Cast: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassandra Scerbo, Billy Barratt, Yanet Garcia, Porsha Williams, too many minor celebrities to mention…
The Sharknado series has long been a bastion of awfulness, a treasury of trash, and a castle keep of constant calamity. It’s fast becoming the movie franchise that cannot, will not, die, with a new instalment being released each year with alarming regularity of purpose and design. And so we have the latest farrago in a series of movies that just keeps on coming and coming and coming. Rest assured (if that’s the right word), Sharknado 5: Global Warming won’t be the last in the series (and you’ll know why if you manage to make it to the end), and though Jaws 19 directed by Max Spielberg won’t ever happen, it’s more than likely now that in 2032 we’ll be having Sharknado 19: The NeverEnding Story streamed directly onto the back of our eyeballs.
This far in there’s very little point in offering up a proper review, or trying to differentiate between this instalment and any of the others. They’re all genuinely bad movies, and the producers seem to have decided that they need to be made that way deliberately. Fans of the series will get as much or as little out of Sharknado 5 as they have all the rest, detractors will have their views confirmed yet again, and the casual viewer will probably wonder how on earth a movie this bad has managed to get made in the first place. In the beginning, it could have been argued that the first Sharknado was a modern-day variation/update on the kind of monster horrors from the Fifties and Sixties, but without the radiation fallout to start things off. Now though, it’s a cultural anomaly that just keeps on giving and giving, even though the majority of us don’t want it to.
Rating: 3/10 – with only its celebrity cameos giving it a lift, Sharknado 5: Global Swarming is the franchise’s nadir, an appalling waste of everyone’s time and money; with the producers seeming to think that the series needs to get sillier and more deliberately stupid with each entry, it’s a poor reflection on their latest instalment when the cleverest thing about it is its tagline: Make America Bait Again.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Both movies under review here have something in common: they take an old school approach to special effects, forsaking CGI for practical make up and/or prosthetic effects. It’s an approach that had its heyday in the Eighties and early Nineties, but recently aficionados of this kind of “low-tech” way of movie making have made movies that celebrate all things rubbery, slimy and blood-drenched. Here are two such movies that employ rubber tubing and gruesome make up to splendidly gory effect.
Harbinger Down (2015) / D: Alec Gillis / 82m
Cast: Lance Henriksen, Camille Balsamo, Matt Winston, Reid Collums, Winston James Francis, Milla Bjorn, Giovonnie Samuels
On a crabbing trip to the Bering Sea, the ship Harbinger and its captain, Graff (Henriksen), play host to a group of research students looking into how global warming is affecting a pod of Beluga whales. Among the students is Graff’s granddaughter, Sadie (Balsamo). When she spots something in the ice, the crew haul it aboard. It turns out to be a Soviet space capsule with an astronaut remarkably well preserved inside. The capsule also contains tardigrades, micro-animals that can withstand extremes of temperature and the vacuum of space. Sadie does some tests on the tardigrades and discovers that they’ve been exposed to some sort of radiation and are now capable of mutating into any living form they come into contact with.
When the research group’s leader, Stephen (Winston) attempts to claim the capsule and its contents as space salvage, the astronaut’s disappearance further inflames his desire to receive the credit for its discovery. But as Sadie has surmised, the tardigrades are assimilating their new human hosts, and all thoughts of salvage rights and personal glory are abandoned when the first of them falls victim to the tardigrades’ capability for mutating. As one by one the research group and the crew fall victim to the creature that is growing on board the ship, loyalties are tested, secrets are revealed, and a desperate fight for survival ensues.
When the makers of The Thing (2011) decided to overlay CGI effects on the already filmed practical effects that represented the titular organism, the company that created those practical effects, ADI, decided that they would provide audiences with the chance to see their original designs and effects in another movie altogether. The result is Harbinger Down, and while their efforts are to be applauded, the finished product isn’t as impressive or persuasive as they may have hoped. Part of the reason for this can be laid at the door of the budget (part of which was funded by Kickstarter contributions), but mostly it’s down to Alec Gillis’s poorly constructed screenplay and sloppy direction. He may be a whiz when it comes to creating suitably fantastic and icky creatures, but away from his usual environment, the cracks soon show and once they do, the movie never recovers.
Considering that this is strictly speaking a reworking of both the 1982 and 2011 versions of The Thing, and Gillis is such an aforementioned whiz at the creature side of things, it’s dismaying to report that this particular incarnation is saddled with some really awkward dialogue (of the George Lucas variety*), characters that scream deliberate stereotype, situations that lack any tension or drama, performances that give new meaning to the term “barely adequate”, and worst of all, creature effects that are often shot in half light or obscured by rapid editing, leaving them on nodding terms with the words “unimpressive” and “dull”. It’s a shallow exercise in showing viewers how it should be done, and as hubristic a movie as you’re likely to see all year.
Rating: 3/10 – with long stretches that challenge the viewer to remain interested, Harbinger Down improves when Henriksen is on screen but flounders everywhere else; some Kickstarter investors may want to think about asking for their money back before it’s too late.
Charlie’s Farm (2014) / D: Chris Sun / 93m
Cast: Tara Reid, Nathan Jones, Allira Jaques, Bill Moseley, Kane Hodder, Dean Kirkright, Sam Coward, Genna Chanelle Hayes, David Beamish, Trudi Ross, Robert J. Mussett
Four friends – couple Natasha (Reid) and Jason (Kirkright), and singles Mick aka Donkey (Coward) and Melanie (Jaques) – agree to take a trip into the Outback in search of Charlie’s Farm, the site of several gruesome murders that were carried out by the Wilsons (Moseley, Ross) over thirty years ago. Legend has it that even though the Wilsons were killed by the local townsfolk, their retarded son Charlie got away and hasn’t been seen since… and may be the cause of a recent spate of disappearances involving backpackers and people curious enough to visit the farm and check out its tarnished history. When the group need directions they ask in a local bar but are told in no uncertain terms not to go to Charlie’s farm; Jason, who wants to go more than anyone else, eventually talks to his friend Tony (Hodder) who tells him the same thing before telling him where they need to head to.
When they finally reach the farm they’re unsurprised to find it’s rundown and uninhabited. They’re joined by another couple, Alyssa (Hayes) and Gordon (Beamish). They all spend the night, which proves uneventful, though Melanie thinks she saw someone when she woke briefly, but she can’t be sure if she was dreaming or not. Planning to leave the next day, Jason suggests they all split up into twos and explore the surrounding farmland. Alyssa and Gordon investigate an old equipment shed, Mick and Melanie end up taking a dip in the river, while Jason and Natasha’s roaming takes them, eventually, to the same equipment shed. It’s Alyssa and Gordon who are the first to discover that the legend is real, and that Charlie (Jones) is still alive, only now he’s a seven-foot brute of a killing machine, and intent on picking everyone off one by one.
An Aussie slasher movie in the mould of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon and Hatchet (both 2006, and both featuring Kane Hodder), Charlie’s Farm builds its basic premise from the ground up by introducing its main characters and the murderously insane Wilsons in the movie’s slow-paced first half, and then allows itself to cut loose with some brutally effective killings courtesy of Charlie and various sharp implements (though he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty either). But while those movies had a rude, somewhat grimy atmosphere about them, Chris Sun’s third feature is yet another example – sadly – of how imitation doesn’t yield the same results, and rather than providing solid entertainment, adds yet one more disappointment to the list of cheap and nasty horror movies that get released each year.
The movie isn’t helped by many of the same things that hamper Harbinger Down, namely some awful dialogue, performances that are barely adequate (Kirkright is the worst offender), and situations that lack tension or drama (or both). Sun’s script also goes off on too many tangents, such as the bed that Alyssa and Gordon argue about, Melanie’s being unaware of many things that everyone else knows about (“Who’s Charles Manson?”), and the clumsy, laughable way in which Hodder is shoehorned into proceedings, and just so he can try and box his way to defeating Charlie (yes, you read that right: by boxing). Thankfully, the killings are much better than the rest of the movie and are genuinely impressive, with one character having their jaw ripped off, while another suffers death by penis (not a phrase you see too often in any movie review, let alone a horror movie review).
Rating: 4/10 – derivative and long-winded during the first hour, Charlie’s Farm pulls out all the stops for its kill scenes, and shows what Sun can do when he’s not trying to present ordinary people in an extraordinary situation; however, it lacks an ending, and while nihilism in horror movies isn’t exactly unheard of, this particular example smacks of its writer/director running out of ideas at the eighty-five minute mark.
Cast: Corin Nemec, Yancy Butler, Stephen Billington, Skye Lourie, Oliver Walker, Ali Eagle, Annabel Wright, Laura Dale, Robert Englund
When the Wexel Corporation decides to create a hybrid anaconda/crocodile in order to increase their chances of procuring the rare properties of the Blood Orchid plant, their attempts to do so lead to both creatures being on the loose in and around Black Lake and Clear Lake. Fish and Wildlife ranger Will Tull (Nemec) and local sheriff Reba (Butler) team up to track and hunt them while at the same time trying to keep the news of the creatures’ escape quiet from the local residents.
Tull’s daughter, Bethany (Lourie), however, is at Clear Lake as part of her sorority pledge, and soon finds herself and her friends at the mercy of several crocodiles. While Tull and Reba try to find her, and fight off the attacks of the crocodiles, Wexel head Sarah Murdoch (Wright), along with hired muscle Beach (Billington) and two of his men, track the female anaconda who is due to lay her cross-fertilised eggs anytime soon. As the body count rises, the importance of finding the female anaconda before this happens becomes of paramount importance.
For anyone who thought Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2012) was really the final entry in the series, here’s yet another stab at the idea that ran out of steam in Lake Placid 2 (2007). If you’ve seen The Final Chapter, then as far as the crocodile parts of this movie go it’s very much business as usual, with Butler and England returning to provide a link with the previous instalment (and both looking as if they’ve regretted it). The inclusion of the anacondas from that particular series, along with the quest for the life-giving properties of the Blood Orchid, was probably felt to be a good enough idea to kickstart a new franchise – you can guess what happens in the final scene – but the whole teens in peril/let’s hunt predators in the woods set up is as dull and uninspired as it was before in both series.
Rookie director Stone is unable to make anything out of Berkeley Anderson’s patchwork script, and the performances range from perfunctory to embarrassing (Walker’s comedy deputy). Once again the special effects are of the sub-par CGI variety, with the requisite blood splatters looking even more fake than usual. The anacondas play second fiddle to the crocodiles, while the lacklustre Bulgarian locations give a clear indication of how far both series’ have fallen in terms of their production values. If, as seems likely, there’s to be another in the (joint) series, then it’s hard to imagine it could be any worse than this entry.
Rating: 3/10 – of only superficial interest, and one for the fans if no one else, Lake Placid vs Anaconda is an attempt at regenerating two flagging franchises that falls flat on its face within the first five minutes; that it’s terrible from start to finish is a given, but you have to see it to realise just how terrible it actually is.
D: Anthony C. Ferrante / 88m
Cast: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, Frankie Muniz, Ryan Newman, David Hasselhoff, Bo Derek, Mark Cuban
In Washington D.C. to receive a Freedom medal from the President (Cuban), unlucky hero Fin Shepard (Ziering) finds himself dealing with yet another, more intense sharknado that causes an incredible amount of destruction, hundreds of deaths, and leads to Fin saving the President’s life. Worse still, a series of storms out in the Atlantic are converging on America’s east coast, and look set to generate the worst, most devastating sharknado of them all. With his ex-wife April (Reid) close to giving birth, and spending some time with her mother May (Derek) and daughter Claudia (Newman) at the Universal Studios theme park in Florida, Fin determines to get to her as quickly as possible, and make sure she’s safe.
With mini-sharknados popping up out of the blue on his journey south, Fin finds himself rescued from one such obstacle by his friend and partner in shark killing, Nova (Scerbo). She and a friend, Lucas (Muniz) have been trying to find a way of stopping the sharknados from happening ever again, but as they help Fin get to Florida, their vehicle is destroyed and they’re forced to fly there. After a crash landing, Fin and April are reunited, and together with Nova they come up with a plan to put paid to the approaching weather system, but their plan fails, leaving Fin with only one option: to ask for help from his father, a retired NASA Colonel (Hasselhoff). By using a space shuttle, their plan is to drop the main fuel tank into the eye of the storm, but when that idea proves ineffective, there’s only one thing left to do: use the supposedly defunct Star Wars programme from the Eighties…
The first Sharknado (2013) was awful, dreadful rubbish that seemed unaware of its failings or how terrible it was. The second – aptly titled Sharknado 2: The Second One (2014) – was much better as it tried to be ironic and aware of its own absurdity. With Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, the makers have upped their game considerably in terms of how insane it all is and by throwing away the rule book entirely (this is perhaps the only movie where you’ll hear the line, “There’s sharks… in space!”). The sharks literally pop up out of nowhere: inside buildings, on staircases, through windows, and memorably, in the President’s secure underground bunker. With no thought to logic or any consideration for providing some level of working coherence, the movie races through each preposterous scene in Thunder Levin’s script with all the intended mayhem of a five year old with ADHD.
It’s a movie that’s incredibly, ridiculously stupid… and yet, by going balls out in terms of how absurd it can be, the movie actually attains a degree of charm that the previous movies never managed. It’s also laugh out loud funny in a way that doesn’t alienate the viewer, or have them shaking their head and groaning in despair. Instead, the laughs come thick and fast because of all the preposterous antics going on, and it’s clear the makers have just decided to make the movie as bizarre and reckless as they possibly can. Returning cast members Ziering, Reid and Scerbo play it as straight as they can, while there’s a plethora of cameos – Jerry Springer, Chris Jericho, Jedward, Lou Ferrigno, Jackie Collins, and Ne-Yo to name but a few – that adds to the fun, and the low rent special effects show no signs of being improved upon. With the potential for yet another episode to come, it’s hard to think how much more barmy this series can get.
Rating: 4/10 – as each movie improves on the last, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! is (currently) the series’ zenith and nadir combined, and shows that its makers have a firmer grasp on what makes these movies so successful; still terrible though in many, many, many ways, by trading on its own idiocy the movie makes a virtue of being extremely silly and defiantly farcical.
Cast: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Vivica A. Fox, Mark McGrath, Kari Wuhrer, Courtney Baxter, Dante Palminteri, Judd Hirsch
On a flight to New York, Fin (Ziering) and April (Reid) are discussing their plans to meet up with Fin’s sister, Ellen (Wuhrer), her husband Martin (McGrath), and their two children, Mora (Baxter) and Vaughn (Palminteri). As the plane heads into a storm, Fin thinks he sees a shark outside the plane. When he sees more, and so does April, he’s absolutely sure. When one of the sharks is sucked into one of the engines, blowing it out, the plane begins a rapid descent made worse by the subsequent deaths of the pilot and co-pilot, but not before April loses her hand to a shark in the melee. Fin manages to land the plane, but before you can say FAA regulations or investigation, he’s warning the public about the impending sharknado and then heading off to the hospital with April.
With April (very, very) quickly recovered from her surgery, Fin leaves to find Ellen and her family. He catches up with Martin and Vaughn, along with old flame Skye (Fox) at a Mets game and they flee to the subway just as the storm hits. Meanwhile, Ellen and Mora are on a ferry heading back from the Statue of Liberty, along with a couple of Ellen’s friends, one of whom gets taken out by a flying shark. Back in the subway, flooding causes sharks to attack the train, but the group survive and head above ground where they collect bomb-making equipment from various places; Fin’s idea is to destroy the storm – which has now mutated into two enormous twisters (as in the first movie) – and save the city. Items collected, they head to the hotel building where his sister is staying, and where they are reunited, Ellen and Mora having made it back safely (but without the other friend, who gets flattened by a falling shark).
Fin and Skye try to destroy the twisters before they combine but their home-made bombs aren’t powerful enough. Devising a back-up plan involving freon tanks stored at the top of the Empire State Building, Fin’s attempts to get there are helped by the unexpected arrival of April in a fire truck, and the cooperation of the city’s mayor. Fin and Skye head to the top of the Empire State Building, and with three twisters now about to converge, Fin’s plan has to succeed.
The success of Sharknado (2013), a movie with all the style of a bull in a china shop spouting nonsense rhymes, was completely unexpected considering it was more awful than anyone could have imagined. And with that movie earning itself a 1/10 rating with this reviewer, the prospect of a sequel was like the cinematic equivalent of surviving testicular cancer with one intact, only to be told it’s back, and in the other one. But – and this is the amazing part – Sharknado 2: The Second One, despite its clunky title, its risible dialogue and still dreadful CGI, is actually more fun than the original, and even more amazingly, it’s actually better than the original.
To be fair, that’s not saying that much, because even with what looks to be a bigger budget, the plot still plays fast and loose, and loose again, with logic and reality, the dialogue is still laughable – check out Fin’s line to April when he retrieves her severed arm (which should have been just a hand) – the special effects are still not even remotely convincing, the sharks are still shoved into as many contrived places as returning screenwriter Thunder Levin can come up with, and Tara Reid returns to give everyone that dead-eyed stare that sharks would give their dorsal fins for. It’s an impressive collection of negatives for one low-budget movie to cram into ninety minutes, but you can just imagine the folks at The Asylum taking it up as a kind of challenge.
And yet, this time round the makers have added a vital ingredient that wasn’t in the first movie: ironic self-awareness. It makes all the difference, lifting The Second One up from its expected rung on the lower depths of cinematic hell to a slightly higher rung where it can look down smugly on its predecessor. From the moment Robert Hays pops up as the pilot of the New York flight, and Fin sees sharks outside the plane in the same way that William Shatner saw a gremlin on the wing in The Twilight Zone episode Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, there’s a palpable sense that someone, somewhere at The Asylum had realised what was missing from the first movie, and acted accordingly. There are further cameos from the likes of Richard Kind as a washed-up baseball player who gets to swing one last bat at a falling shark, Billy Ray Cyrus as a doctor called Quint (not the only Jaws reference: Martin and Ellen’s surname is Brody), Sandra Denton (Pepa from the rap duo Salt-n-Pepa) as one of Ellen’s unfortunate friends, Andy Dick as a cop with the most unlikely haircut this side of Phil Spector, Kurt Angle as a fire chief, and Perez Hilton as an impatient subway traveller – all of them adding to the unexpected fun the movie’s been infused with. (There’s also loads more in-jokes and shark movie references.)
Returnees Ziering and Reid keep it (largely) straight though, as does Fox, charged with providing some unneeded back story between Skye and Fin that no one’s interested in, and Hirsch makes way more of his role than he has any right to (even when he has to say the same dialogue twice in different shots). Also returning as director, Ferrante keeps the pace moving but still leaves a lot of scenes bereft of tension, while the editing is as haphazard and ill-focused as the first movie, and the score relies a little too much on the (The Ballad of) Sharknado to support the action.
Rating: 3/10 – it’s still a mess, whichever way you chainsaw it, but at least Sharknado 2: The Second One knows it; with Sharknado 3 already promised for 2015, let’s hope the makers secure an even bigger budget and do something about those ropey effects, and the ropey production design, and the ropey editing, and the ropey plots, and the – oh well, you get the picture…
Cast: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, Jaason Simmons, John Heard, Alex Arleo, Chuck Hittinger, Aubrey Peeples
With a title like Sharknado, this movie already has one strike against it. That it’s also made by The Asylum for the SyFy Channel makes two more. And… it’s out!
Any movie should be given the benefit of the doubt. As the saying correctly has it, don’t criticise what you haven’t seen. But there are times when to say this would be wrong, when the whole concept of a fair hearing, and leaving your prejudices at the door, is completely, totally and utterly a lost cause. And ladies and gentlemen, here is one of those times.
Let’s not beat around the bush: Sharknado isn’t so bad it’s good, it’s just plain awful, and in ways that you can’t anticipate. It takes the idea of low-concept movie making to somewhere below the acceptable nadir, and stakes its claim as the most inept, appalling movie ever made. There are levels of bad this movie practically races past in its efforts to be dreadful. If there was a clear intention to make the worst movie possible, and the filmmakers actually sat down and planned it to look and sound like this then, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there can be only one verdict handed down this day: life imprisonment without hope of parole.
Beginning with a confusing scene set aboard a fishing boat, Sharknado sets out its stall of fake goods from the start. A storm hoves into view and before you can say “holy flying sharks” the crew are all eaten by sharks that are being thrown about like tooth picks by the violent winds. The movie then switches focus to the California coastline and bar owner/surfer Fin (Ziering). When sharks that are attempting to outrun the storm – hey, I’m guessing here – start chewing on the local surfers and swimmers, including Fin’s pal Baz (Simmons), Fin, along with feisty bar girl Nova (Scerbo) and permanent lush George (Heard), decides that everyone needs to get to higher ground, as it’s a sure thing the storm – now upgraded to a hurricane – is going to cause untold devastation and, wait a minute! Aren’t those sharks swirling around in the hurricane? And aren’t they liable to just fall out of the sky at any minute and chomp on whoever’s unfortunate to hang around for dinner?
With his estranged family – ex-wife April (Reid), son Matt (Hittinger), and daughter Claudia (Peeples) – living up in the hills, Fin and his entourage head over to rescue them. With all sorts of obstacles in their way – flooded roads, marauding sharks popping up at every turn, the hurricane getting nearer as well – it looks unlikely they’ll live long enough to make it. But they’re a plucky bunch, and before you can say “holy plot contrivances” they reach Fin’s family; once April’s new boyfriend is reduced to so much chum, they make a break for the airbase where Matt is doing some ATC work, and from there devise a plan to kill all the sharks, stop the hurricane in its tracks (it’s now subdivided into three huge water spouts), and save the California coastline from further devastation/a colossal insurance bill/being the source of the end of the world. (Any of these could be true.)
Just writing that synopsis is difficult enough. Seeing Sharknado in all its non-glory is harder still. Yes, The Asylum make bad movies, yes the SyFy Channel is home to some of the worst monster mash-ups in recent history (Sharktopus (2010) anyone?), but this is just the worst kind of cynical movie making, with a script that makes no sense at all, where the characters behave like they were lobotomised a short while before everything went wrong, where the direction has all the style and originality of a toddler’s tea party, where the cast struggle and then give up quickly with any attempts at real acting (“just say the lines, keep your head down and it’ll all soon be over”), where the woeful special effects plumb new depths of ineptitude, where cutaways and inserts provide most of the photographic style, where the editing seems less fluid and more cut and splice with a hacksaw, and where the occasional gore effects are – surprise! – the only halfway decent aspect of the movie. Sharknado is so bad it’s appalling, and so appalling it’s devoid of any worth at all.
If you have to watch Sharknado, and I suspect there are plenty of you out there for whom this will be as much a challenge as a must-see, then take this one piece of advice with you into the living room/lounge/den/bedroom/wherever: have no expectations whatsoever; that way you’ll survive the experience relatively intact.
Rating: 1/10 – saved from my first ever 0/10 rating by the acceptable gore effects (too few and far between though); atrocious, incompetent and utterly irredeemable as cinema, all those involved should hang their heads in shame.