SHARKNADO **** USA 2013 Dir: Anthony C Ferrante. 86 mins
The Asylum’s monopoly on the market for high-concept low-budget monster movies reached its apex with this hybrid of knowing killer-shark horror and Hollywood disaster movie. SHARKNADO plays out like an amped up extension of the more serious BAIT and wastes no time in fulfilling its poster by offering a “sharknado” in its very first sequence. It also wisely gets its cast to play it dead-pan straight, despite the fact that, at the half-hour mark, drunken lech John Heard is bludgeoning a shark with a bar stool before shouting “Ow! Get off me!” as raining-sharks spell his doom. Elsewhere, one poor bastard is squished by a falling letter from the Hollywood sign, sharks swim down flooded streets and a runaway carnival big wheel causes mayhem. The standard-issue disaster movie character tensions are largely minimised in favour of frenetic, frequent shark action, in contrast to the shark-lite movie that started all of this, MEGA SHARK VS GIANT OCTOPUS. Ian Ziering has an appealing stoic Bruce Campbell quality as surf-legend hero “Fin” (“If it’s one thing I know, it’s timing waves…”) while an unflatteringly shot Tara Reid seals her later career in Z-movies as his ex-wife. Ultimately, it’s far more entertaining than most $200 million movies, and beyond criticism since it delivers everything we could possibly expect, including insane comic asides like the hapless bystander who has his arm, leg and head destroyed by three different sharks, one after the other. The climax provides a shark-movie benchmark, as Fin is swallowed whole by a falling shark, from which he proceeds to exit via a chainsaw, while also rescuing a key character who happened to have just been eaten by that particular shark!!
SHARKNADO 2: THE SECOND ONE **** USA 2014 Dir: Anthony C Ferrante. 95 mins
Opening with a cute pastiche of the classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode “Nightmare At 30,000 Feet” (invaded by homages to AIRPLANE!), the sequel to Sy-Fy’s surprise hit sees hero Ian Ziering – author of self help book How To Survive A Sharknado – landing a plummeting, shark-hit plane to safety before pestering the authorities to prepare for the Sharknado that’s about to hit the Big Apple. Estranged wife Tara Reid gets her arm chewed off and Tiffany Shepis loses her face before sharks hit the subway, behead the Statue of Liberty and even invade a Mets game. Meanwhile, the weather forecasts ominously predict “These sharks could be coming down at two inches per hour!” Like its predecessor, this insanely paced follow-up manages to be self-conscious in a loveable (rather than irritating) way, with Ziering amusingly channelling Bruce Campbell again while wielding an over-sized chainsaw (“Sweet!”) and a huge sense of production value provided by the location filming on the streets of bustling New York City. Just when you think it might run out of lunatic ideas, the movie keeps going, with astonishing sequences of New Yorkers hurling live chainsaws in the air, Tara Reid reinvented as an action hero via a circular saw strapped to her stump (like a B & Q version of Machine Girl) and the most insane marriage proposal in movie history. Among the many pop-culture cameos are Billy Ray Cyrus, Perez Hilton and even Kelly Osbourne, though funnier than any of these is the theme song “I’m Gonna Take A Bite Out Of This Big Apple (Before It Takes A Bite Out Of Me)”.
SHARKNADO 3: OH HELL NO! *** USA 2015 Dir: Anthony C Ferrante. 88 mins
SHARKNADO 3 is so endearing and eager to please that we can forgive the series being on the brink of goodwill-extinction, particularly given the barrage of intentionally-silly similar hybrids like LAVALANTULA and THREE HEADED SHARK ATTACK. The nuttiest entry so far, its tone is set by the Bond-pastiche title sequence (with stalwart hero Ziering wielding his trademark chainsaw) and by an pre-titles sequence in which much of Washington is destroyed, Ziering slides down corridors of the White House firing a machine gun in each hand and the President gets to say “This time it’s personal”. The now-pregnant Tara Reid is in Orlando with their teen daughter just as a “Sharknado Wall” forms down the entire East Coast, creating what the TV news dubs the “Feast Coast”. Although a lot of the sports / US TV references will be lost on viewers outside America, part 3 offers more winking cameos than before, including the Python-esque multiple dismemberment of shark-fighting warrior Frankie Muniz. Bo Derek and David Hasselhoff (NASA Colonel / Perve / World-Saver) are engagingly sincere, while Jerry Springer and George R R Martin are among the many celebrity victims. Incredibly ambitious at this budget level, the third entry is spirited and never dull, with a particularly splendid assault on Universal Studios providing Sharks On A Rollercoaster. In another cinematic first, a woman gives birth inside a shark, while Ziering gets swallowed whole for the third consecutive movie. The open-ended punchline promising resolution in SHARKNADO 4 (“Cos we’re not done yet!”) may be pushing the joke too far too soon, but you’d have to be a humourless bastard to not enjoy this spirited flick as much as its predecessors.
A mock-STAR WARS opening crawl (and stolen font) justifies the punning title of this fourth go-round, in which a revolutionary pulse technology halting sharknado formation has resulted in five destruction-free years. This is rudely ended when a sand-based sharknado hits Vegas (“to be exact, a sharksandnado”), where Finn (Ian Ziering) is coincidentally enjoying some R n R. Tara Reid, her franchise survival dependent on a viewer vote at the end of SHARKNADO 3, is resurrected in a superhuman, bionic fashion like a low-budget X MEN character, and she’s surrounded by the usual array of winking cameos. Lloyd Kaufman shows up just to say “Nuke ‘em high!”, Steve Guttenberg returns the favour of Ziering’s appearance in LAVALANTULA, Gary Busey is unsurprisingly off his tits and wearing a white coat as Reid’s mad-scientist Dad, and there’s a naff BAYWATCH joke involving a mini-reunion for its aged starlets. For true sadists, Carrot Top and Jedward also turn up. With ideas running dry for actual “sharknado” mayhem, the movie resorts to an underwhelming series of spin-off “nados”, though the unassuming “Twinenado” is admittedly amusing. Creative desperation leads the script to devolve into laugh-free and random parodies of everything from APOCALYPSE NOW to CHRISTINE, and there’s even an extended sketch effectively serving as a sequel to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE PART 2, with Caroline Williams gamely – but pointlessly – reprising her role as “Stretch”. As always, it’s frenetically paced, and gleefully trashes various states and cities – including the Grand Canyon and San Diego Comic Con – before an extended Niagara Falls finale in which multiple characters survive being eaten. It’s still likeable and intermittently funny, but the goodwill is starting to be genuinely tested at this point…
SHARKNADO 5: GLOBAL SWARMING ** USA 2017 Dir: Anthony C Ferrante. 87 mins
The fifth SHARKNADO movie in as many years, this follows the Bond title sequence pastiche of SHARKNADO 3 with a 20 minute (!) pre-titles sequence set in London, where tireless heroes Ian Ziering and Tara Reid are at MI6 for a strategy meeting to protect Europe from an imminent ‘nado. The lame Bond jokes and disturbing appearances from Samantha Fox, Louie Spence and the Good Morning Britain presenters are balanced with some groan-worthy Stonehenge-based guff about Druids and the “Shark God”. Ian Ziering’s Finn and Tara Reid – who throws a helicopter into the Thames and acts like a FANTASTIC FOUR audition reject – set off on a film-long bid to rescue their annoying son Gill from the sharknado as the phenomenon spreads around the entire globe. Although the various references to AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (including a David Naughton cameo) are endearing, most of this movie’s pop culture nods are either obvious (“Make America great again!”) or as random and witless as the SCARY MOVIE series (“jokes” about POKEMON, MONTY PYTHON, BACK TO THE FUTURE, et al). Ziering commendably maintains his deadpan disposition while Reid is upgraded into what looks like an 80’s sexbot too disturbing to mass-produce, and international stereotypes abound, complete with an inevitable Godzilla gag in the Tokyo scenes. Despite some admittedly bravura Switzerland-set insanity set to The Offspring’s “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, and some astonishingly bizarre casting (Fabio as The Pope, Charo as The Queen), the film shows the strain of an over-exposed gimmick. It’s somewhat sad to see Olivia Newton John showing up and given song lyrics from her heyday masquerading as dialogue, though it’s tough to dislike any movie that cheerfully wipes out the entire world before a left-field ending involving Dolph Lundgren’s best shit-eating grin.
THE LAST SHARKNADO: IT’S ABOUT TIME * USA 2018 Dir: Anthony C Ferrante. 86 mins
Sheer goofy enthusiasm kept the SHARKNADO franchise going through the first few entries, despite the fact that the joke had been exhausted by the end of the original and no one you ever met admitted to enjoying any of them past part three. One-time Fangoria writer Ferrante stayed loyal to the series and directed all, including this sixth and final installment – while original writer Thunder Levin surrendered after four, passing the torch to ZOOMBIES / ZOMBIE TIDAL WAVE scribe Scotty Mullen. Alas, goodwill was, at some stage, replaced by a growing obnoxiousness and THE LAST SHARKNADO is, simply, an excruciating follow-up to the merely very annoying SHARKNADO 5: GLOBAL SWARMING.
You still have to admire Ian Ziering, here briefly interacting with his old 90210 co-star Tori Spelling (whose cameo is as welcome as a new Covid strain), who gives his all as indefatigable hero Fin, sent back to prehistoric Earth following the shock / boring twist at the end of the previous picture and joining returning sidekicks Nova (Cassandra Scerbo), Bryan (Judah Friedlander) and wife April (Tara Reid). Early jokes are recycled from THE FLINTSTONES. Bryan talks about being eaten and pooped out by dinosaurs, all of them ride on a pterodactyl and Fin says “I’m gonna need a bigger chainsaw” for what feels like (but isn’t) the twelfth time in the franchise. Their mission to stop the first sharknado (and, thus, stop them all) leads to imprisonment at Merlin’s castle courtesy of Morgana (a grating Alaska Thunderfuck), alongside encounters with Caesar, Muhammad Ali, Marie Antoinette, Confucius, Amelia Earhart – and a miserably unfunny western interlude with Dee Snider.
Overwhelmed with listless, ugly green screen “action” and alarmingly light on either sharks or sharknados, this desperate final trip to the well has a more irritating line-up of cameos than usual. Most of the guest stars will mean fuck all to non-American viewers, though it’s admittedly reassuring to realise that neither Bo Derek or Gary Busey are dead…while depressing to see the excellent John Heard (who died in between the last two SHARKNADO films) in footage from the original awkwardly inserted into new scenes here. Though scenes of a D.O.A. Tara Reid carrying her own head around in a bag and shooting lasers from her eyes should be a low point, here they are surpassed in uselessness by Gilbert Gottfried shouting his cameo and LaToya Jackson showing up as Cleopatra, with all the appeal of a sweating Prince Andrew popping in for your daughter’s 16th birthday party.
The “jokes” rely on endless quotes from films you’d much rather be watching: THE PRINCESS BRIDE, THE WIZARD OF OZ, BACK TO THE FUTURE, ALIENS, etc. The one glimmer of hope is the title itself: let’s hope they stay true to its promise.
Reviews by Steven West
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