Originally posted on February 2nd, 2017.
Look, I know these movies are supposed to be ridiculous as shit, but I firmly believe that Sharknado: The 4th Awakens is the death knell for the once watchably-schlocky series.
None of these movies are worth scholarly, comprehensive criticism, but the phenomenon of “so-bad-it’s-good” versus “just plain bad” is worth examining. See, the first film was pretty much like any other high concept SyFy film; yeah it was dumb and unapologetic, but it still basically tried to be a film. Even though it became this massive “hit,” I think what a lot of people fail to realize is that it was made like any other P.O.S. SyFy movie. I mean there’s nothing wrong with liking Mega Python vs. Gatoroid or Mansquito but let’s be honest about what they are – high concept schlock made on a shoestring budget. And that’s all Sharknado was. Why did it catch on? It’s hard to say.
My thought is that it was simply seen by enough people. All it takes nowadays for something to go viral is a tweet or two from the right influential people, and boom, instant exposure. It’s very possible these days for a single tweet or like or share to be the difference between “just another random piece of internet fodder” and “next big thing (for 15 minutes – or less).”
Popularity points aside, there are plenty of B-movies better than Sharknado. It does have a few things going for it though. The acting, while uneven, isn’t completely awful and the most cringeworthy parts seem to be the result of an unnatural script rather than a failure of acting talent. Another plus is that it attempts to take itself somewhat seriously. It’s stupid, but also shameless. And let me be clear, when it comes to low budget film making, there is a difference between between being fun and shameless, and then being outright self-deprecating. As the series wears on, it pokes fun at itself with reckless abandon and gets a little too comfortable with the self-referential shit. What’s worse is that it never really breaks any new ground behind the “sharks falling from the sky” concept, nor does it use its newfound fame to do something like hire a better scriptwriter or spring for some help in the FX department.
Getting back to what specifically makes The 4th Awakens such a travesty captured on celluloid, let’s take a quick look at the plethora of “-nados” featured. Actually, it might’ve been sortta cool if they’d spent more than 2 seconds on them:
I mean…I just…fuck.
Tommy Davidson plays some kind of corporate mogul science guy in the most annoying way possible, and all the while the film vacillates between portraying him as a sketchy businessman and a courageous do-gooder. It’s confusing. Plus he delivers one of the worst lines of the movie. His advisers are telling him about how the current technology won’t work on he new “-nados” and he blurts out, “We just need a solution!” Well no shit, Sherlock. Then someone says some goofy shit like, “we could try adding more isotopes to the base” and he’s all like, “yeah, you go with that” in a tone that reads somewhere between facetiousness and incredulity. The guy flits and screams in every scene he’s in like some kind of black Adam Sandler.
In the first flick, maybe even the first 2, the actors did a reasonable job of “interacting” with the green screen. Maybe it’s because the “action” scenes were less ridiculous (hard to believe anything in Sharknado could be described as “less ridiculous” than anything else…), or maybe it’s because they just got lazy…I don’t know.
Tara Reid – man, how far has she fallen? – delivers another atrocious line; while using her new cyborg powers to save a kid from a car, she claims to be “Iron Man’s wife” in order to comfort the kid and get him to run and find his mom. First of all, what does being “Iron Man’s wife” have to do with getting the kid to run away and find his mom? Secondly, where the hell did this line even come from? It’s just goofy. It’d be different if a joke – or even a bad joke – followed, but no, it’s just all, “I’m Iron Man’s wife, go find your mommy.” It’s WEIRD.
Oh and Gilbert Gottfried ups the annoyance factor for good measure…to quote the first film’s tagline, “’nuff said.”
I’ve seen plenty of films from the Asylum (the production company responsible for this type of stuff), but never have I see one with such an inability to properly convey perspective. We get a long shot of one of the various “-nados,” then our characters standing around with some wind blowing, and all of sudden they’re right next to the damn thing. It makes very little sense. I know we can basically chalk it up to the poor FX and CGI, but they could do a better job with the establishing shots. Also, it can take these ‘nados 15 minutes to move 200 feet or 5 minutes to cut through 4 states. I’m not even sure what the point is in switching locations every scene.
There is a lot of terrible dialog in the movie – among the worst I’ve ever heard in something proclaiming to be a feature film – but perhaps even more sickening is the film’s heavy-handed and absolutely pointless insertion of references to other films.
Example 1: Being a horror nut, I found this one particularly egregious. It actually starts off somewhat subtle and tasteful. The gang is in Texas (they just magically hop around the country, popping up hundreds of miles away in a matter of minutes) and find themselves in need of a chainsaw. (I’m not sure why the chainsaw became such a staple of the series; from the get-go it seemed to be directly ripping off Evil Dead’s blatant fascination with the device, and the deal was sealed when April (Reid) had her hand severed and then got some kinda mini-chainsaw robo-attachment.) So anyway, they end up at a chainsaw shop…in Texas…run by Dog the Bounty Hunter (remember that weird-ass Hulk Hogan-Paul Hogan wannabe?) and some crazy woman. She makes a comment about how their relative “Gunnar” uses a specific chainsaw to scare off neighborhood children. Cut to a quick shot of Gunnar to reveal a burly, surly guy with a face etched out of granite. Now if they’d ended the reference there, I might’ve even gone so far as to call it “clever.” But no.
Don’t get it? That’s ok. References are supposed to be oblique. I mean it doesn’t really count when they beat you over the head with it. And that’s exactly what Sharknado 4 proceeds to do. To explain the original reference, I’m sure most of you have heard of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the main villain, Leatherface. Although not as well-known as Robert Englund or even Kane Hodder, big horror buffs will know the actor Gunnar Hansen as the actor who played Leatherface in the original 1974 film. See? At this point it was a well structured reference. But…
The whole family ends up outside cutting up sharks with chainsaws while our main character goes and gets in a ditch-digger (it’s supposed to look like a giant chainsaw). Dog (the Bounty Hunter) shouts, “the saw is family!” in the most unconvincing manner possible, and then the crazy woman goes, “it wouldn’t be Texas…without a chainsaw massacre!” Ugh. Infuckingcredible.
Example 2: This is a crossover which leads into a reference. Our crew meets up with some guy from SyFy’s Lavalantula movie who gives them a car named “Christine.” Of course the giveaway (before the name drop) is painfully obvious as the quintessentially 50′s car rolls up playing quintessentially 50′s pop music, you know, those wistful teen tragedy songs. The guest character makes all these comments about “she knows where to go” and “she’ll know how to find him later,” So what does all this business of the “living car” lead up to? Nothing. Literally nothing. The world’s largest ball of twine is chasing them, but since it’s “coming too fast,” the guy stops the car, everyone gets one, and they all start running…because that’s how you outrun a massive ball of twine propelled by a tornado. POINTLESS.
Example 3: Here we have 3 references to the same movie. Team goes into a house in Kansas, gets picked up by a Sharknado, and travels all the way to Chicago without someone even so much as having a brush with a shark. Anyway, the house lands on the bitchy major, and we then see her legs, complete with striped socks and red shoes, just before her toes curl up. Was the major even wearing this shit? Also, the storm picks up some “yellow bricks” and then trops them, and Fin tells everyone to “follow the yellow brick road. And then his kid’s all like, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…”
More Examples: There’s plenty more that are just stupid and out of place too. April rescues Fin and says, “Come with me if you want to live.” (Terminator 2) There’s a stupid, stupid “homage” to Baywatch where some chicks run in slow-mo before getting eaten. Fin tells someone, “Don’t get cocky, kid.” The kid pulls a mini-chainsaw out of a rock a la The Sword in the Stone. Oh god, and then there’s a scene where April is testing out her cyborg features; her dad tells her to “use the force,” whereupon she produces a lightsaber blade from her wrist, and then says, “may the force be with you.” What in the living hell.
I guess I could keep going on about the nonsensical choices of the characters (for example, they need a large body of water, so they pick the highly-dangerous Niagra Falls instead of like, one of the Great Lakes…or a fucking spot by the goddamn ocean), or the bad acting, or the exceedingly poor CGI, but I think it all boils down to the creative forces behind the film not giving a shit. Instead of cutting corners due to budget concerns or other practical limitations, it was like they started cutting corners because they “needed” to make a “bad” movie.
Bottom line: this ship has sailed. One of the things that even the worst movies have going for them is creative envelope pushing, but not here. The gore has worn a little thin, and there’s only but so many times that it’s fun to watch sharks land on people or pull off these well-coordinated bites while zipping through the air. The story is just an excuse to throw all these weird “shitnados” into the mix, and while they could’ve been interesting and posed some unique threats, for the most part they’re quickly glossed over. The “nuclear sharks” are able to generate a few chuckles I suppose, as is Al Roker’s deadpan delivery of stuff like, “technically we saw a sand-sharknado.” But overall it was just a sloppy, jumpy film that adds nothing to the series. Besides, the only reason sharks were initially able to survive was because they were contained in waterspouts; there’s never any reason for how they stay alert and aggressive amid a dust devil, hailstorm, or flaming oil. But whatever. I actually had a little fun watching the first two. The third one was mildly irritating, but this fourth installment is just aggravating and insulting.