Last night around 8 p.m., as I saw the buzz around Sharknado reach levels I never imagined it would, I started to worry that we had a Snakes on a Plane situation on our hands. What if the ridiculous title and the swell of tongue-in-cheek online support built up everyone’s expectations way too high, and the actual product couldn’t live up to the hype? I would have been absolutely devastated. I needed this. It had to deliver.
And, for the most part, it did, thanks to some preposterous, over-the-top camp gore, a bonkers plot, and an all-the-way-in performance by Ian Ziering in the lead. Seriously, Ziering carried this thing on his back from beginning to end. If he hadn’t been willing to fully invest in his scenes, playing them straight when every impulse in his body was probably telling him to ham it up or mail it in, this would have changed pretty quickly from a fun, silly experiment to something far more depressing. A+ work, Ziering. You done good.
But now that I’ve said all that, I imagine you have some questions. Please, fire away.
WHY DIDN’T THE SHARKS DIE AS SOON AS THEY WERE OUT OF THE WATER HOW DID THEY SURVIVE IN A TORNADO THIS COULDN’T REALLY HAPPEN.
Okay, I’m gonna stop you right here. We are not going to do this. Not with this movie. I could see having this conversation after watching The Dark Knight Rises and realizing that a big-budget, critically acclaimed superhero franchise closed with 30 minutes of plot holes big enough to drive a tank through, but this is Sharknado we’re talking about here. Let’s not skip over that. It is a movie about tornadoes full of sharks, and they called it Sharknado. They’re entitled to a little leeway on the science.
Fine. What happens when the Sharknado comes?
We’ll get there. First I want to tell you about the opening scene.
Choppy waters. Twenty miles off the coast of Mexico. An Eastern European fisherman and an Asian businessman are on a boat negotiating the most cliche-filled shady business transaction you’ve ever seen. They agree on a sum and the money changes hands. Wait, what’s that commotion? AHHHH A WAVE HAS CARRIED A SHARK ONTO THE DECK AND IT IS EATING HENCHMEN. Chaos. Both men flee. Amid the confusion, the Asian businessman has somehow ended up with the money AND he is declaring his intentions of taking the shipment as well. The fisherman pulls a gun and shoots him in the leg. A shark — smelling the blood, no doubt — leaps out of the ocean, bites the businessman, and drags him out to sea. Then a bunch of other sharks fly by the fisherman and tear his face off piece by piece. The screen goes red. All have perished.
Wow. And what does that have to do with the rest of the movie?
Not a blessed thing.
I mean, it sets up the fact that there is a major storm coming that is capable of lifting sharks out of the sea and onto terra firma. But that whole thing about the shady business deal and potential Triad involvement in ocean-based nefarious activity? Never spoken of again. Purely for decoration.
So if neither of those guys is the bad guy in the movie, who is?
Bad guy? Son. This is, at the risk of repeating myself, a movie about weather things causing the ocean to send sharks catapulting through windows and manholes that are miles inland. No further antagonist needed. Yes, there are hilariously obnoxious characters who shout things like “It’s just a little water!” or “Come on. A shark can’t fly through that window,” but they are killed far too quickly and violently to be considered an actual “bad guy.” If you really, really want to stretch it, you could take the throwaway line from a weather report that “scientists agree the storm was caused by global warming” as the writer — whose name is, I am not joking, Thunder Levin — pinning the blame for everything on pollution and obstructive politicians, but that seems like a bit much to read into a film that ends with a man chainsawing himself out of a great white shark in a parking lot.
Sorry, I got ahead of myself there. I haven’t even told you about Fin and his shark-hating bartender yet.
Hold on. Hold on. The main character’s name is “Fin”? In a shark movie?
Sure is. Finley “Fin” Shepherd (played by Ian Ziering), owner of Fin’s Bar on the California Coast, which employs Nova, a tough female bartender who hates sharks and has a scar on her leg that she doesn’t talk about. (It is from a shark bite. It’s super obvious. You can see the teeth marks and everything.) Here are some other facts about Fin: He’s the best surfer anyone’s ever seen, and he’s the ex-husband of Tara Reid’s character, who lives in a huge house in the hills with their teenage daughter and her new pompous, insufferable beau.
So then the Sharknado comes?
No. Kind of. The big storm brings all the sharks to the shore, still in the water, and people start getting chomped up left and right, including Fin’s jet-ski riding friend, who survives with a leg wound. Everyone retreats to the bar, where they stay despite the fact that it (a) is right on the beach, (b) has a ton of exposed windows, and (c) is directly in the path of a hurricane that will cause water they know for a fact is filled with sharks to rush toward land. Long story short, a shark flies through the window and the bartender kills it by jamming a pool cue into its brain.
Settle down, buddy. We’re gonna get to 10 later. You’re gonna wanna hang back around a 7 for now so you have room to go up when the time comes.
Fair enough. So then what happens?
Well, basically there are only three things you need to know about the middle of the movie.
1) Fin, Nova, and two of his pals head out to check on Tara Reid (whose character presumably has a name, but that just ain’t happening) and spend a bunch of time dealing with flooding on the road. Remember how in 24 Jack Bauer would always be like “WE HAVE TO GET TO THE PLANETARIUM!” and he’d magically end up there moments later? Yeah, not Sharknado. For a movie about half-ton beasts from the sea being sucked into the stratosphere and deposited in people’s abdomens teeth first after torpedoing down from the heavens, it is surprisingly accurate about Southern California traffic.
Anyway, sharks are swimming by them, one tries to chew its way through their roof (and it should tell you a lot about this film that I am able to gloss over this in good conscience), etc. The most notable moment, however, comes when they all decide to get out and save people, and Fin’s drunk buddy (played by the dad from Home Alone) runs back to save someone’s dog.
BUT THEN HE GETS EATEN BY A SHARK!
Yup, and when he dies he makes these hilarious little “Ow” and “Owie!” noises that makes it sound more like he got stung by a dozen bees. It was great. Anyway…
2) They go to Tara Reid’s house to save her and Fin’s daughter, which is only really important because (a) a shark comes blasting out of a manhole and the bartender shoots it out of the sky with a shotgun, at which point most male members of the audience fell hopelessly in love with her; (b) Tara Reid’s a-hole new boyfriend gets eaten almost right away when a shark flies in the window; and (c) everyone has, like, really serious conversations about divorce and love and childrearing, all while sitting on the stairs overlooking a living room that is now filled with sharks and the blood of a man who used to live there. I love this movie.
Okay okay, quick. What’s the third thing? I wanna hear about the Sharknado.
3) While they’re all rolling out to look for Tara and Fin’s other kid, a son, they come across a schoolbus that is filled with children and surrounded by sharks. Fin wants to help, but Tara Reid is all — very Tara Reidly, I might add — “This is so typical of you, Fin. You care more about other people than your own family. Let’s go.” But Fin is like, “I can’t. The water’s rising. I’m gonna go up to the bridge and repel down.” AND HE DOES. BECAUSE HE HAS SPELUNKING EQUIPMENT IN HIS CAR. OBVIOUSLY.
He saves all the kids, and to be perfectly honest it’s not all that enthralling of a scene, but at the end there’s a moment where he’s trying to climb the rope back up to the bridge and a shark is chasing him, and the whole thing reminded me of this.
WHAT?! That’s Adam West as Batman, fighting off a shark while being towed up by a helicopter. He has a can of “Shark Repellent.” … No? Nothing? How old are you, anyway?
Oh Goddammit. Ask your parents the next time you see them.
Whatever. Can you please tell me about the Sharknado now?
Fine. Everyone eventually makes it to the airport where Fin’s son works (after their car blows up and they switch to a giant-ass Hummer that was just sitting around), which is next to a retirement home and a hardware/supply warehouse of some kind. And as they get there, off in the distance, they see the Sharknado a-brewin’. Strangely, they all just kind of stare at it for a while, with more of a “Oh, brother!” type of reaction than the “AAAHHH WHAT AHHH EVERYBODY RUN” one you’d expect. They decide to be proactive instead of sitting back and letting the Sharknado kill them, and Fin’s son comes up with a plan while he and the bartender are looking at flammable material in the warehouse, and this is the plan, and I am going to blockquote it:
“Instead of letting live sharks rain down on people, we’re gonna get in that chopper and throw bombs INTO the tornado, blasting those bastards to bits.”
Uh, they’re going to fly a helicopter into a tornado? Isn’t that maybe the worst idea possible?
Stop it. This is happening. People are about to fly into a tornado and huck bombs into it. You just need to accept that. And you also need to accept the fact that when Fin’s son pitched this idea to his parents and they said it was too dangerous, Nova the Bartnender piped up and was all “Don’t worry, I’ll go with him,” and that somehow made it okay, even though she had zero flying or bomb-throwing experience. Like I said, THIS. IS. HAPPENING.
Hey, speaking of Nova, did we ever find out about that scar on her leg?
We did! It turns out she survived a shark attack when she was seven, but her grandfather died trying to save her, so she’s hated sharks ever since.
Seems reasonable. Now back to this bombing-the-sharknado thing…
Actually, hang on. Quick digression. Remember how I said there was a retirement home near the airport?
Well, apparently the people at the home are completely oblivious to the full day of flooding and flying sharks (which seems like it would be a big deal, imo), because they are just chilling out at the pool when sharks start bombarding them. Fin runs over to save them, finds a great white in the pool, dumps maybe a half gallon of gasoline — max — into the water, tosses in a burning book of matches, and KABOOM.
He blew up their pool? Couldn’t he have just left the shark in there to die in the chlorinated water?
I said we weren’t doing that. Focus.
Also, this happens.
This movie seems pretty great.
It really is. Anyway, back to the chopper. Fin’s son and the bartender are up there flinging explosives into predator-filled tornadoes, and guess what? IT’S WORKING. They take out two of the tornadoes while Fin and crew remain on the ground firing bullets into the air to pick off sharks one by one. The tide appears to be turning in favor of mankind.
A shark attacks the chopper. In the process of trying to fight it off, and throw another bomb into a tornado, Nova the Bartender falls out of the helicopter and IS IMMEDIATELY SWALLOWED BY A DIFFERENT FLYING SHARK.
Why did they kill her? What kind of Game of Thrones bullsh*t is this?!
Oh man, just wait. You won’t even believe what happens next.
TELL ME TELL ME TELL ME.
The humans keep fighting the sharks on land and in the air, and continue to lose members of their ranks. (I should also mention here that the property damage in this movie is off the charts. There’s a scene in the beginning where a Ferris Wheel comes loose from the ground, rolls down the street, and crashes into a building. It’s glorious.) Low on bullets and in the path of an especially large descending shark, Fin grabs a chainsaw and JUMPS HEADFIRST INTO THE SHARK’S MOUTH.
AND THEN HE USES THE CHAINSAW TO CUT HIMSELF OUT OF THE SHARK’S STOMACH.
And then guess what happens.
I give up, what?
IT WAS THE SAME SHARK THAT SWALLOWED THE BARTENDER AND FIN PULLS HER OUT AND REVIVES HER.
For the God dang love of Pete. This movie.
I know. Believe me, I know. And after they emerge and the last Sharknado has stopped (because Fin drove a Hummer full of bombs into it, obvs), the survivors look out over the carnage, and the movie ends. And when it ends, obviously, the word Fin appears on the screen.
That’s perfect. I have to see this movie.
You really do.
One last question: Who was your favorite character in Sharknado? Fin, Nova the Bartender, Tara Reid?
My favorite character in this movie, by a mile, was the female reporter who was on location at the beach during the storm and opened her segment by saying “This is Jonni Waves WITH AN ‘I,'” then was promptly devoured by a flying shark. I just love that in the midst of a Sharknado — with sharks swirling all around her — she still was incredibly concerned that people got the spelling of her name right. That fascinates me. I hope they make a prequel about her.
Fantastic. I’ll set my DVR.
And I’ll be updating my resume and sending it to the Asylum, the production company behind Sharknado, because…
Last fall, the Asylum pushed out Golden Winter, in which talking puppies save Christmas. This spring, it started production on Holiday Heist, a slight permutation—adult talking dogs save Christmas. “Goofy traps. Silly puffs of flour and hot sauce. Cute dogs. Lots of cute dogs,” says the film’s 25-year-old line producer, Devin Ward. “Six- to eight-year-olds will love it.”
Campy action movies about shark-filled tornadoes and children’s movies about talking dogs saving Christmas? Sign me up.
GIFs via Chet Manley and @WorldofIsaac