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Sharknado 4

D: Anthony C. Ferrante / 85m

Cast: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Masiela Lusha, Tommy Davidson, Cody Linley, Ryan Newman, Imani Hakim, David Hasselhoff, Cheryl Tiegs, Gary Busey, Christopher Shone, Nicholas Shone

The title says it all. In fact, it says too much, because in hitching their bandwagon to that of Star Wars, and unleashing a torrent – a veritable Forcenado, if you like – of bad in-jokes and awkwardly added references to their own franchise, the producers of the Sharknado series have pretty much indicated that their confidence isn’t as high as it was this time last year, when Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! proved surprisingly enjoyable. Judging by the look of the movie, there was a much smaller budget available this time, despite the series’ growing success, and the calibre of familiar faces making cameo appearances couldn’t be maintained either.

But Star Wars isn’t the only movie to be given the subtlety-free tribute treatment. There’s also Pirates of the Caribbean, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Twister (“It’s a cownado!”) to name but a few. This leaves the already fragmented plot, what there is of it, feeling like it was made up as filming went along, with returning screenwriter Thunder Levin handing out new script pages each day. As the series’ put-upon hero, Fin Shepard (Ziering), aided by the same core group as in number three, is called upon to battle a variety of shark-infested tornados when a high-tech defense system designed to stop them from forming in the first place, goes wrong. Cue a trio of sharknados, all of which mutate thanks to whatever blatantly ridiculous idea Levin had that day. As a result we have a sandnado, an oilnado, a firenado, a bouldernado, a lightningnado, the aforementioned cownado, a hailnado (a hailmarynado might have been more appropriate), a lavanado, and to top them all, a nukenado.

SHARKNADO: THE 4TH AWAKENS -- Pictured: (l-r) Ian Ziering as Fin Shepard, Masiela Lusha as Gemini -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/Syfy)

Part of the series’ appeal – at least until now – has been its self-awareness, and the audience’s knowledge that the makers aren’t taking any of it seriously at all. The series’ humour has been an asset in this respect, but here it’s so tired, and conveyed with such a lack of energy that the one-liners which would previously have raised at least a smile, now induce groans instead. To paraphrase the tagline from Alien, In Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, no one can hear you sigh. Even the celebrity cameos, usually the source of much of the series’ merriment, aren’t able to raise the stakes, and there’s precious little fun to be had when the likes of Alexandra Paul and Gena Lee Nolin are drafted in (for a Baywatch-themed skit with Hasselhoff), only for them to be summarily eaten moments later (now if they’d managed to get Donald Trump…).

For many though, the main source of amusement will come from the so-bad-they’re-terrible special effects. Sharknado: The 4th Awakens reaches new heights (or should that be lows) in low-budget special effects, with some of the worst CGI ever committed to the small screen. The tornados themselves give new meaning to the word “appalling”, while any attempt at combining two separate film elements always looks like the worst kind of cut and splice effect, with backgrounds looking a different colour to what’s intended, and any of the cast unlucky enough to be in the foreground often highlighted by a soft white outline. While none of the Sharknado movies will ever be known for their use of cutting edge computer wizardry, the lack of attention to detail, and a “that’ll do” attitude harm the movie even more than usual.

ST4A - scene2

And if the movie’s less than half-hearted approach to special effects hurts it, spare a thought for the acting – if it can be called that. Out of everyone, Ziering can be considered lucky: he’s got the most physical role, he has no choice but to play it seriously, and even though he knows it’s all as daft as a box of frogs, all he has to do is keep a straight face when he says his lines. As Fin’s supposedly dead wife, April, Reid also keeps a straight face throughout but instead of making the best of things she looks like she’s wondering when her character is really going to be killed off and she can get out of making these movies each year (it doesn’t help that Reid isn’t the best of actresses and uses the same expression for any and all feelings or emotions).

Further down the cast list we have Lusha as Gemini, a character that’s new to the series but who helps Fin in his endeavours (though exactly what her relationship is to Fin is never explained). She’s a replacement for the part of Nova, played in previous instalments by Cassie Scerbo, and while she attacks the role with relish, she’s too intent on making everything she does overly dramatic; as a result she offers a one-note performance that does her no favours. As Fin’s kids, Linley, Newman and the Shone twins are adequate but have little to do; Hakim’s character, though the latest member of the Shepard family (son Matt’s wife), also has little to do but run around after everyone else; Hasselhoff is in the same boat; Davidson tries to inject some much needed energy into his role as the tycoon behind the high-tech defense system, and succeeds largely because he makes more of an effort than anyone else; and then there’s Gary Busey, on board as April’s father and a mad scientist-type, who literally recites the majority of his lines standing up behind a table. It looks like he did all his work in under thirty minutes, or possibly twenty.

SHARKNADO: THE 4TH AWAKENS -- Pictured: Ian Ziering as Fin Shepard -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/Syfy)

In charge once again is Ferrante, directing with all the flair and excitement of a man who can see any chance of a better career ebbing away with every entry in the series (and the movie ends on a set up for Part 5 – lucky guy). In conjunction with returning DoP Laura Beth Love, Ferrante drops any pretence at knowing how to frame a shot or a scene, or how to give direction to a cast who can only muster the enthusiasm to pick up their paycheck. It makes for an often embarrassing collection of stitched together moments that barely add up to a fully-fledged movie.

Rating: 2/10 – for a series that was improving – however gradually – with each successive entry, Sharknado: The 4th Awakens is a massive backward step, and easily the worst entry to date; shoddy in almost every department, with just Chris Ridenhour and Christopher Cano’s driving score to recommend it, the makers have got to go a long way to justify any further adventures for the unlucky Fin and his family.