“No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” – The Sopranos (paraphrasing H.L. Mencken)
Whenever I tell people that I enjoy watching bad movies, their first question is always, “Have you seen Sharknado?” No, I tell them. I like BAD movies, the ones that strive so hard to be good but fail so spectacularly. Sharknado, I tell them, seems as though it’s trying to be bad.
The great bad movies are old shames for everyone involved. The creators try to deny their existence and don’t like talking about them. Sometimes the cast and crew were just collecting a paycheck. Other times, they genuinely thought they were crafting the next Citizen Kane. What cult fame they achieved later was often embraced only reluctantly and often bitterly. Sharknado, on the other hand, has continually played on its reputed wretchedness.
What’s shocking about this movie isn’t how bad it is, but how boring it is. Sharknado finds a way to make even a tornado filled with sharks tedious, bogging things down with a low-speed car chase and a truly interminable “rescue kids from a bus” sequence. The titular “sharknado” itself shows up with only 25 minutes left. We’re all familiar with the concept of “so bad it’s good” – but when something TRIES to be so bad it’s good, but ends up bad anyway… well, that just means it’s so bad it’s REALLY BAD.
The opening sequence, shot on a sunny day with horizontal spritzes of water standing in for a “hurricane,” involves a few nasty foreign types making some kind of deal for illegal shark fin soup. This makes their (spoiler alert) deaths by shark all the more ironic, you see? A whole little story begins and ends in this sequence, contributing nothing to the rest of the film other than “sharks are coming,” which we could have surmised already.
Once the actual plot gets going, we meet the insufferably-named FIN Shepard (Ian Ziering). He’s a surfer who also runs a bar with his rowdy best friend Baz (Jaason Simmons) and large-breasted bartender Nova (Cassandra Scerbo). When the hurricane hits (and it seems to hit with virtually no warning), this rag-tag gang realizes that the storm is driving a horde of sharks into the city’s streets and sewer system. They have to not only rescue Fin’s estranged wife April (the living corpse of Tara Reid) and children, but single-handedly save the entire city.
These sharks are your basic bad movie sharks. Their color, type, and size vary wildly from shot to shot (some are apparently capable of biting people in less-than-ankle-deep water). They roar. They can launch themselves twenty yards into the air. And their hunger for human flesh is so intense that they will strand themselves on dry land just for the chance to bite someone. The human characters are just as cliched, with a “divorced dad struggles to connect with his resentful kids” sub-plot that hits on zero cylinders. The film drags through one cheesy CGI shark attack after another, reaching its end, appropriately enough, at a retirement home.
I used to wonder why sharks are featured in so many bad movies, but now I know why: from an animation perspective, a shark is basically a big gray piece of shit with a mouth and fins. The body wiggles, the mouth opens, but other than that it has very few moving parts. It’s the lazy filmmaker’s dream.
Most of the performances are too vanilla to be laughable, although Cassandra Scerbo manages to make her character more sympathetic than most. Tara Reid looks awful and sounds worse, and Ian Ziering is so uninteresting that they have his character’s son actually save the day. The movie squanders a charming performance by Home Alone vet John Heard as a lecherous old barfly.
This is a bad movie for people who don’t know what a good movie is. Sharknado fools its viewers into thinking they’re in on the joke, when really the joke is on them (and they don’t know what the joke is to begin with). It isn’t clever enough to be a parody or homage, and isn’t bad enough to be legitimately entertaining. It’s a cynical, crass money-making ploy that has, amazingly, spawned FOUR sequels/spin-offs with smarmy titles like Sharknado 2: The Second One and Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!
This is not the true spirit of bad movie-watching. It’s a hobby that’s all about discovering the hidden gems, the lost treasures. As soon as it starts to get popular and commercial, it’s ruined. There is no better example of this than Sharknado. Skip it and watch Zombeavers instead.