Review: Syfy’s ‘Sharknado’ hits the schlocky motherlode

Well, I just watched and live-tweeted all of Syfy’s “Sharknado.” Therefore, I must write about it here as well, coming up just as soon as I grab my bar stool…

I remember the day “Snakes on a Plane” was released, I decided that the only point in seeing it at all would be to go on opening night and watch it in a crowded, noisy theater. That was the right call, as that movie is dreadful to sit through solo when it’s on cable. (Which is all the time.) Some movies are just designed as communal experiences: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” “The Sound of Music.”


I doubt I would have watched more than a few minutes of this schlocktacular if my Twitter feed hadn’t been clogged with people watching and cracking jokes right along with me. Wil Wheaton busted out his inner TV critic. The movie made Damon Lindelof apologize for the climax to “Prometheus” and begin writing a sequel that would star Elizabeth Banks as an Australian woman named Tessa Mundeegle with a f–king harpoon for an arm. Mia Farrow went nuts while watching it. In one tweet, CNN’s Jake Tapper simultaneously joked about Republicans, “The Dark Knight Rises” and Donna Martin. It was a delightful communal experience.

But could I recommend “Sharknado” outside that specific intersection of time, space and social media?


“Sharknado” was, thankfully, exactly what the title promised. (Though it took a while to get there, and for its first hour seemed like it should have been called “Sharkicane.”) It offered us sharks in every ridiculous location and circumstance imaginable. It offered us terrible one-liners (a pool of shark-created blood is greeted with “Looks like it’s that time of the month!”), Cousin Oliver from “The Brady Bunch” being killed by a flying chunk of the Hollywood sign, and Ian Ziering being surrounded by such a motley bunch of co-stars (notably Tara Reid as his ex-wife) that he seemed like the most charismatic actor in the business. Our pal Steve Sanders did it all: he calculated wave patterns, rappelled off a bridge to rescue a bus full of schoolkids, killed sharks with pinpoint handgun marksmanship and, in the film’s masterpiece, dove into the open mouth of a shark with a chainsaw so he could cut his way out, unscathed, from the inside.

Even better, though, was the fact that of all the thousands of sharks that were tormenting the greater Los Angeles area at that moment, Ziering just happened to dive into the exact shark that had so recently swallowed whole his bartender and potential love interest Nova(*), who emerged alive and unscathed from falling out of a helicopter and into that very shark’s maw a few scenes earlier. It was, perhaps, the greatest coincidence in the history of the cinema.

(*) In a creative decision that was both awkward and seemed to fundamentally misunderstand how much the audience wanted to see Tara Reid get eaten by a shark, the film ends with Ziering and Reid reunited, while Nova has hooked up with their son (who looks even older than Ziering did in the final days of “90210”). 

Nova (played by “Make It or Break It” alum Cassie Scerbo, who handled her shotgun nearly as well as Ziering did his pistol, and should use this as a launchpad into a fine career in straight-to-video action) was also handed the movie’s clumsiest “Jaws” homage (declaring, non-sensically except for the sake of the gag, “We’re gonna need a bigger chopper” while Ziering’s son flew her towards one of the sharknadoes), and a mash-up of Robert Shaw’s classic “Jaws” speech about the USS Indianapolis and Phoebe Cates’ Santa speech in “Gremlins,” in which we found out that the real reason Nova hates sharks is not because they’ve been responsible for the deaths of dozens of people right in front of her over the course of this particular film, but because a shark murdered her grampa. That’s right: the heroine of “Sharknado” needed a tragic shark-related backstory to justify her behavior throughout the film.

Was this significantly better, worse or sillier than your average Syfy film? I can’t speak to that, as it’s been a few years since my last one. I expect a lot of the flaws (cheap special effects that all looked temporary, weird edits and close-ups that suggested none of the actors in a scene were actually in the same room when it was filmed) can be found on any given Thursday or Saturday night on Syfy. But the title and premise of this one was so ludicrous that it became a draw for me and other looky-lous, and it gave us exactly what we wanted: something unapologetically dumb and cheap and outrageous to laugh at (and, occasionally, with) for a couple of hours on a slow summer Thursday night.

And though Twitter volume rarely translates into hard ratings (see “Smash” for proof of this), I would not be at all surprised to come to work tomorrow to find a press release from Syfy greenlighting “Sharkalanche,” “Sharkquake” or possibly “Sharkpocalypse: The Series,” in which Ziering battles sharks that have been mixed up in various weather systems each week.

For those who watched live tonight, what did you think? For those of you who weren’t watching but were seeing all us idiots talk about it, did you feel like you were missing anything? And for those of you who happened to watch it later, or away from the social media bubble, did you take any pleasure from this big slab of cheese?