Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Movie Review : Sharknado (2013)


Rock critics and music lovers can be insufferable nitwits sometimes. They will hate every song you love and you won't know any song they love. If by any chance you both like the same artists, they will tell you everything they ever did sucked, except for the first album. See, those people suffer from acute nostalgia. When you fall in love with something (song, novel, movie, television series, etc.) whatever follows it up will never be the same. It's why movie sequels never live up to expectations, that most novel series eventually die a painful death and it's why most recording artists can never live up to the album they spent half of their lives writing. Cinema is the only art medium that turned nostalgia into an industry. SHARKNADO, a glorified marketing stunt for the Syfy channel, is a throwback to the cocaine era of Hollywood where quantity thrumped quality and a beautiful chaos reigned. It feels quite artificial, but it pried a few smiles out of me.

Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering, the epic Steve Sanders from 90210 *) is an aging surfer and bar owner in Los Angeles. When two of his friends get unexpectedly attacked by sharks near the coast, Fin smells trouble. He closes the bar and drives inland to Beverly Hills, to check on his ex-wife April (the equally epic Tara Reid) and his daughter Claudia (Aubrey Peeples). But this storm ain't no normal storm. Oh no, sir! It's a sharknado. Three water sprouts rose from the ocean and swallowed countless sharks in its midst. As the sprouts hit the coast and become tornados, sharks are propelled in every direction, causing mayhem and gory deaths. Since everybody is too busy panicking to do anything about the situation, the world needs a real man like Fin to take the fate of Los Angeles in his hands.

Intentional nostalgia is a tricky thing to pull off. Pulp cinema of the eighties, for example, was written with the utmost serious and that's what made it so great. Writer and director alike were genuinely deranged and/or high. SHARKNADO comes off as deliberate and a little obnoxious at times. There are details such as the grid from the 3D modeling software appearing in the storm's clouds, that annoyed me. The sharks are also so poorly rendered, special effects in the nineties often looked better. SHARKNADO doesn't escape its fate, yet it keeps a sense of humor about itself and about filmmaking in general, that keeps the project afloat. The jet ski scenes, in the beginning, were uproarious. Scenes were the actors seemed to be enjoying themselves beamed with chaotic, yet positive energy. At times, SHARKNADO pulls it off when the cast is having fun.

Amazing scene that had nothing to do with the rest of the movie, except don't fuck with sharks.

So SHARKNADO won't move your needle with its gimmicky use of filmmaking technology, but teamwork and the spirited performance from the cast will  make you smile. Ian Ziering keeps his tough guy pokerface througout an impossible series of shenanigans. Christopher Wolfe wins the best cameo appearance of 2013 with over-stereotyped boyfrield Collin **. He is in the movie for about 30 seconds, yet he was one of shining moments of humor. The cast of Hollywood has beens keeps their performances surprisingly sharp, accurate and within the tone of this insane little production. SHARKNADO doesn't quite recapture the essence of pulp cinema on a technical level, but smart casting decisions, humour and teamwork are making it work, somehow.

I enjoyed SHARKNADO. It was a tad overt and obnoxious, but it's a movie that figures itself out. Bad special effects and deliberately low production value cannot possibly keep a seasoned moviegoer's interest for a feature-length movie, no matter how nostalgic he or she is. What made pulp cinema so great wasn't anything measurable. It was an alchemy. An air of unpredictability and a good-natured chaos. You can't capture it deliberately, but if you hire a cast of broken down, B-level actors who don't know what they signed up for, magic can happen. Lightning can strike where you want it. I don't believe SHARKNADO will become more than what it was meant to be (a marketing stunt), but it is interesting as it draws a clear line as to how one should do nostalgic pulp cinema. You cannot imitate chaos, but you can orchestrate it.

* Who is now a whopping 50 years old.

** Fortunately, there is no Google image that can make me spoil the fun for you.

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