Friday, October 10, 2014


2013  ****

There's an episode of Futurama in which Frye drinks 100 cups of coffee in the space of a few days.  All through the episode he's an increasingly jittery mess, until he downs the last one and instantly reaches a plateau of serene calm; a contented smile fixes itself on his face, and for a short while he has the power of super-speed.  Watching Sharknado is something like that: a haphazard collision of countless incompetent actions resulting in a whole that -- seemingly against all odds -- is nothing less than a completely fulfilled entertainment promise.  It's like throwing some rusty tools and beer cans into a box and making a working fusion device, albeit one that constantly makes loud fart noises.  It's like seeing a guy wearing rollerskates and having a cello strapped to his back backflip off of a balance beam through a flaming hoop and yet still make a perfect dismount.  And if you think those similes make no sense, remember this movie's log line is "it's like a tornado -- with sharks."

It's difficult to know where to start, so I'll take the cheap shots first.  The headliners (snort) are Ian Ziering, the least hunky dude from Beverly Hills 90210 and the ghastly Tara Reid, the woman who would have no career were it not for the American Pie series and black eyeliner.  But more on her later.

"I can flash this smug mug because my staff hasn't let me see my forehead in years."

Paired with our hero is the inevitable Australian sidekick, some Baywatch alum who I'm convinced was just included so that his ropey face would detract from Ian's.

"Look at the soize of that wobbegong!"

These guys and the lesser sun-damaged members of the cast* bring an essential sincerety to material that, frankly, had no reason to expect such effort from anybody.  This is sloppy material.  The incompetence exists not just in obvious ways, like when Ian is chest deep in water yelling "get out of the water!" to people wading on the beach.

(*Except Tara Reid)

"YOU get out of the water!" I actually yelled out loud twice.

The cinematic inadequacies are also woven into the movie's very texture.  One of my favorite things about the best So Bad It's Good flicks is the violently choppy editing, and Sharknado raises the bar.  Because it's not just editing, it's the cobbling together of footage that is obviously from five different locations with different lighting conditions, in different parts of town, or on a soundstage, and maybe the weather's different shot to shot --  but fuck it we're all pretending it's actually the same time and place.  

This flimsy unreality is boosted by an unabashed mixture of obnoxiously bad CGI, obvious stock footage padding and notable overuse of the "we're in a vehicle and it's really bright outside" set.

We're in a car!

We're in another car!

We're in a helicopter!

I also have to point out that Ziering's character is billed as this irrepressible hero but his talent usually takes the shape of stating the obvious among people who haven't figured out the obvious yet.  At one point he makes a big deal about going back down an onramp and "saving" a bunch of people at the bottom because the bottom is filling up with water and sharks.  And he goes down there and yells "Hey, you gotta get out of here!" and that's all it takes to remind everybody that, unlike water, people can go uphill.  He's like Papa Smurf!

Against this background composite of dense EdWoodium it's actually quite plausible that airborne sharks would be a thing.  The list of why that would NOT be a thing is long and delightful.  At one point our perky crew is in a car (see above) and a shark lands on their car and bites a hole through the roof.  

"Hi guys!  Did you see Jurassic Park?  Hah cha-cha-cha-cha-cha!"

Suppose for goofs we accept the shark could get this far -- it's still got nothing!  All it has is jaws and spine, it's got no limbs!  Even if it slides threateningly into the car they can just pull over and get out.

What's that you say?  Snakes are just jaws and spines too?  Okay, sure, but snakes aren't fish!  Without water, the fish has no ability to propel itself, and even if it's propelled through the air by a tornado it certainly can't steer towards targets, and what's that other thing.... oh yeah, it can't BREATHE.

To be fair, the sharks aren't flying around Dorothy style for most of the movie, in fact I think the titular carniverous weather doesn't kick in until the last 20 minutes.  But that's not a bad thing!  There's a hefty amount of flooding and hurricane winds and swarming sharks to keep the party going, even including one of my favorite bits from Deep Blue Sea.

There's a shark in the living room!  

And now to Tara, dear sweet Tara.  If the collective performance of a movie's cast can be compared to a perfectly seasoned bowl of soup, Tara Reid is like a brick that someone dropped in it.  She's a consummate non-actress, showing an equal lack of abilty in both movement and speech.  I don't like to play the "ha ha she got old" card because it's mean, but with her I feel an entitled resentment any time I have to see her.  As such, it's a hoot seeing her stumble cluelessly through such bottom-shelf fare, failing even at doing right by Sharknado, all the while looking like someone stuck a blonde wig on an old, partially-melted wax sculpture of one of those meatgrinder kids from The Wall, finishing it off with two cigarette burns for eyeholes.

You know what?  I don't really like Tara Reid

At this point in our cultural history the pre-existing layers of self-conscious moviemaking comprise a vast swirling ocean, and it's difficult to plumb exactly how aware of itself Sharknado really is.  I don't think this movie would look the same if what I'm talking about were faked.  I prefer to think it's borne on nothing more than another iteration of cheap, shlocky moving pictures, always with the faint hope of the unreliable alchemy somehow producing gold.  

Early on in Sharknado there's a beach party scene, and I noticed that the beautiful people weren't really the level of beautiful one gets used to at movie beach parties.  And that reminded me of movies made in the 80s.  Before certain looks became standardized you would generally see way more ordinary-looking folks kicking in the background than you would in the post Victoria's Secret world just ten years later.  And with a contented smile on my face I settled in, because in that moment I could think of no higher compliment.

We're on a Jet-Ski!


JPX said...

Welcome to the show! Your voice has been missed. I love that you start with a bang, Sharknado! I completely agree with your review and observations.

What's interesting about Sharknado is that I don't think it was intended to be a so-bad-it's-good film.

It does not have the (wink wink)self-awareness that the sequel possesses (I'm assuming that will be your next review). I think Sharknado was a fluke that gained popularity because it's so soul-suckingly stupid. The sequel basically affirms, "Yep, we know this is so-bad-it's-good!" I have previously expressed mixed feelings about movies that are intentionally bad to be considered good. I don't think the original Sharknado intended to BE that film. It was just the perfect storm (no pun intended); bad cast, bad fx...

DCD said...

*Slow clap*
Your voice has definitely been missed. Awesome and hilarious review. I have wanted to watch this movie but feared it was so-bad-it's-bad. I will add it to my list for sure.

Bravo, Octo!

Catfreeek said...

Welcome to the fun house Octo! Loved this movie, that was a fantastic review! Sharknado 2 is definitely sillier but still a whole lot of fun.

Landshark said...

This review was worth the wait. Welcome to the party, Octo!

50PageMcGee said...

if this were mashed up with Dog Soldiers, you could have written, "you know when you're watching a horror movie, and the screaming teens are in a car and the shark bites a hole through the roof, and you wish one of them had a knife? Well, these guys do have knives, and they stab the fucker!"

Trevor said...

This review makes me want to write better reviews.

Mr. AC said...

This review makes me want to read it repeatedly so as not to miss a morsel of its goodness.

AC said...

ditto what everyone is saying about welcome back octopunk and ditto that this review is perfect and hilarious and disturbingly accurate. even though i agree with everything you say, i can't imagine having the fortitude and clarity and discipline to write it up so thoughtfully and so elegantly.

dcd please do watch sharknado; as i recall it is perfectly biddy-safe. you can't even take the "horror" seriously because every aspect of the movie is so jaw-droppingly absurd.


Abduscias said...

I don't think I went 10 min without laughing at this! But then again, I only saw the last half of it.

Johnny Sweatpants said...

I read this review thrice! You perfectly encapsulated Sharknado with "It's like throwing some rusty tools and beer cans into a box and making a working fusion device, albeit one that constantly makes loud fart noises."

I don't know where I stand on JPX's thought that it wasn't intended to be so-bad-it's-good. I mean, the name of the movie is Sharknado ffs! However I think it tried just hard enough to pull off such a ridiculous premise with a serious face. Ian Ziering deserves accolades for that. And yes, I watched 90210, not religiously, but I was slightly emotionally invested.