Sharknado: A Spoilery Conversation

Chris Piers   July 12, 2013   Comments Off on Sharknado: A Spoilery Conversation

Sublime. Inspired. Transcendent. These are not normally words used to describe the films of Tara Reid or Ian Ziering. And this is no exception. It is, however, one of the most entertainingly bad movies I’ve seen bar none. The best part of the movie will undoubtedly be the commentary you and your friends make, MST3K-style, while watching. The worst parts are when the actors try to take their job seriously. Fortunately, the script doesn’t allow them much room to do that and dialog is primarily of the “Go! Go! Go!” move-the-story-forward school. In short, I haven’t laughed so hard at a movie since “This is the End.” After the jump, I’ll recap the best bits and share my thoughts on why this works as a so-bad-it’s-good movie.

Movie poster for Sharknado

The movie delivers what it promises. Sharks and tornadoes.

Who is the protagonist?

Ian Ziering, whose character is literally named Fin. He’s a former best-in-the-world surfer who now owns and runs a bar. Neither of those character traits will really matter at all.

What does he want?

He wants to protect his estranged kids and ex-wife, played by Tara Reid, who probably had a character name but damned if I picked it up.

So is the movie good or bad?

Honestly, Fin has a relatable motivation that’s strong enough to justify most of the movie’s events. The screenwriter was CLEARLY having fun and that’s why the movie works at all. The reason it isn’t a good movie is because the actors play everything straight, creating a tonal disconnect. Also, the movie was made for just $1 million and is far too ambitious for its relatively meager budget. Combine that with the worst editing ever, and you have a movie that isn’t at all good but is never boring, which is what sinks most bad movies.

So there are sharks?

I don’t think this movie goes 2 minutes without featuring a shark, or more likely, hundreds of sharks. Sharks jumping through windows. Sharks climbing ropes. Sharks falling from the sky whenever the movie threatens to need a moment to breathe. The movie more than fulfills its shark quota.

And tornadoes?

Well… sort of. The word “tornado” is actually not mentioned until over a full hour into the movie. Instead the sharks are being hurled into Los Angeles by a massive hurricane. I sincerely was thinking the movie was lying with its title at that point but in the final act three tornadoes form. And it escalates the insanity in all the best ways.

How does it begin?

With a scene completely irrelevant to everything else to come. A fishing boat is finning sharks, an actual and terrible problem, where fishermen cut off sharks’ fins for soup but then toss the shark back in the ocean, to drown. The evil ship’s captain serves a bowl of soup to a Japanese businessman who overs him a certain price but the captain wants a lot more and points out that he is all alone in the middle of the ocean so he better pay up. Yup, this genius didn’t wait at the dock, he decided to come along in a suit for the whole catch and negotiate in the middle of the ocean. He eventually agrees and opens a tackle box full of hundred dollar bills. But then a storm starts up and when the run up, a shark jumps onboard and swallows a crewmember.

Wait. Swallows? Not eats?

Well, the CG on these sharks is better than a lot of movies that SyFy uses as originals, but it still isn’t very good. The shark just sort of sucks him up in one gulp. This was our first huge laugh.

Please continue!

Thank you. Yeah, so now the Japanese businessman and the captain sort of chase each other around the small boat with guns for… reasons. The Japanese man seems to consider swimming for it in the storm but a shark jumps up and eats him. The captain laughs with glee as he has the money. But then a bunch of sharks sort of fly through the air eating his face and that’s the end of the scene.

I think I’m in.

Oh, it gets better. And stupider! We meet our main characters at this point. Fin is surfing and his Australian pal , Baz, is hanging out on the Santa Monica beach with his jetski. The editing I mentioned earlier rears its ugly head and never stops at this point. Shots go from bright to desaturated back and forth. Closeups of the surfing and jetskiing are shot from low angles with no up and down ocean movement, clearly just filmed in someone’s backyard, miles away from the ocean.

Sounds dull.

Oh, it’s only a minute or so before a shark eats someone on the beach. Fin begins yelling for people to get out of the ocean and yells “shark.” To which the beautiful people standing in 2 feet of water scoff, unconvinced. Until the all begin being attacked.

Baz jumps on his jetski to warn people and a shark bites into his leg. Fin proves he’s the hero of the picture by poking at it with his surfboard and it leaves. Fin has a bite that looks bad but in the next scene he has a bandage on it and it’s never really mentioned again.

Any other characters?

Yup. Cassie Scerbo the young bartender, Nova, who walks around in a bikini to keep you awake and character actor John Heard as a drunken, pervy bafly named something or other. Watching the news, Fin decides this Hurricane David will be bad news and calls his ex-wife, Tara Reid. He warns her that even though she’s 100 miles inland, she should go even further because he predicts this storm will be bad. Mainly he wants her to bring their daughter but Tara Reid is a raging bitch and says to butt out of her life and he can see the daughter character in a week when it’s his usual time to have custody.

The cast of Sharknado

Baz, Nova, John Heard, Fin

Boring.

Oh, don’t worry. A shark helpfully launches itself through the bar window at this point.

Oh, has the storm started?

Not according to the helpful establishing shot right before and after this scene which shows a calm and beautiful beach. Nope, the shark just sort of leaps up the 30 feet or so to go through the bar, located on the pier.

Does it eat anyone?

It does not. It thrashes around but since it’s on land, you’d think everyone could back away and let it die. Instead, John Heard picks up his barstool and knocks it away from a nearby patron. Then Nova drives a pool cue through its head. This is the first of several instances where the heroes show a surprisingly bloodthirsty attitude to killing sharks that are not an immediate threat.

The some digital waves begin crashing over the bar and everyone escapes. The bar is totaled. As Fin and his gang sadly observe the destroyed place, he announces he’s going to go save his daughter. Baz agrees to help and Nova says her house on the beach is probably ruined so she’ll go, too. Yeah. She just tags along because she has nothing better to do. Oh, and John Heard passed out in Fin’s car with his barstool so he comes along, too.

Is this a road movie?

Sort of! The gang makes like The Californians from the SNL skit and talks about talking the 10 to the 405 because it’s elevated. It is here that the editing becomes a clusterfuck of awesome. The main shot is of the group in the car, but with white light behind them and rain coming down. It’s supposed to represent that they’re driving through a storm but it looks like they’re all hanging out in the carwash. They honestly could have been. But when they look outside, the streets are flooded and sharks are constantly swimming along. But if they ever need a wide, establishing shot, the car is driving along on the road, no flooding. This happens throughout the film.

Any actual shark attacks?

Well, the all think they hear one beneath the car and Nova gets her shotgun ready but then nothing happens. It’s like the script forgot what it was just setting up. Instead, they pull up behind stopped traffic getting onto the 405. Then some waves begin crashing over the cars and sharks attack. The gang hustles people out of their cars and to safety… somewhere. Throughout this, a woman can’t get into her car where her dog is patiently waiting. They establish this scene many times and it becomes glorious when John Heard remembers his barstool and breaks the glass open to save the dog.

He sounds great!

He’s great whenever he has the barstool but he drops it after saving the dog and leaves it behind. So he’s a goner. A shark instantly jumps at him through the sky and he’s gone. The group then literally times the waves and races under one, continuing on the highway to Fin’s ex’s house.

Is she in a flood zone?

She is clearly NOT. Her house is a mansion on top of a hill. Though we do see a sewage pipe nearby that a shark jumps out of. These sharks are everywhere.

So she joins them?

Not right away. As I said, she’s a raging bitch. She doesn’t believe Fin and wants him to leave. She won’t even let him in until a shark falls out of the sky nearby. Her new boyfriend comes in and tries to be the asshole alpha male to Fin. In case you thought this meant a love triangle was developing, a shark jumps through a window and eats him in seconds. Then the first floor is flooded and the group has to hold off the shark with a bookcase until Nova remembers she can just shoot it.

The cast of Sharknado holds off a shark with a bookcase

Bookcases are a shark’s natural enemy

How did the house on the hill flood?

Don’t ask. A second shark swims in that Fin distracts while the group, including his daughter and Tara Redi, run to the car. Fin follows and the shot clearly shows the world outside the house is not flooded. Then all of a sudden the windows and front doors explode with water. It makes no sense.

The cast of Sharknado drive around

Driving around in sharknados is ill-advised

So… problem solved?

Not quite. Fin and Tara have a son as well but he is at flight school. The next goal is to get there and save their son, then head for the desert. But along the way they come across a school bus stuck in the flood.

Fin can’t just ignore it, even though Tara tells him this is his problem – that he’s always helping others first, not his family. Regardless, he decides to save the kids by driving his truck up to the overpass above the bus and rappelling down.

Wait. Rappelling. With just a rope or…

No, he has a full harness and set of caribiners along with climbing rope. Like most ex-surfers/bar owners tend to keep on hand.

I’ll just go with it.

You have to. There are a dozen or so kids and their teacher is Cousin Oliver.

From the Brady Bunch?

Yup. Except now he has longer hair, a gross goatee and a gut. But it’s Cousin Oliver. The kids are pulled up one at a time until it’s time for the fat teacher but he makes it, too. And the kids honestly seem bored. I don’t think the director explained to them that there were supposed to be sharks everywhere.

Is the scene a dud?

Far from it! Again, no scene can get by without continuity issues. The bus is supposed to be stuck in a big flood but every time we see Fin rappel down, the wide shot can’t mask the fact that not only are the roads below dry, there’s even casual traffic going by. Also? A shark finally shows up and keeps jumping up to try to get Fin at the end. It grabs the rope which begins to fray. But Fin cuts it and gets up just fine.

So he saved everyone?

More or less. The hurricane kicks into high gear and the Hollywood sign begins getting whipped around their heads. This is mostly closeups of the cast ducking as digital vinyl siding seems to whip by them. Eventually the wind stops and Fin asks Cousin Oliver if he’s ok. Fin is in a closeup but Oliver is standing by himself in a wide shot with plenty of room around. It couldn’t be too much more obvious that something will happen to him.

A shark?

Not this time. In one of the 3 non-shark deaths, Oliver says, “My mom always told me Hollywood would kill me!” and the H lands on him.

Oof. That’s a tough pun.

Yeah. The gang then heads to the liquor store.

What?

Yeah, I don’t get it either. They swing by a store that’s open and watch the news. The newscaster talks about “unsubstantiated reports of sharks landing on the streets.” Jesus, just look out the window. Which Fin does, and we see a car impaled on the roof across the street. Then the go on their way.

What was the point of that scene?

No point. Probably just padding it out and saving some money for the third act.

Oh, are we there now?

Pretty much. They arrive at the flight school and find it empty. Nova slowly approaches a closet with shotgun drawn. I guess she expects a shark to be hiding in there. But nope, it’s Fin’s kid, Matt, and about 4 other people.

Time to leave?

You forgot about the tornado piece of the title equation.

Oops! I did. Is it time?

It is. By the way, Ian Ziering doesn’t look 49 but he is. He kids seem to be in their early 20s. I don’t know how Tara Reid fits into that equation. But a tornado breaks through the skylight and sucks up one of the female flight instructors. The group hides in the closet until the storm passes.

When the come out, they see that L.A. is being attacked by 3 tornadoes full of sharks. Fin insists on stopping the tornadoes, which apparently is a thing you can do.

Sharks in a tornado

The literal sharknado

How?

Matt comes up with the idea to blow them up?

Soooo many questions about that.

Yeah, Matt, who we’ve only just met comes up with the plan. And the plan is to throw a bomb in the tornado which everyone seems to agree is the best course of action.

How?

They all steal some supplies from the hardware store across the street. Chainsaws for self defense and bombs made out of propane tanks (little ones) tied to road flares. Baz loads a car with one while Matt and Nova make some to take in a helicopter. Some sharks fall and eat the remaining flight school folks. One eats a kid’s leg and arm and he dies. Then a hammerhead shark just lands on his corpse,  squashing him. It’s delightful.

Man squashed by a hammerhead shark

Hammered

Why would a bomb stop a tornado?

Nova asks the same question. Baz says that tornadoes are just warm and cold air colliding so if you disrupt that, it should end the tornado. And it does. Matt flies up and Nova tosses bombs into 2 of the tornadoes, stopping them cold.

Does Fin do anything?

He shoots sharks out of the sky that get close to the helicopter. He also cleaves a shark in 2 with his chainsaw, while it flies above him. Also? The group on the ground run over to a nearby retirement home to help them.

Oh, like how?

Well, some sharks land in the pool. Fin pulls 2 old people out.

Ah. That’s kind of tame.

Well, he then decides to kill the sharks in the pool. Like I said, sometimes this group gets bloodthirsty. Despite the fact that no one would go in the pool and the fresh water will probably kill them, Fin dumps gasoline in the pool and burns them alive.

What about the 3rd tornado?

Well, that one’s bigger and the bomb doesn’t stop it. Plus, that was the last bomb. Also? A shark grabs a hold of the helicopter and Nova goes pyscho on it, stabbing it over and over.

She really hates those sharks!

You have no idea. See, when we first meet her she has what is clearly a shark bite on her leg that she won’t talk about. She eventually tells Matt that she was attacked once and Matt says he hates sharks now, too.

NOW?

Hey, he said it not me.

Does she kill it?

Yeah, but then she falls out and gets eaten by a shark in midair.

Wait, they kill her this close to the end?

It’s got about 10 minutes and yeah, she just gets sucked up into a great white. Matt doesn’t even have time to grieve because the storm is so strong he has to crashland the helicopter.

So how do they stop the last tornado?

Remember that car full of bombs that Baz made? Well, he got sucked up by the tornado earlier while a shark was gnawing on his leg but Fin decides he can use the car and save the day. He ignites the propane and heads for a cliff and jumps out.

Wait. How is the car supposed to reach the tornado if Fin can jump out at a safe distance.

It’s not his car. It has a nicely labeled “nitro” button that they used earlier. Somewhere around the middle they stole this car when theirs got flooded. The cops chased them but they hit the nitro button and got away. Don’t know how they refueled it, though. Anyway, he hits the nitro button which launches it farrrr over the mountain and into the tornado where it explodes and saves the day.

So that’s it?

Not quite. Somehow Fin manages to get back to his family while sharks are still falling out of the sky. One is falling at his daughter. Her issue was she thought he didn’t love her enough. Here he proves it by pushing her out of the way and jumping headfirst into the shark.

Fin jumps into a shark's mouth

Chainsaw vs Shark

Whaaaat?

Yeah, but with his chainsaw. And even though it takes a while, he eventually cuts his way out. It’s amazing.

That is amazing.

But that’s not all.

It isn’t?!

Nope, he also pulls out Nova. It was the same shark and he simply swallowed them both.

But… it’s been about 10 minutes.

At least. But Matt does CPR which revives dead people.

Matt revives Nova

CPR is magic

Tell me that’s the end.

Close. The end credits read “Fin.”

I’m convinced. That’s awesome.