I wasn’t really sure how to go about reviewing this one because this film, overall, defies genre classification. It’s not horror, sci-fi, or dystopian. It’s in its own genre of natural disaster/shark film. It’s a beautiful amalgam of shitty graphics, one-liners, and abismal writing only Syfy can make as popular as this series.
Notes before I hit play: Before I watched this movie, I’d try to review the first one. I deemed it “too good” to review like some others I’ve tried before. Unless a movie makes me groan, sigh, or question my life within the first ten minutes, I generally won’t continue watching it and move on to something like 47 Meters Down or Sabrina. But now that I’ve switched gears a bit and am reviewing series instead of individual movies, I’ve decided this was a good place to pick up.
I’d heard from multiple sources that I was going to enjoy this movie. Kim from People are Wild, Courtney from Cult of Domesticity, and Alison from Calling Darkness all told me it would be a rollercoaster, so before I watched it I had high hopes. I didn’t know what it was about, so I essentially went in with low expectations.
Synopsis: Fin, immortal ex pro surfer, rock climber, and chainsaw wielder takes on the heroic role of saving LA from a tornado full of sharks with his team of misfits including his ex wife, a bartender with a mysterious past, an old drunk, and an Aussie who speaks in one liners.
I didn’t hate it, like, at all. In fact, I think it’s glorious. However, it’s no Zombeavers and definitely had some aspects to it that I wasn’t a fan of. The movie begins with a scene I had to watch twice to understand. Two men sit across from each other in the lower deck of a fishing boat. On the upper deck lie several shark bodies insinuating the men are fishermen. I had to watch this scene twice because I was distracted by the tackle box full of money the first time around to suss out the dialogue that went down.
The second time I watched it, I realized the issue was that the man giving us the main plot of the film had a thick accent that made hearing what he was saying almost impossible. From what I think I heard, he stated there was a large migration of sharks on it’s way to his fishing area, so he wanted 1 million dollars to catch some to sell for meat. The business man across from him wanted to pay half that amount. Suffice it to say, things don’t go well and everyone dies.
Next thing we know, we’re at a beach, lightly speckled with people. The movie then overtly introduces the main characters. First up, we’ve got Fin. He’s an ex pro surfer who owns a seaside bar and has an ex wife and two kids he doesn’t like to talk about. We find out as the movie goes on that he’s also equipped with plot armor forged by the same blacksmith Jon Snow used. Fin’s best friend is an Aussie dude named Baz, his purpose in the film is to deliver cheesy one liners and repeat the things Fin says with an Australian accent. We also meet Nova, a bartender with a mysterious scar she often lies about, and George, the drunk who’s always at the bar and always trying to grab Nova’s ass. He’s gross.
As Fin and Baz are surfing one day, they realize the swells are getting intense, so, like surfers do, they head further out into the water. Once a young girl the men gawked at on the beach moments before is torn to shreds by a shark, alarm bells go off in Fin’s brain. He, floating with his board in the middle of the ocean, sees hundreds of shark fins rise from the water and head towards the shore. Rather than go for the easy meal in deep water, the sharks use the two feet of water beach goers are standing in to attack. There’s soon a massacre on shore. Sharks fly out of the water, Baz is attacked on his jet-ski, and some of the worst special effects I’ve ever seen flash across the screen.
Once the attack on the beach subsides, people run for cover, most of which into Fin’s bar. Fin makes a call to his wife April played by none other than the one, the only, Tara Reid. April and Fin’s daughter Claudia live in Beverly Hills. There, it’s only raining, but as Fin soon states, the ocean is flooding, so drastic measures must be taken.
The bar is evacuated moments before it’s destroyed only after our rag tag group of three men and Nova grab weapons and escape to Fin’s car.
The streets are flooded, sharks swim freely past stop signs, and to make matters worse, George keeps hitting on Nova in the small, enclosed space of Fin’s car. This is one of the things I wasn’t too thrilled with in the film. Nova is a complex character, probably the most interesting one in the movie, but she’s continually referred to as a sex object, a stripper, and someone just dying to get into Fin’s pants. Besides April and Claudia, she’s the only woman in the main cast and is hit on for the first half of the movie. As the movie goes on, she’s depicted as the bravest of the group, willing to throw bombs into tornadoes and strong enough to move on from a terrible past with a new name. This would be great if, in the end, she didn’t have to wait on a man to save her from the bowels of a sky shark and then fall for his son.
Back to the story. So the group goes to April’s house to save her and Claudia because apparently Fin’s family is the only one that matters. When Fin arrives, he’s greeted by April’s new boyfriend Collin. Collin is a douche. Collin gets eaten by a shark that flies through the window on a wave even though the rest of the house hasn’t flooded yet and they’re on a hill. As the group chats about how to get out, April reveals that Fin’s son, Matt is at the air base nearby. Without his knowledge, his son took up flight school…or something. Anyway, as the group escapes to find him, the house succumbs to the waves and they drive off towards the air base.
When they get there, they find Matt and some of his colleagues chillin’ in a closet and hiding from a storm, although when they get out, someone asks what’s going on, so it’s possible the team interrupted a very intense game of 7 minutes in heaven. No one knows.
The tornado follows soon after and, although one woman is sucked through a skylight, a flimsy aluminum door held tight in the fist of our main character is enough to keep the group safe. The storm passes and as it rips through the rest of the town.
In the interim between this moment and the final scenes of the film, we learn that Nova’s scar was actually from…and I know you didn’t see this coming…a shark attack. When she was younger, she was rescued from a shark attack by her grandfather who wasn’t so lucky. This then cements in place her catchphrase “I really hate sharks.”
Long story short, from this point on, with the exception of a very odd scene that makes little to no sense in which Fin rescues some kids from a school bus, the team splits up. Matt and Nova head into the sky, right next to the sharknado. Their plan is to throw bombs into the vortex to regulate the mix of cold and warm air, not giving a fuck about what it might mean for their town to have shark missiles headed towards their homes once it’s dispersed.
During the melee Baz is killed by a flying shark, Fin and April stare into the sky helplessly, and Nova is eaten by a shark in the sharknado while trying to kill another shark that’s biting their helicopter.
Of course, we can’t leave well enough alone at this point. The helicopter lands after running out of tornado diffusing bombs, Matt reunites with his family, and Fin, being the hero we all know and love takes Baz’s bomb truck that he’d planned to drive into the tornado if the helicopter thing didn’t work. Of course, because it’s Fin, he drives the thing right into the center, it explodes, and the sharks rain down, free from their swirling fun.
One of the sharks flies towards Claudia, and to prove that he does, in fact, care about his daughter, he grabs a chainsaw, shoves her aside, and is swallowed whole, chainsaw and all.
Silence falls over the group as they watch in horror as Fin is digested in the bowels of the sky shark. Until…..
Fin rips through the rubbery flesh in the most extravagant use of special effects ever. Not only does he pop out of the shark, but he goes back in and drags none other than Nova out into the light who is, by some miracle, is completely unharmed.
Never mind that the man entered the shark with a roaring chainsaw. Never mind that there could have been thousands of sharks in that sharknado and the one that happened to attack Fin was also the one that ate Nova. Never mind any of that, because as soon as Nova is brought out of the shark’s belly, Matt runs over to save her. He gives her shitty mouth-to-mouth and she chokes up water for some reason. Maybe she was supposed to have been drowning in there. No one knows.
They all live happily ever after and stare into the stormy skyline as the movie fades to black. Ignoring the devastation around them to continue in the next film…I assume, at least.
This movie made absolutely no sense. None, at all, and I think that’s why it’s so amazing. It defies explanation, so you have no choice but to cling to the meager storyline in order to find out what happens next. It’s one of those so-bad-it’s-still-bad movies, but it works and I can see why people love it so much.
Overall, I loved the cheesy use of pointless stock footage, I loved the characters- both immortal and otherwise. I loved the shitty CGI, the water being there one second and being gone the next, the inconsistent geography. I loved it all. However, there were a few things I thought this movie could do without. One being the overt flirting between Nova and literally everyone. I mentioned this before, so I won’t harp on it again, but yeah. Not a fan. Also, I wish there had been a little more focus on the relationship between Fin and April. I didn’t care enough about the characters because the movie was so focused on the sharknado aspect, it felt like any emotion or formation of relationships was forced and only included to relieve stress and tension from the storm and give Fin a well-rounded character when, in fact, he’s not at all as interesting as Nova.
I fucking loved this movie and I can’t wait to watch the rest.
Year Released/Director: 2013, Anthony C. Ferrante
Rating: Not Terrible
Favorite Death: There’s this part where one of the kids from Matt’s flying school is tossed to the ground by a flying shark who takes his arm with him. Another shark (or possibly the same one, who’s to say) starts chomping away at his leg. Meanwhile, he’s screaming, spitting blood, and trying to free himself. Just when you think he’s succumbed to his injury, a hammerhead falls from the sky and squashes him. It’s beautiful.
Funniest Part: Gosh, this is a tricky one. I really liked the part where Collin says that the emergency services are second to none when Fin shows up at April’s house. The two are arguing about whether or not to leave. Collin wants to wait, Fin doesn’t. So the two get into a shouting match that ends with Collin getting eaten. That part made me bust out laughing.
A close second would be the school bus scene. It truly shows the nature of Fin’s character. He sees a school bus chillin’ in some rushing water as the team is headed towards the air base. There’s no indication from the outside that there are kids inside, but Fin takes the time to stop anyway. He repels down the side of the bridge, because, you know, he’s got that gear with him at all times. One by one he saves the children with no plans for how to keep them safely away from the impending sharknado they would have been spared from had they stayed in the bus. Finally, he saves the teacher who delivers some of the worst lines in the film as he’s being rescued.
What they did right: Hah. I don’t know that this category makes much sense for this movie. Really, they did everything and nothing right at the same time. From the tackle box filled with money to chain-sawing a shark in half mid-air to repetitive use of shitty stock footage, it was a masterpiece and a dumpster fire all at the same time.
Thoughts from Interviews:
The interviews for the first movie weren’t exactly traditional. A few livestreams from dudes’ basements, some off-red carpet interviews, an acceptance speech or two. Not like what we’ve dealt with in the past.
It seems like this movie completely blew up on Twitter one day after it aired on SyFy as an original series. Little did the actors and crew know, but that would seal it’s fate as a meme for the rest of eternity.
I think the director put it best when he said “it’s a first, and I still don’t know what that first was, but it’s a game changer and it’s great this happened to us.”
With a film like this you know there’s going to be loads of trivia. I’ll pick my favorites from the scores posted on IMDB.
The movie was shot in only 18 days and had an estimated budget of one million dollars.
Steve Guttenberg was offered the lead role of Fin Shepard, but turned it down. When the film became a cult hit, Guttenberg regretted it to the point that he accepted a role in Syfy’s Lavalantula (2015), a movie about giant fire-breathing tarantulas that attack Los Angeles.
Ian Ziering openly admitted in interview that he disliked the script, but agreed to star in the film anyway for financial reasons. He was about to become a father for the second time, and needed to make a certain amount of money within the calendar year, in order to qualify for Screen Actors Guild health insurance.
Tara Reid’s character’s house was a combination of three locations. The wide effects shots of it raining and sinking, were done with a house found on the side of a street. When the car drives up, and the heroes get out, it’s a mansion with rain towers set up for the storm effect, and then the interiors were a set built in a pool, so it could be flooded.
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