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July 25, 2013

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The Twitterverse makes stupidest film ever a hit

By the time this article goes to print, every joke that can be made about “Sharknado” will have already been told. Patton Oswalt was tearing it to pieces on Twitter before the show aired and by the time 9 p.m. rolled around on that Thursday, the SyFy original movie had become something of a Twitter event. Suffice to say, “Sharknado” shot to cult status almost immediately, just based on the title alone. Snark-inducing reactions to movie titles have happened before—it wasn’t too long ago that Samuel L. Jackson spent an hour and half shouting during “Snakes on a Plane,” setting the Internet a-titter with its usual acerbic wit and back-of-the-classroom heckling.  But that was a major motion picture with a wide release and one legitimate star—not to mention that the acting and direction were passable and the effects weren’t overwhelmingly bad.

“Sharknado” has none of these things. To be honest, I’m not sure that the filmmakers wanted them. SyFy seems to have taken over where direct-to-video productions left off. These movies aren’t made for quality. They are made to capitalize on absurdity.  

“Sharknado” was made by The Asylum. Anyone who has worked in a video store is familiar with the titles released by this company. More than once during my time at Blockbuster Video did I have to deal with complaints from customers who failed to read the cover of their selection carefully. The Asylum makes direct-to-DVD knockoff movies of popular blockbusters with slightly different titles. For instance, instead of “Transformers,” The Asylum releases “Transmorphers.” “The Day The Earth Stood Still” becomes “The Day The Earth Stopped.” “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea” becomes “30,000 Leagues Under The Sea.”  They drive sales and rentals by confusion. In all honesty, it’s a brilliant business strategy. “Sharknado” is different only because it was financed by the SyFy network and it managed to get some D-list actors with former name recognition and enough desperation for a paycheck to absently blunder through the set pieces. Tara Reid is the most obvious example—most will remember her from the “American Pie” films and from her inability to keep a dress on on the red carpet. But there are some others that also make an appearance. John Heard took some time out of his busy schedule of staring at a picture of Macaulay Culkin and listening to Harry Chapin too convincingly play a drunk. The hero of the film was none other Ian Ziering, former student at West Beverly Hills High, and the only actor in the film to at least half-heartedly commit to a role. Hopefully “Sharknado” will give him enough exposure to return to daytime television.

As for the overall film, “Sharknado” gives the audience exactly what it wants in the first few minutes. There is, indeed, a powerful waterspout sucking deadly sharks into its winds bearing down on Southern California.  The CGI/stock-footage sharks take to their roles as antagonists eagerly, eating as many people as they can while flying through the air, not once showing any sort of surprise that they are suddenly swimming in the middle of the freeway or being thrown into a living room. Maybe their brief time flying over the Left Coast opened them up to new experiences. The toothy weather event is the real star of the film, and gets enough screen time to make it worthwhile. It’s entertaining enough—as long as you can fast forward through the occasional scenes of insipid dialogue. If there isn’t a shark or a chainsaw on screen, it’s probably safe to go to the bathroom.  

This film garnered 1.7 million viewers for the SyFy Network—which would be dismal for a typical network show—but for SyFy it’s like “American Idol.” The reaction on Twitter, especially from people like Patton Oswalt and Mia Farrow, has paid off.  SyFy has already announced a sequel and is hosting a contest to name it.  Damon Lindoff is even threatening to write it for them. Just like in reality television, stupidity (masquerading here as camp) sells. I just hope that SyFy gets off sharks as movie monsters. There are plenty of horror movie monsters, like the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (!), that could use a reboot.  I, for one, would rather see a guy in a rubber mask than more bad CGI.  

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July 25, 2013

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