Sharknado. The title is a genius move on its own. It makes the movie everything stand out amongst all the crap coming out these days. It’s so grand of a name that it pushed the movie into the eye of pop culture, making it a social media phenomenon. While this cultural anomaly is worth examining, that’s not what I’ll be talking about. Instead I’ll be making the case that Sharknado is a good movie. Well, a good bad movie.
Every film has its purpose. Has its goals. Has a reaction it’s trying to illicit from an audience. A comedy wants to make you laugh, a drama wants to get you invested, a documentary wants to make you informed. And when one judges and critiques these films there is rarely a cross-breeding of expectations. You don’t criticize the documentary for not being funny enough and you don’t criticize the comedy for its lack of effective scares. However there is one thing all these movies have in common: they are trying to be good. Judging whether something’s good or not is the foundation of movie criticism and it really only in the past decade has started being challenged on that.* The idea of the so-bad-it’s-good movie has been around for awhile, but now quite a few filmmakers are striving to achieve that status. To make a movie so bad that it’s good.
This is where Sharknado comes in. Now right off the bat we can pass off the idea of the filmmakers unintentionally making their movie as bad as it is. When you sign on to a movie called Sharknado you know exactly what you’re getting into. There is no way you’ll make a movie called Sharknado the horror drama of the year because audiences can’t take it seriously. So why not just go balls to the wall? Make it a piece of shit, but an entertaining piece of shit. So with us throwing out the standard of examining if it’s good, we now have to examine if its bad qualities make it entertaining. And holy shit is Sharknado entertaining.
The story of Sharknado is that of bar owner Fin, who embarks on a quest to save his ex-wife (Tara Reid) and kids when a hurricane/water funnel/tornado full of sharks hits LA. Along with him for the ride is his Tasmanian best buddy Baz, his waitress/love interest(ish) Nova and frequent bar attendant George (John Heard). It’s obviously not the greatest of stories and the pacing can be uneven, but for the most part it is a non-stop thrill ride of shark attacks. What is important is that it’s rarely boring. You never have long 25 minute stretches like in other asylum movies where you want to tear your eyes out, which is really a mark of how good this bad movie actually is because it avoids the ultimate sin of filmmaking: boredom.
The acting is, of course, really bad. However, even if you got George Clooney and Meryl Streep to star in this movie no one would buy their performance as soon as they uttered the word “Sharknado.” So the acting is appropriate, with just enough cheese from some actors to balance out the woodenness of others. Tara Reid stands out as the complete brick wall of the movie and her asshole boyfriend gets the overacting award. The dialogue is really cheesy (of course), but it does attempt a little character development and is never confusing or misleading like in other films.
The actual directing and other camera work is adequate to sub-par with most of the movie being average and certain scenes so clumsily shot that it’s painful to watch, but you still get a sense of what’s going on. The continuity is a nightmare, with the either cloudy or sunny background being humorously swapped back and forth and especially with the copious amounts of stock footage.
The effects are hilariously bad, being the bastard child of a malfunctioning CGI computer. I don’t want to give away too much, but they are used effectively in the death scenes to create a mixture of awesomeness and cheesiness. They may be run of the mill for The Asylum, but a fresh audience will be taken aback by how blatantly bad a lot of the sharks look and how obvious the money shots of the movie are.
Sharknado is probably one of the most fun and entertaining recent movies to watch, especially with a group of friends. Not because it’s got the suspense of Jaws, but rather the opposite. It hits all the right notes of a bad b-movie without breaching into boredom or (on the other end of the spectrum) being too over the top. It does exactly what it intends to do and because of that I stand by my statement that Sharknado is a good (bad) movie. You know what you’re expecting if you want to see this and Sharknado delivers on those expectations. Sharknado recently became available on Netflix instant, and Amazon prime, as well as an upcoming DVD release from The Asylum.
*I’m aware that plenty of intentionally cheesy movies have existed before the 2000s, but with the internet and the independent movement, these films have exploded in number and popularity.