Sunday, July 28, 2013

REVIEW: Sharknado (2013)

There’s a disturbingly prevalent trend in movies nowadays where especially horror movies seem to like trying to be bad. Mostly this comes from the pop-culture phenomenon of people loving to “riff” on silly things in movies. Which I am a complete stranger to of course…but it seems that young filmmakers and studios trying to ride the wave have caught onto this and decided to just go all out and make films that were over the top bad on purpose, with corny actors and plots more suited to SNL joke sketches. Of course, this wasn’t a new phenomenon, as movies like Bubba Ho-Tep, Killer Klowns and others proved back in the 80s and 90s. But where those movies were actually funny…a lot of these new movies are just gimmicky nonsense with as little effort put into them as possible, which the creators mistakenly mistook for comedy.

Enter Sharknado…

Director: Anthony C. Ferrante (because a middle initial makes you look artsy)
Starring: Tornadoes, sharks, Tara Reid

Yes, this is perhaps symptomatic of a lot of these kinds of films. I’ll give you an example. What is the plot? “Sharks come out of tornados and fly and kill people on land.” I won’t lie and say that doesn’t sound like it has the potential to create some very funny scenes, and it does have its moments. But just a funny premise isn’t all it takes to make one of these kinds of films. Frankly I can’t even say the movie’s name without feeling bad about it.

We start off with some bullshit on a ship with two guys re-enacting scenes from the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, sitting at a table in a dimly lit room and talking about supposedly serious mob shit. Okay, maybe not, but they’re so overly melodramatic and have nothing to do with the actual plot. Mother nature apparently agrees with me, and appropriately sends a shark to kill them all:

Then we switch to something very logical with an alternative rock song and a sunny beach day where everyone is having fun. We see John Heard from the Home Alone movies drunk in a bar, bothering some girl with a scar on her leg. It kind of looks like gills, so obviously she’s actually a fish woman from Mars.

If only...

The main guy’s name is Fin, and he goes surfing with some girl who calls him grandpa…I’d say this is stupid, since he looks about 35, but given today’s MTV generation being into ‘teen moms’ so much, I think it’s realistic. Plus, we see that calling Fin grandpa is apparently all it takes for the sharks to attack that girl. We get the same scene you’ve seen in every shark movie ever made. I do love it when movies have nothing original to offer…oh, wait, but it’s supposed to be bad. That makes it OK.

The only thing they don't do is just flat out play the Jaws theme over these scenes.

Fin goes to save his friend, who gets bit by one of the sharks, and successfully brings him back on land…which prompts the girl from the bar to come out and scold Fin for almost getting killed. Yeah, Fin, how dare you save people and bring them away from vicious man eating sharks! You inconsiderate ass!

In the bar, they hole up and hide as a storm comes and floods the beach. A newscaster who sounds like she’s talking to retarded kids comes on TV and talks about how bad the storm is. Fin acknowledges this and says they should all leave the bar and go home, because telling people to go outside when a huge hurricane is about to come through is an awesome idea, right? He then calls his ex-wife and asks if she and his daughter are okay, to which she rudely cuts him off thinking he’s asking about money. Even though he says he wants to know if they’re okay, she thinks he’s calling in the middle of a bad storm to ask about money. What a great catch she must’ve been…

Also, as soon as he gets off the phone, the scar-girl who works at the bar jumps on him for no reason, and he says he’s her boss – oh, is THAT what he is? What subtle exposition! I guess too much time was spent on girls calling him grandpa to find out that he owned the bar…got to play to your strengths, you know?

"Hi, I'm John Heard. I only took this role because they said I could have all the beer I wanted and hang out at the bar most of the movie."

Anyway, enough time has been wasted already. We see Fin, the scar-girl, whose name is Nova, Fin’s friend and John Heard – they probably just found him drinking at the bar and put him in the movie without him noticing – pile into a car and try to escape. I’m not sure driving around is the best way to combat a frigging hurricane, you idiots. Try finding shelter first.

There are a few scenes like this, where people tell them that "it's just a bit of rain"...come on, it's clearly not. Are you that delusional? Hurricanes don't just switch on and off whenever you want, you know. They're dangerous. If you're standing outside in the middle of one, it's probably not a good idea!

They drive around for a bit and see sharks kill a bunch of people. These are probably some of the better scenes in the movie; I mean really what else did anyone go into this looking for? So I won’t really bitch about it too much. John Heard gets killed off, probably because the director spent most of his money on hookers in his trailer during most of it and didn’t have enough to keep paying him. Nova acts like she’s sad, but really nobody cares or mentions him again throughout the film. Are you really surprised?

So really the movie is just sharks eating people for a while – dammit, Sharknado, with a title like that I was expecting nothing less than pure cinematic drama genius! How DARE you fail to deliver?! They make it to Fin’s family’s house and find his wife Tara Reid telling them to leave. Yeah, in the middle of a hurricane. Is this lady serious? He goes inside and sees his daughter, and oh come on:

Did he have kids at age 15 or something? He doesn’t look older than 30 or 35, and she has to be about 16!

Anyway, she bitches at him too, then we see the most metrosexual character this movie could conjure up, who is supposed to be Tara Reid’s new boyfriend or whatever. Apparently he was just hanging out in the daughter’s room. Uh, might want to check into that, guys. Usually it’s not a good thing when a grown man hangs out in his stepdaughter’s room…

But I digress. The boyfriend or stepdad or whoever he is, bitches about how Fin can’t just come and see his family when there’s a big storm outside because – gasp! – it’s not the time of month he’s allowed to see his daughter! God forbid he cares about his family in a crisis! Man this is the pits; who would ever find this enjoyable? What human being would EVER act this way?

"I'm the world's biggest douchebag. How do you do?"

Oh, wait, I forgot again: it’s supposed to be bad! So that nullifies any and all criticisms against the film. Silly me. It's also mind numbingly retarded when Tara Reid tells the boyfriend to leave Fin alone, because a second ago she was bitching at him and telling him to leave, so it makes perfect sense that she'd have a change of heart that fast! much longer is this? 50 minutes? Christ, if you cut out all of these god-awful "dramatic" scenes, the film would have been about 20 minutes. Next time try that.

I love this one part, where Nova says there are sharks all around the city and then looks out the window to see one right there.

How is that even flooded? Didn't they just drive up two minutes ago and it was completely fine?

That’s some funny shit. Even better is when the metrosexual boyfriend/husband asshole says she’s crazy and opens the window just in time for the shark to jump through it and kill him.

Ha ha ha…okay, I forgive the movie now. That death was completely justified! Sure it was pretty stupid how the house randomly flooded as soon as he opened the curtains, but eh, I'll give it a pass this time.

Unfortunately the movie decides it’s not time for more silly shark deaths, but instead for more bullshit exposition. We find out Fin also has a son around the same age as his daughter…Jesus, did he first get Tara Reid pregnant when he was in junior high school? Apparently they shipped the son off to space camp or something without telling Fin, which he gets mad about. Honestly, who cares? This movie is so reliant on having “camp” with the shark attacks and everything, but come on; so much of this crap is just people bitching at one another and arguing about trivial shit. Like many poorly made films it relies on arguing as the only mode of creating dialogue, which isn’t funny or interesting, it’s just crap to the nth degree. If I really wanted arguing and whining, I’d just read the comment section on any political-themed article on CNN. And all this in the middle of an intense hurricane no less! Some focus on the important stuff might be necessary, guys!

So now the mission is to go find Fin’s son. Tara Reid bitches about how Fin cares more about helping random strangers than his own family. Uh, I’m sorry, WHO is taking you in his car to safety right now, bitch? Jesus. Fin has a godlike level of tolerance for this…if it were me, I’d just be like “I’m feeding you to the sharks, you whore!” And then I’d push her out of the car. Seriously, what kind of person would act this way? It’s one thing to have conflict, but at least make it justified…if you want your characters to fight and argue, show us why both sides have their points. You can’t just have Tara Reid and her equally annoying daughter keep saying that Fin is an ass, because we don’t see any proof of it! So it mostly just makes me want to drill into my brain with an electric chainsaw.

Next they save a school bus full of children from sharks by climbing up a bungee cord onto a high bridge which isn’t flooded yet. Then the Hollywood sign starts trying to kill them, which I think is some kind of subtle metaphor for the movie as a whole.

Hell, the one guy is like “My mother always said Hollywood would kill me,” and then the ‘H’ drops on him and flattens him instantly. Probably as punishment for making such a terrible joke.

He could still be OK. You never know.

In the spirit of not wasting time, they stop by a liquor store next and talk to the cashier about the cause of the hurricanes. He says it’s stupid to think it’s the apocalypse. But then he goes and says it’s actually the government in charge of it all! Yes, he actually thinks it’s a weather machine the government is using to kill everyone. There’s a reason he’s a liquor store clerk and not anything else. Frankly I’m almost positive this liquor store only gave them permission to film there because the writers were such regular customers at the store. That’s the only thing that makes sense.

Then we see the only reason to watch this movie at all:

A naturally occurring weather phenomenon...

Yep, tornadoes with sharks inside them…I gotta hand it to the movie, anyone that can somehow make a plot that gets a bunch of sharks inside tornadoes is at least trying. Even if it's effort put into the wrong things.

They finally find the son, who is totally accepting about the whole thing and has no questions whatsoever. He’s so complacent and calm that it’s almost like he was just guessing this would happen soon. Also he is by far the worst actor in the movie, which is saying a lot when you have the two main guys. Half of the people in this thing look like they’re hungover anyway, but this kid is easily the worst of them. I have half a mind to say he was just directed like this on purpose…remember, it’s supposed to be bad!

Their plan is to go drop a bomb in the middle of the tornado. Yes, really. While they’re getting ready to do that, we find out Nova’s backstory: apparently when she was a kid, she got lost at sea and bitten by a shark, which is why she has that scar on her leg…so glad a shark was able to leave a scar this small:

Then apparently her grandfather tried to save her and got eaten by a shark. So now she hates sharks. And lives in California on the coast. I can practically hear the marbles rolling around inside the writers’ hollow heads. I also love this scene where the daughter tells Fin that she feels neglected by him and like he doesn't do enough for her - gee, maybe it's because you're an ungrateful brat who tells him to go away whenever he shows up uninvited. Maybe that has something to do with why he doesn't love you as much.

Ugh, this is too stupid; can we just see more scenes of sharks attacking helicopters now? The plan to bomb the tornado goes off without a hitch:

Oh, did I say without a hitch? I meant to say that it does nothing and the sharks keep coming anyway. I guess they ate the explosion. Nova apparently dies after getting eaten, and then on the ground we see that sharks can bounce when they hit the ground at the right angle!

Make that shit into a McDonalds toy. The bouncing shark! Also, this is probably the greatest shot in the movie, simply because you will never see it ever again:

Fin goes and grabs a chainsaw, which proves useful when he has to jump straight into the mouth of an oncoming shark. It looks pretty hopeless, but fortunately this movie is educational: if you get eaten by a shark, just make sure to have a chainsaw with you. You can just carve yourself right out if and you’ll be fine, even if the outcome does look like a commercial for an abortion clinic for fish.

So then the sun comes out and everything is cool, which means that by killing that one shark, everything went back to normal. Even Nova somehow survived despite being eaten alive by a shark in midair. It's just a happy ending. Maybe the shark Fin killed was a super villain shark who masterminded the whole thing. Of course!

This whole thing is just silly, and it’s supposed to be. The shark scenes are fun and the action is generally okay for schlocky nonsense, but mostly this movie is just kind of a waste of time. If you’re looking for something ridiculous to watch, I’d recommend Shark Night 3D, Lake Placid 3 or especially the 2000s Piranha remake over this; all of them are more entertaining and have sillier moments. So even as a “campy” film this isn’t that amazing. There are better options. Piranha is at least twice as funny as this, and has better writing and more exciting stuff going on – a lot of this movie I was just annoyed at the characters or bored at the amount of nothing going on. Seriously, whose idea was it to put Tara Reid in this? What was up with the constant overbearing whining in this thing? Did we really need a bunch of scenes of people surfing or just driving around talking about how bad the storm is?

Mostly the problem is that movies like this don’t really want to try anymore. These movies should be hilarious, but instead it seems like the new normal for horror-comedies is to just not give a shit about anything. If you have a stupid idea for a story, what else do you need, right? You can just make a shitty-ass movie with Z-grade acting and no entertaining parts outside of the kill scenes and then complain that IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE BAD whenever someone tries to criticize, right? No. That’s not true at all, and if you think that, you need to go re-watch pretty much any 80s horror flick and learn how to do it right.

A lack of quality in and of itself isn’t a substitute for humor and good jokes, people. Just making your movie as shitty as possible doesn’t constitute a schlocky, campy horror-comedy. If you want to make something ridiculous, the answer isn’t annoying characters screaming at each other and actors who are about as credible as late-night TV insurance scams. You have to actually go all the way with it and exaggerate everything, make it funny and over the top. You have to really keep the pace fast and the jokes funny, or else it just becomes worthless crap. This movie has a few funny scenes. Most of it is just annoying or dull, like I said.

And I REALLY want to emphasize this one more time – if your defense of movies like this, or other SyFy films, is that they’re supposed to be bad, well I just don’t think that’s a good argument. Even the goofiest movies still have to try at the basic tenets of filmmaking, to be generally entertaining. Sharknado is mostly just a waste, and although I’ve seen worse movies, I can’t recommend this one. Some people might gripe that I’m taking things too seriously and wasting my time even reviewing this at all, but hey, watching Sharknado in and of itself is a waste of time.

The images in this review are copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.