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Sharknado

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Sharknado

Sharknado

Season 1, Episode 1

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This Sharknado post is for people who have seen at least the first three posts about this film in their Facebook/Twitter feeds. It is written from the point-of-view of someone who has seen the film and for the benefit of fans of the film. All discussion points are valid, up to and including the events of those last 15 minutes (you know the ones). If you would still like to read the review but haven’t seen the film, thus, you can, but you should proceed with caution because shit is about to get real. 

Every so often, something comes along that puts a skip in your step, makes your heart flutter, and sets your imagination ablaze with possibility. It might be a song, or a place, or even just a smile. If you’re really lucky, though, it’ll be a swirling mass of bloodthirsty sharks.

Sharknado is the latest schlockfest from Asylum Films, the production company responsible for such gems as Hillside Cannibals, Nazis At The Center of the Earth, and Mega Shark Vs. Giant Octopus (but surprisingly, not Sharktopus). Asylum knows and relishes its B movie material—the campier, the gorier, the downright hackier, the better. And so, armed with a dream and a budget of just $1 million, Asylum brought us the gloriously basic Sharknado.

The thing about Sharknado is that all it needed to be successful was to include a tornado of sharks. That’s it! It could’ve done nothing but show us a sharknado for two hours straight, and millions of SyFy fans would have walked away satisfied. But since that probably would have cost 10 times its already miniscule CGI budget, Sharknado throws a little story in the mix, too. Does it blame the sharknado on global warming and reference a real instance of fish falling from the sky to justify the premise? Of course. Does any of it matter? Of course not. Anyone watching Sharknado for the realism probably does the same with Big Brother.

Before we get to the sharknado event itself, though, we meet the perfectly typical cast of characters. Our hero is “Raw Surfing Champion Finley ‘The Fin’ Shepherd,” or as he will henceforth be referred to, “Ian Ziering.” Ian Ziering is a carefree playboy whose interests include surfing, bartending, and having complicated-ish feelings about morality or whatever. His daughter hates him, his son’s pilot skills will be super handy come ‘nado time, and his ex-wife is played by Tara Reid, because Sharknado is nothing if not self-aware.

Ian Ziering’s best friend and jet ski partner probably has a name, but more importantly, he has a vaguely Australian accent that means he’s The Fun One. If you like your shark attacks with a side of period blood jokes, The Fun One’s your guy (spoiler: he is not my guy). Meanwhile, there’s Ian Ziering’s loyal waitress Nova (Make It or Break It’s Cassie Scerbo). She’s fiercely independent, as evidenced by the fact that she named herself “Nova.” Still, she would rather not talk about the mysterious scars on her leg, at least not until she can get a quiet moment to tearfully confess her shark-riddled past to the hot dude she’ll end up with. Then there’s pervy barfly George, played by veteran actor John Heard, because Sharknado is nothing if not accommodating.

Much like the writhing masses plaguing Los Angeles, Sharknado moves at an unbelievably fast pace. Ian Ziering gets about three seconds of surf and flirt time in before a shark drags the cute girl in the wetsuit under the surface. Next thing you know, Nova’s stabbing a shark in the bar, and they’re running from a loose Ferris wheel, and everything’s crumbling under the weight of the impending sharkpocalypse, and oh man, it is on

There are flirts and fights and reconciliations, but more importantly, there are sharks. Sharks leap through windows, cling to car roofs, and tear through Tara Reid’s snotty boyfriend the second he’s scoffing, “Sharks in the swimming pool? Impossible!” Sharks get flung into a tangle of telephone wires and fry like a mosquito on a porch light. Sharks circle a school bus full of children and The Brady Bunch’s Cousin Oliver, patiently waiting for Ian Ziering to be the last man standing before they strike. Granted, there is plenty of creative editing around the sharks, since the budget keeps prolonged shark time to a minimum. The most egregious example is when Ian Ziering drives everyone around a series of waves and seems super psyched about how cool that particular maneuver was, but we just watch him drive instead of seeing the stunt at all.

But all is forgiven once the sharknado itself comes roaring through the skyline. It’s not a stunning graphical achievement by any stretch of the imagination—hell, it’s not even a decent one—but it’s a tornado full of sharks and that’s all that matters. Hilariously, Ian Ziering’s son Matt makes his debut over halfway through, but he’s the one to come up with the Master Plan to destroy the sharknado. He even gets Nova’s inevitable admission that she was a shark attack victim (Matt’s response: “Now I hate sharks, too.” Now?!). So he’s understandably devastated when Nova tumbles out of the helicopter halfway through the Plan and into the waiting jaws of a Great White, but still not as devastated as I was. What the hell were they doing, killing off the spunky love interest with 10 minutes to go? Didn’t they know movie protocol?!

But then, in a stunning sequence of unadulterated camp, Sharknado proves it knows what it was doing. A successful B movie not only embraces its more ludicrous tendencies, but finds a new, even campier angle to exploit. It acknowledges that it’s ridiculous even while the characters, facing a shark or a sharktopus or a sharknado, don’t. In the case of Sharknado, it sends Ian Ziering into the belly of a Great White with a chainsaw so he can cut himself out of the Great White with a chainsaw, and then drag the presumed dead Nova out with him since it turns out they both got swallowed whole by the same Great White because sometimes life hands you awesome, and it's called Sharknado.

Stray observations:

  • The writer responsible for Sharknado is Thunder Levin. His only IMDB trivia: “Thunder is his real name.”
  • Time for a Jaws reference count! Ian Ziering feeds a shark a scuba tank and shoots it in the face; “six people went in the water that day, and one little girl came out”; “we’re gonna need a bigger ‘copter.” (That last one made as little sense as it sounds.) Please refer any others I missed to the comments slash my father, who will be least pleased.
  • Hey, it’s Los Angeles!: “Take the 10 to the 405, it’s elevated and you’re almost in Beverly Hills.” “I hate the 405.”
  • Hey, it’s Los Angeles! Part Two: The scenelette devoted to ducking flying letters from the Hollywood sign made me laugh to the point of tears. Cousin Oliver’s “my mom always said Hollywood would kill me” came very close to ruining it.
  • Shark movies are great because they can all be boiled down to, “Sharks? What sharks?” [enter sharks] [death]
  • Favorite Shark That Wasn’t the One to Swallow Ian Ziering Whole: The one that fell out of nowhere onto the kid who just had his arm eaten. Tough luck, bro.
  • MVP goes to George’s barstool, even though it killed him in the end.
  • My Sharknado viewing partner watches movies almost exclusively to hear people yell, “What the hell is that?!” and “Go go go!!” He was very satisfied.
  • “That’s a tiger shark.” “How do you know that?” “Shark Week.”
  • “We’ll stand and fight. We can’t just wait for sharks to rain down on us.”
  • “Get home safe, everybody. Don’t forget Taco Tuesdays!”

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