*. A made-for-TV movie that premiered on the Syfy channel (and had a limited theatrical release), Sharknado has become something of a cult franchise, spawning five sequels as of this writing. The sixth film is titled The Last Sharknado, but one can’t be too hopeful. That promise has been broken before.
*. The premise has it that a freak weather system dumps a pile of rain, and a swarm of sharks (but no other marine life) on the streets of Los Angeles. As premises go you can see why it was a hit. It’s so goofy and over-the-top that it draws in the curious crowd. There’s also nothing much to it aside from what you’d be able to glean from the title. Not coincidentally it was first conceived of only as a joke movie title to be slipped into another film. So basically it’s click-bait. It sounds so dumb you just have to check it out. But you feel played and stupid later.
*. Kim Newman: beyond its “attention-getting title” it’s only “cynically thrown-together rubbish . . . not funny when it tries for snark, padded with family arguments and weather footage, and unexciting in its action/peril scenes.” That pretty much sums it up. Newman actually gives it credit for having “just enough footage of terrible CG sharks in a terrible CG tornado chomping on people to fill out a trailer suitable for attracting YouTube hits,” while I would say the only good thing about it is the title. And when you think about it, the title isn’t that funny.
*. OK, it’s crap, with no aspirations to be anything other than crap. The CGI is atrocious and the acting possibly even worse. The script is garbage, wasting our time with a clichéd story about a broken family coming together under extreme pressure. As Newman points out, there’s no comedy (though I think it’s partly to its credit that it does take its premise seriously, which the sequels wouldn’t). The action and gore are even duller than the scenes where the characters are sitting in a car talking.
*. What’s there to like then? Or if not like then at least find interesting? I’ll give you a couple of things. First off: Cassandro Scerbo’s ass. Yes, I’m serious. A lot of actors, male and female, use body doubles for various body parts. Butts are a common one, especially for butt shots of girls in bikinis. But Scerbo rocks a bikini in her opening scene. Well done.
*. The other thing that I found noteworthy is the way Scerbo’s character is shown as crushing on her boss (Ian Ziering) at the start of the movie, and then awkwardly transitioning to her pairing off with Ziering’s son at the end. I think this is just sloppy screenwriting, but it does have a weird schematic effect. It’s so crude and formulaic it almost feel like you’re watching an outline or draft for a (bad) movie, pushed out the door before anyone could fix basic problems with the script.
*. So it’s terrible, and I certainly don’t mean that in a so-bad-its-good kind of way. I agree with Newman’s charge of cynicism, but that was a bet the creators made and it turned out to be one that paid off handsomely. Contemporary culture seems to have an insatiable sweet tooth for the bad and the incompetent. Years ago Roger Ebert puzzled over why so many people wanted to watch movies that they knew were bad instead of ones that they thought might be good. He had no answer.
*. I guess it’s the same principle as junk food. Call me a grumpy old man (because I am), but one thing I’ve noticed is that with the Internet this kind of trash culture has metastasized. When was the last time something good or of value “went viral”? And this is very much the marketing model that Sharknado and its sequels pursues, as Newman and others point out.
*. What then is the cure for this disease? We might note that critics and reviewers, afraid of being left behind or missing the joke, were actually far kinder to this movie than audiences were. So don’t expect any help from our culture’s physicians.