This film has swept the public’s imagination like no other SyFy Channel / Asylum co-production has before; and there’ve been some really, really bad ones. The AV Club gave this film an A, there’s already a load of podcast reviews of it, and the night of its broadcast turned Twitter into a game of comedy one-upmanship as nearly every comedian I follow wanted to talk about it. That said, I think some of the reviews come from a place of never having seen one of these films before. Like the intelligentsia are muscling in on our territory? Hey, AV Club, where were you for “Sharktopus” and “Swamp Shark”? But enough of my bitterness, let’s get on with the film!
This film is already several steps ahead of the many other shark-based films I’ve reviewed for this site, as it breaks three of my four rules of shark movies. Those rules?
Rule 1: ‘there must be a shot where the three heroes are on a speedboat looking ahead with determination’.
Rule 2: ‘ there must be a large seafront entertainment event that can’t be cancelled, for some reason’.
Rule 3: ‘at least one character must behave in a brain-buggeringly stupid way, to drive the plot along’
Rule 4: ‘sharks be super-powered’
Rules one and two are right out, I’m afraid (and I always liked rule 1). It could be said that by hanging around the beachfront bar when the sharknado is on its way, the entire cast fulfilled rule 3, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s only rule 4 that every single one of these godawful movies manages to keep.
An evil Oriental gentleman is after some sharkmeat, or their fins, or something. For the amount of money he’s paying, you’d think the sharks were made of gold. He has hired a boat full of scumbags to do his shark-capturing for him, and wouldn’t you know it! The sharks do not like being slaughtered, so as soon as the storm picks up, they start jumping over the boat and eating everyone in sight. One poor deckhand gets devoured almost whole. This doesn’t seem to have much bearing on the rest of the film, other than to establish man’s inhumanity to man (and shark), and to show us the storm on its way to shore.
A former world champion surfer, Fin Shephard, played by a chap from Beverly Hills 90210 (not Jason Priestley or Luke Perry), runs a beachfront bar. He has a beautiful bar-person called Nova, a colourful barfly (John Heard, star of C.H.U.D.), a wacky Australian best mate who can speak or move his facial muscles, but not both at the same time, an estranged wife, played by Tara Reid who sadly forgot how to act at some point and a couple of kids who look far too old to be the offspring of the two of them.
The film then kindly explains that while tornados never hit California, there’s one on its way now. I get the feeling this line was added after someone mentioned this fact to the producers while they’d already started shooting. But I’m not going to call them on their weird ideas about weather, or any of that, as it’s low-hanging fruit. We exist in a world where this stuff happens, and so be it. We also exist in a world where people sit around on the beach while someone yells “get the hell out, sharks are on their way” and for that they deserve to get eaten.
After the chaos of the initial shark attack and the tornado warnings, how does this affect seaside life? Does it reduce the beach to an empty shell? Or does the bar continue to do a roaring trade while people walk by outside with ice cream and balloon animals? If you guessed the second one, you win a shiny SyFy Channel award. Round about here is where things get a bit confusing. A shark flies in through the window and starts chomping as we see people out on the boardwalk pursued by sharks swept up by the leading edge of the sharknado…but we go from scenes in bright sunlight to scenes in the middle of a storm, from the middle of the day to the early morning, and they’re all supposed to be on the same stretch of beach at the same time. Maybe it’s SyFy subtly telling us that it’s hard shooting a film on this budget, so they had to shoot individual actors whenever they were available, never mind the continuity.
The middle portion of the film is a chase through the streets of LA to find Fin’s family, stopping off to save a school bus full of kids. Sharks get everywhere, including the flooded house of Tara Reid – a house which is evidently entirely water-tight, as the flooding indoors does not correspond to any flooding outside. Sharks can now swim in a depth of water which only covers up to the middle of a car tyre…sorry! I said I wouldn’t nail the technical shortcomings of the film! The clever thing that the filmmakers did was insert a lot of stock footage in here of storms and so on, and make it look part of the film. Well, either that or Asylum just films stuff like extreme weather and unusual stuff on the off chance they’ll be able to use it as background in some film they’re going to make in the future (which is actually a really good idea – Asylum, call me).
Poor old John Heard gets a wacky death scene, not quite on a level with Samuel L Jackson in “Deep Blue Sea” but still not bad; and we move on to the big plan to stop the three sharknados which are ravaging Los Angeles. And that’s where I must leave you, dear reader, to fend for yourself. Who lives and dies, and how quickly you can get over the death of a long-term boyfriend (hint: it’s less than a day), are questions the answers to which I cannot give you. We also get Nova’s description of why she’s called Nova, which encompasses her fear of sharks. Now, I’m no scientist. But, if you were afraid of sharks, and could live anywhere, would you choose to live on the beachfront? And spend all day in a bar that looked right out onto the ocean?
Is it any good? Of course not, really. There’s been a lot of debate about whether this film is deliberately bad, and of course Asylum must know they’re not making Oscar contenders. It’s certainly not played for laughs, aside from a few chuckles here and there, and there’s too much of it which reminds me of the tons of SyFy Channel original movies I’ve seen since I started writing for the ISCFC. But I enjoyed it – it didn’t mess about, the Australian had a really frightening stare whenever he wasn’t speaking, John Heard realised the sort of film he was in, and everyone else gave it their best shot. If you’re on this site, you’ll have heard of this film already, so I say go and watch it. Have fun!