This Syfy original movie has a brilliant premise–tornadoes are forming over the ocean, sucking sharks up into the air and flinging them all over, very much alive and very hungry–but it’s the execution that makes this film a thoroughly enjoyable and ridiculous classic. Sharknado is a creature feature that believes in itself almost uncompromisingly from start to finish, and its incredible successes in pacing and action make the movie an unbelievable ride I would have been impressed with even in a theater.
What was this movie called?
After the movie opens with a ton of sharks immediately being swept up into a waterspout, it showcases some questionable dealings aboard a boat, complete with a gun standoff … which is unceremoniously interrupted. You might guess how. Following that, an opening title montage set to some pretty decent rock music showcases lots of laid-back surfers and jiggling beach girls. A storm rolls in, and of course, some surfers are still going out. Likewise, guess what happens? This scene is good at setting up suspense, though, even if some of the camera movements and transitions feel so quick as to seem unfocused. While the same can’t be said about everyone and everything in this film, the actors and special effects at least seem like they’re trying, and the visuals at least remain passable throughout. The cheap explosions earn a chuckle or two, but the bloody and absurd fates of so many sharks, sometimes with chainsaws and shotguns involved, are utterly hilarious.
The real issue here is that while the film’s opening is pretty effective at bringing the sharks, that’s all it seems to do at first, as the strong winds that are also in the movie’s name don’t have a big appearance early on. In the meantime the movie displays some guilty pleasures of slow-motion kills, along with goofy glimpses of a girl’s chest bouncing while she’s running down steps, while the film plays out as a sincerely intended if creatively lacking shark movie. Sharknado establishes a simple but fine plot involving hero and separated father Fin (yes, seriously) and a number of his friends and family members, and while the film takes a while to really make good on both parts of its premise, the pacing it does maintain feels just right. Certainly at the very least, a shark gets whacked with a bar stool, and another does indeed end up having an oxygen tank detonated in its mouth.
It takes a bit to get going, but it moves right along.
The coastal storms get worse and begin to cause heavy flooding. The resulting escape sequence, quite an impressive sight, is held back only by some odd, almost country-sounding music. Sharks swim by the dozens in the flooded streets, and this leads to a really interesting moment of suspense where a shark ends up under a car as opposed to another surfer. The various characters occupy an acceptable medium, being neither important nor particularly annoying, but they are smarter than a number of other geniuses who run around in the open streets, not expecting any further flooding. This does allow for a surprisingly well done race-against-the-clock lifesaving sequence, even if the special effects (especially the backdrops) and the acting seem like they start to slip a little.
The important thing, however, is that this movie always leaves the impression that something important is happening, whether to develop the characters, for what they’re worth, or to keep the action coming. Shortly thereafter this film brings out one of its first (of many) insane and awesome moments, and it must not be missed: Sharknado truly begins to embrace itself, bit by wonderful bit.
And then it becomes its own kind of extraordinary.
Fin is a remarkably noble character who works to save an entire school bus full of children: wherever he happened to get rappelling equipment, it’s awesome, as are the proceeding rescue scenes. These in their own way serve to develop the characters at least a little more: who is self-centered and concerned for their own survival, and who is willing to risk all to help others in need? Moments like this are straightforward but definitely welcome. And it’s around this point that I realize something: this movie could have wasted my time with unlikable characters, stupid decisions, or bad pacing. It does none of these things. The acting and effects are not the pinnacle of the industry, but this in my opinion is most definitely a film that respects and appreciates the viewer’s time and is more than happy to return the favor with plenty of thrills.
Yes, sharknadoes eventually do appear, and they are amazing. This movie knows what it is meant for, and it delivers as numerous tornadoes suck dozens if not hundreds of sharks right out of the water and fling them all over the place. For some strange reason the movie brings in a short cop chase, which thankfully doesn’t last too long. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang (now including a hilarious shopkeeper who thinks all of this is one big government conspiracy), has managed to arm themselves and make a plan that’s every bit as gleefully bizarre and awesome as so much else here is: they will drop bombs into tornadoes from a helicopter to blast the sharks and equalize the wind temperatures.
Sharknado doesn’t so much “fulfill” its potential as it leaps into it with a lover’s passion: complete with a tragic backstory and cheesy music, this movie speeds toward its memorable conclusion by showcasing sharks being chainsawed, bombed, and shot as they land in swimming pools and explode on power lines. When the action is over-the-top, it becomes ludicrous, and when the acting is bad, it becomes glorious. This movie has one of the most ridiculously awesome endings I have ever seen–Men in Black, anyone?–and it’s a perfect conclusion to this film’s gory and embarrassingly enjoyable thrills.
This movie has no business being half as great as it is.
I likely never would have watched this film if not for all the social-media buzz I kept seeing, but this film deserves the attention it gets. Even when it ceases to be convincing, it never ceases to be fun, and it rarely if ever takes itself seriously. Sharknado comes as an excellent way to spend an hour and a half that I would have never expected from a “Syfy original” (the last I watched did have awful characters, action, and pacing), but my highest compliment about this movie is that it is truly enjoyable–not in spite of what it is but because of what it is. If you want simple fun delivered awesomely, see this film now.