‘Sharknado’ sets new low


  • Man-eating sharks swept up in hurricane-spawned water spouts and deposited in a flooded Los Angeles, where they chomp residents.

    Yes, Sharknado is as stupid as it sounds.

    Nevertheless, the Syfy Channel’s original movie premiered July 11 to decent ratings and enough Twitter interest that it was rebroadcast a week later, and airs again at 9 p.m.Saturday as part of the network’s all-day “Shark-A-Thon,” which can be seen locally on Buckeye CableSystem channel 61.

    Sharknado even landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated as part of the headline, “The Playoff-Bound Pirates and Their Sharknado Bullpen.”

    So congratulations, Sharknadoyou are now part of the summer, 2013, lexicon, including a magazine piece about a surging baseball team.

    But if legendary bad filmmaker Ed Wood is rolling in his grave at this made-for-cable minor phenomenon — and he’s not, since his cremated remains were released into the sea — it’s not out of professional jealousy.

    Rather, it’s in frustration over how such an idiotic, ill-conceived premise could garner such attention. And this is the writer-director who gave us Plan 9 From Outer Space, considered among the worst of the worst films ever made.

    Based on concept alone, Sharknado would seem like the kind of C-grade movie that Wood would have made had he the same technology, budget, and washed-up star, Tara Reid, at his disposal. But this is a movie so intentionally bad it’s unfit even for Wood, the visionary hack behind Glen or Glenda and Bride of the Monster.

    Wood was an aspiring auteur hampered by low budgets, studio forces, and, of course, a thorough lack of filmmaking skill; his primary talents were persistence and optimism, not artistic competence. But Wood loved movies. He loved making movies. He just failed at making good or even average movies.

    Plan 9, an alien invasion movie involving zombies and vampires, was, like most of Wood’s early work, a film born of noble intent. It just so happens that, despite Wood’s best efforts, the film is terrifically awful.

    Sharknado, though, is deliberately bad, with no pretense of being anything else. It aspires to camp. And that’s the funny thing about camp: earnest almost always trumps irony.

    Rarely does a deliberately bad film find life as a cult classic, with The Rocky Horror Picture Show being a major exception. And even then it took the comedy-musical several years before it caught on as a midnight movie staple. More often, it’s precisely a film’s lack of self-awareness as to how horrible it is that audience’s embrace.

    While Sharknado dominated Twitter conversations, the movie brought in an audience of only 1.3 million for its premiere, a total number of viewers smaller than those who tuned in for less-hyped Syfy classics Battledogs and Chupacabra vs. the Alamo earlier this year. In essence, viewers didn’t buy the hype. It’s a similar tale of pre-Twitter cultural phenomenon Snakes on a Plane, which, like Sharknado, also features a self-explanatory title.

    The trailers for the 2006 film had audiences delirious for the campy man vs. snakes action. Star Samuel L. Jackson’s line, “I have had it with these [expletive] snakes on this [expletive] plane” was a quotable classic before the film was in theaters. And in a wag-the-dog moment, the movie’s final trailer seized upon all the pre-release media hype as a reason for moviegoers to see it.

    Based on all the attention, Snakes on a Plane looked to be huge. Except, it wasn’t. It barely broke even at the domestic box office with $34 million and has largely been forgotten. Hence no Snakes on Another Plane or More Snakes, More Planes. Syfy did announce a Sharknado sequel to premiere next year.

    Noted French filmmaker and critic François Truffaut once famously stated, “There are no good or bad films, only good or bad directors.”

    But Truffaut never had to sit through Sharknado.

    Contact Kirk Baird at or 419-724-6734.