Bryan Singer’s Jack The Giant Slayer is stolen by The Asylum as Jack The Giant Killer – perhaps enough people will get confused by both titles and “accidentally” see the Asylum version by mistake. They kinda “swede” a lot of major blockbusters. That’s the kind of low-rent hack studio we’re dealing with. In a world where a film’s trailer can sell a thousand tonnes of shit to people wanting to sniff it (Grown Ups 2), The Asylum’s utterly insane marketing ploy is to make up the most contrived, most ludicrous scenarios for their films – easily sold through the very title itself – and see how many people find it funny. Thus, we find ourselves at Sharknado, most assuredly a bottom of the scunge pile “mockbuster” that’s caught marginal pop-culture fame for being so outright idiotic, it traverses “awful” into “awfully fun”.
From Wikipedia (because I can’t believe I should have to type any more than I need to): A freak hurricane hits Los Angeles, causing man-eating sharks to be scooped up in water spouts and flooding the city with shark-infested seawater. Surfer and bar-owner Fin (Ian Ziering) sets out with his friends Baz (Jaason Simmons) and Nova (Scerbo) to rescue his estranged wife April (Reid) and teenage daughter Claudia (Aubrey Peeples). He succeeds, but April’s boyfriend is eaten by the sharks. The group meets up with Matt (Chuck Hittinger), the adult son of Fin and April, who is in flying school. They decide to try to stop the threat of the incoming “sharknadoes” by tossing bombs into them from helicopters.
Sharknado represents everything great about no-budget cinema. To say Sharknado is a film with any redeeming features whatsoever is to do shitty films with redeeming features a disservice. Sharknado makes Battlefield Earth look positively like a masterpiece of science fiction. Getting the elephant in the room out the way early: Sharknado is a terribly made, horribly written, and badly acted exercise in whatever it is you call it when something’s less than mediocre. The fact that it “stars” American Pie alum, now social train-wreck Tara Reid, and the gayest of the non-gay Beverley Hills 90210 actors, Ian’s Earring, is probably a key indicator of just how desperate (or not) the studio was of providing otherwise thrown-aside acting “talent” with a paycheck. Anybody expecting high art or common sense about Sharknado probably needs a good, long, hard look at themselves, because to expect such will only lead to disappointment.
What one will find with Sharknado is a whole slew of cheeseball, corndog fun and laughs. Because it’s such a badly made film, and because its so obviously a badly made film, Sharknado is the kind of entertainment you just can’t help but laugh at for all its antics. In saying this is a bad film, it’s still hilariously awesome to find people actually make films like this – it’s like Plan 9 From Outer Space awesome, in that bad-but-great way. Sharks falling from the sky, ripping into unsuspecting victims, causing a bloodbath across a major metropolitan city? Are you kidding? I’d pay to see that in a film with any budget! Thankfully, The Asylum are here to provide this service, and provide it they do. Yes, it’s stupid, yes it’s awful, but it’s also a hell of a lot of bloody, gory, carnivorously magnificent fun.
The script – if one calls a bunch of randomly selected, completely disassociated words from the English language thrown together Scrabble-like a script – is hardly the stuff of great literature. It’s a script designed to maximize the plot, minimize creativity, and put the characters involved into some of the most mind-bendingly ludicrous scenarios possible. The science of the “sharknado” itself is hysterical, the fact that sharks land all across the city of LA without any major internal injuries whatsoever save a penchant for devouring anything else alive in the immediate vicinity is insane, and the human “acting” is beyond the pale for awfulness (although Ian’s Earring isn’t bad, I guess, for what he’s given). Thinking too hard about the premise will more likely result in some kind of aneurysm, so don’t bother straining yourself. Of note: the script was vomited into being by some dude known as Thunder Levin. Yep, Thunder.
The film is more than obviously low-budget. The opening twenty minutes alone should give you an idea of what you’re in for – surfer dude Ian’s Earring is paddling along out the back of the surf, cut to a shot of pounding waves brought on by the approaching storm, then another shot cuts back to a near flat-calm ocean. It’s this continuity stuff that effectively neuters the creation of the world of the film – it draws you out of the film, to notice the scaffolding behind, so to speak. The sharks themselves are all entirely CG, and poorly designed and rendered CG at that. Not to mention the destruction of Isaac Newton’s laws of physics: sharks fly through the air to land on people, buildings, vehicles, and suddenly behave like rabid puppies when out of the water! Houses fill with water (because windows in public housing are made to withstand thousands of pounds of pressure from the inside, but can’t prevent sharks coming back in the other way), giant waves wreak havoc across the coast (which strangely, appears to be not so bad when the film cuts to a wide shot of the beach) and it becomes painfully evident that a lot of this film was shot on green-screen with random repeated footage chopped up and meshed in the background. It’s all childishly amateur, but for some reason,
it all works really well hell, no it doesn’t.
The thing about Sharknado is that, financial barrel-scraping aside, the film has a definite vision behind it. Director Anthony Ferrante has some excellent shots and editing going on in Sharknado that, had the effects and everything else been better, might have actually been competent as a story. His framing is generally excellent, the “action” moments are typically fast and furious (as they should be), even if sometimes the old “comin’ at ya'” shark-in-the-face stuff becomes a little tiring after the tenth or eleventh showing; had this been a moderately budgeted film, with some genuine production value behind it, it could have been the next Deep Blue Sea of B-movie schlock. Instead, The Asylum’s lack-of-money-effort reduces Sharknado to the Z-movie lot, which is a shame. Or not, I guess. Kudos to Ferrente for managing to achieve what he did, with what he had.
Coming off best (if one might use the term loosely with regards to this movie) are the actors, most of whom look like they’re deadly serious even when faced with the most eye-tearing scenarios the filmmakers throw at them. Ian’s Earring is square-jawed and convincing as the bartender-come-surfing legend, who just happens to tick off every conceivable film cliche imaginable within about five minutes of screen time. Aptly named Fin (I mean, really?), he has an ex-wife with whom his relationship is aggravated at best, and a daughter, and older son (what, did Tara Reid have him when she was 6? He looks old enough to be their sibling, not their progeny!) and his Aussie mate Baz (yeah, because all Aussies are known as Baz by their friends – stereotype much?) is played by Jaason Simmons, who most folks might know played a small role in one-time mega TV series, Baywatch. Ahh, the comedown, eh Jaason? Tara Reid, the closest this film has to actual star power, which isn’t saying much considering most people have come for the sharks, is truly abysmal as April Wexler (seriously, somebody was playing too much Words With Friends when they came up with some of the names here), although to her credit she’s nowhere near as bad as Cassie Scerbo as Nova (indeed, science nerds, this film names one of its characters after an exploding solar body) who is so wooden it makes the fake-CG sharks look positively Brando-esque. And I have to say, to see the once-great John Heard slum his way through this thing as an alcoholic lech just feels wrong, in more ways than one. Dude must be paying alimony or something.
A film like Sharknado is one of those magnificent C-movie opuses that refuses to be defined by ratings or aggregation scores. The fact it’s caught on with the general public is perhaps more an indicator of the Gangam Style idiocy of the general public than any real zeitgeist-busting revelatory experience. As I type this, a sequel is already in the works (guh!), so no doubt a bunch of low-paid former Hollywood “celebrities” will be lining up at The Asylum’s offices for a role in whatever trashy, exploitative, utterly ridiculous, completely insane bunch of fun they’re gonna offer up next. One suspects this might become one of those cult films where people engage in drinking games (one shot for every shark spotted?)…. Sharknado isn’t high art, but it is a stupid, swig-a-beer (or five) hell of a good time.
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