Sharknado (Anthony C. Ferrante, 2013)
[ed. note: a shout-out to my compatriot at Baked Movie Reviews, who is in love with Tara Reid.]
When a friend of mine posted joyously on Facebook that Sharknado was available on Netflix Instant, I knew there was no chance I was going to be able to stop myself from watching the movie that seemed, from all I had read about it, to be the biggest cinematic clusterfuck since The Room. At the time I thought this, I did not realize two very important points about the movie that I was apprised of less than two minutes into it. First, it stars Tara Reid, one of the most godawfully horrendous actors working in Hollywood today. (You thought Alone in the Dark was bad? Pray you are never forced to sit through Incubus.) Second, it was bankrolled and released by The Asylum. On the other hand, there is director Anthony C. Ferrante. When Ferrante brings his A game, he’s capable of turning in decent-if-not-great movies (Boo, from 2005, is a good example), but when he phones it in, you get House of Bones. No one should ever get House of Bones. So which Ferrante was going to show up? Given the shadowy hand of The Asylum, I figured I knew the answer, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Plot: we open on a smugglers’ ship, where the captain and a chap who is obviously supposed to be a Japanese buyer of shark fins are haggling over a catch. (I was confused here, since the captain starts off by handing the buyer what I assumed to be a cup of shark fin soup. Maybe I know too much, but that caused me to assume this guy was some sort of ship captain/superchef hybrid, since preparing shark fin soup is a ridiculously long and complex process.) The sole reason for this first scene, aside from padding the film’s length, is to establish that there is a freak migration of twenty thousand sharks heading for the California coast at the same time a freak hurricane is heading for same. Cut to the beach, and former surf champion Fin Shepard (Beverly Hills, 90210‘s Ian Ziering), who now operates a beachside dive bar with assistant Nova (Bring It On: In It to Win It‘s Cassie Scerbo) and a cadre of regulars. Also, out on the water is Fin’s surfing compadre Baz (The Devil’s Tattoo‘s Jaason Simmons) and Deanna (Velcro Love Triangle‘s Sumiko Braun), who may or may not be having an affair. Baz, Deanna, and Fin are fooling around in the water when the sharks show up, leading to various casualties, deaths, etc. Fin and Baz head to the bar, collect Nova and George (Would You Rather‘s John Heard), and head for the hills to save Fin’s estranged wife (Reid) and daughter (Nashville‘s Aubrey Peeples)…who don’t believe they’re in need of saving until a shark crashes through the window of their Beverly Hills (90210!) home.
All of which, I have to admit, makes it sound…kind of awesome. And really, Sharknado is the kind of movie that is so consistently terrible that, like The Room, it rolls full-circle into a kind of cheesy greatness. Ultimately, it did something that The Asylum have been craving for over a decade: one of their crappy DTV releases got so much attention that it appeared, however briefly, on the big screen. As a promotional stunt, sure, but it’s an Asylum movie, and it played in theaters. When was the last time that happened? (I honestly do not know the answer to this question; it may be “never”.)
What’s bad about it is painfully obvious from moment one, and it never gets better: this movie cannibalizes dozens of others, making no attempt to hide this. You’ve seen that scene with the ferris wheel breaking free and rolling down the pier, bearing down on fleeing people, before, for example (most memorably in Steven Spielberg’s 1941). Most of the beach massacre was lifted right out of Alexandre Aja’s recent Piranha remake. Etcetera. Add to this the incompetent acting from much of the cast, some questionable camera placement decisions, terrible soundtrack, etc., and, well, you’ve got a typical Asylum film.
What’s good about it is a bit harder to quantify, aside from the always-affable John Heard. A movie can be unintentionally hilarious and still be so bad you never want to watch it again, as any of my fellow survivors of Birdemic: Shock and Terror will be more than happy to tell you. But for some reason Sharknado is so over-the-top stupid that it crosses the boundary into stupidly watchable. The final scene is so amazing I almost couldn’t breathe for much of its length. The Bean, my two-year-old son, was watching with us, and he was in hysterics. Now every time he sees a stuffed toy shark, instead of saying “shark!”, he says “big mess!” Which aptly describes Sharknado. But I’m going to do something I can’t recall ever doing more than once a year…I’m going to unreservedly recommend that you go track down this one-star piece of tripe and give it a good look-see. You may never want to sit through it again, but I don’t think you’ll regret the first time once you realize how much you’re laughing. *
The Asylum are trying to pass this off as a red-band trailer. Don’t believe it.