Now before you start singing the “One of these things is not like the other….” song from Sesame Street after observing the line-up for today’s review, let me explain. I had intended on writing on “Sharknado” earlier (matter of fact, I saw it two weeks ago, and had planned to review it with “Pacific Rim” and “Atlantic Rim”), but life got in the way – as it always does. After reshuffling my schedule, I made the decision to include “Sharknado” into today’s write-up alongside the new haunted house horror flick “The Conjuring”. So before I express my innermost thoughts on “Sharknado” before my brain explodes, let me forego the traditional explanatory introduction and get right to the action.
“THE CONJURING” – New year, new haunted house/demonic possession/exorcism movie based on a true story. Ah, Hollywood. You never cease to amaze me. Okay, that was a really shitty way of starting this review. But seriously though, EVERY YEAR, there’s ALWAYS a horror movie about a haunted house or a demonic possession or an exorcism. Usually, it’s based on a true story, or inspired by true events. And believe me, it’s something about the phrases “based on a true story” or “inspired by true events” that scares the bejesus out of the casual moviegoer. “The Conjuring” is the latest offering in the “true story” sub-genre of horror films and it’s directed by James Wan – the guy responsible for the twisted brilliance that was “Saw” (2004), the aight “Insidious” (2011), the hopefully good “Insidious: Chapter 2” coming out this September, and the it-better-be-great-or-else-I’ll-burn-the-fucking-theater-down “Fast and Furious 7” slated for release next summer. The story, set in 1971 Rhode Island, centers on Edward and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson from “Watchmen” and Vera Farmiga from “The Departed”), husband-and-wife paranormal investigators who probe the disturbing events occurring in the farmhouse of Carolyn and Roger Perron (Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston) and their five daughters.
Now I’m rather hesitant when it comes to watching horror movies in the theater. No, I’m not the type to scream orders at the on-screen characters (“RUN, BITCH, RUN!!!”, “HE GON’ KILL YOU!!!”, “WHY THE FUCK DID YOU OPEN THAT DOOR?!!”) or throw my popcorn in the air after each and every jump scare. Personally, there’s not that many horror movies nowadays that are worth paying full admission price to see. But truth be told, “The Conjuring” is a rare exception. First of all, the movie was rated R by the MPAA for sequences of disturbing violence and terror. Not gratuitous nudity, not sexual content, not even graphic violence. Disturbing violence and terror. In other words, it’s rated R for being SCARY! That itself sets the movie apart from the number of recycled, rehashed-formula horror flicks that come out yearly. “The Conjuring” relies on old-school scare tactics, as opposed to generic scenes of blood, guts and dismemberment (no, I’m not referring to this year’s remake of “Evil Dead”), to freak out its viewer. Fortunately, these tactics are clever and effective in jolting the viewer and aren’t reduced to cheap jump scares like those in your typical horror flick (“There’s something behind you!” *CUE JUMP SCARE MUSIC* Oh, it’s just my cat Pussy!” – You know, typical shit like that). I found myself highly impressed by the film’s old-school, circa-1970s look and feel, from the cinematography handled by John R. Leonetti and modeled by James Wan after 1970s horror films to the yellow-coloured scrolling text of the film’s opening disclaimer and title. The performances are strong, especially from its leads Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. The script by Chad and Carey Hayes (who also penned the lame-ass 2005 “House of Wax” remake, which is ONLY memorable for Paris Hilton’s EXCELLENT death scene. Seriously. I can’t remember ANYTHING else from that fucking movie) is well-written and evenly-paced. The sound design and musical score also deserves credit. My main gripe, however, with “The Conjuring” was that (spoiler alert…..sorta) some the scares in the first half of the film were already shown in the film’s trailer. So when I saw them again on the big screen, I couldn’t help but wish I hadn’t seen them earlier, or had them revealed to me initially. But despite that, I truly enjoyed “The Conjuring”. It’s a smart, entertaining and creepy-as-hell haunted house/demonic possession/exorcism movie based on a true story that’s living proof that old-school scares are still effective in this day and age. And believe me, after you see this movie, it will resonate with you long after you leave the theater. True story.
And now the moment the two of you were waiting for……or at least I’d like to imagine you did.
“SHARKNADO” – In the year 2013, there has been quite a number of moments that changed the way we look at television: the shocking climax of the “Rains of Castamere” episode in Season 3 of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, the death of a few key characters in AMC’s zombie survival series “The Walking Dead”, the revelation at the season finale of ABC’s “Scandal” that I heard about, but never saw since I haven’t even started watching “Scandal” yet. Yes, I know, SHAME ON ME! Anyoo, there is one other moment that deserves to be listed in terms of the most memorable TV this year…..at least to me, that is: the climax of SyFy’s latest foray into intentionally bad cinema “Sharknado”. I won’t get into full detail about this scene, but I will say it involves a gigantic shark, an older Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering) from “Beverly Hills 902010” (REMEMBER THAT SHIT?!!) and a chainsaw. Even if you haven’t seen “Sharknado” in its epic splendour, you may be familiar with this scene – whether you saw a clip of it on TV, or saw a GIF of it online. But following the showdown between the chainsaw-wielding Ian and the gigantic shark, is a certain Jonah-from-the-Bible-inspired moment that made me lose my fucking mind! That moment defied everything at that point: logic, gravity and common sense! When I saw it, I instantly threw my hands up, left the room where I was watching the movie and LMAO’d over what I just saw! It was truly the FUNNIEST, INSANEST, most jaw-dropping, oh-no-they-didn’t, are-you-fucking-kidding-me, how-high-were-these-people-when-they-made-this-shit moment I have ever seen on television. If HBO has its infamous “Red Wedding” sequence from “GoT” to be proud of this year, the SyFy channel has that moment from “Sharknado”! I shit you not!
About the movie? Well, it’s produced by The Asylum (SIDE NOTE: in my previous reviews, I mistakingly assumed The Asylum as a VFX company. In fact, it’s a film studio and distributor. So for providing that wrong information, I humbly apologize). It stars Ian Ziering as Finley “Fin” (Yeah, I know. Funny, right?) Shepherd, an ex-surfing champion turned L.A. beach bar owner who parted ways with his wife April (Tara Reid), daughter Claudia (Audrey Peeples) and son Matt (Chuck Hittinger) thanks to a divorce. Fin hangs out with his attractive employee Nova (Cassie Scerbo), his best friend Baz (Jaason Simmons who played Logan Fowler on “Baywatch” – REMEMBER THAT SHIT?!!), and an old drunk named George (John Heard). One day, off the coast of Mexico, a tornado swallows up a school (I believe that’s the correct term. I could be wrong) of sharks. In L.A., the threat of Hurricane David (the first of its kind to hit California) looms over our fearless foursome. When the hurricane does hit, flooding occurs in various parts of Los Angeles. Fin, with the help of Nova, Baz and George, sets out to rescue his family from harm. Soon enough, FIn reunites with his family, and together they ward off sharks of different varieties while seeking shelter. As you may have guessed, the sharknado (of course, I’m referring to the weather phenomenon. For other uses, see Sharknado (disambiguation)) reaches within seeing distance of our heroes, and now they have one shot to stop it (i.e. the tornado) /them (i.e. the sharks) from destroying Los Angeles and biting/swallowing/providing a healthy source of seafood for its denizens respectively. How will they accomplish this, you ask? Ask Matt, Fin’s son: “Instead of waiting for live sharks to rain at us, we’re getting into (that) chopper and throwing bombs into the tornado, blasting those bastards to bits!”. Thanks, Mr. Exposition. Dumb ass.
“Sharknado” has EVERYTHING you expect from a SyFy Original Movie: shitty script, shittier visual effects, one-dimensional characters, unintentionally bad dialogue and of course, gigantic animals that kill for no reason other than the fact that it’s a “horror film” and they’re supposed to be killing machines. But what makes this film special is the absolute ABSURDITY of its premise alone. SHARK-NADO?! A TORNADO with SHARKS inside it? Fucking absurd, I know! Then again, if a house can find itself in the wonderful land of Oz thanks to a tornado, then I guess SHARKS can find themselves suspended in mid-air in the middle of Los Angeles. Sigh. Only on the SyFy Channel. But despite its slap-you-upside-your-head=for-saying-it-with-a-straight-face premise, “Sharknado” is, shockingly enough, a VERY ENTERTAINING TV movie. And honestly, when’s the last time you saw one of those? The movie is fast-paced, the laughs are both intentional and unintentional (which is very surprising for a SyFy Original Movie), and the ridiculousness is non-stop. Even the editing is laughable. In an early beach scene, bright exterior shots are inter-cut with darker ones. There are numerous cutaways of gushing water – clearly done to cover up the film’s already-tiny budget ($1,000,000 according to IMDb). The acting is bad (especially from Tara Reid who still can’t act for shit) – and the dialogue spoken by these actors is even worse. But the dialogue is so funny and so WTF, that you won’t care about bad acting. Here’s two examples. In one scene, Fin is driving through flood water with Nova, Baz and George. Nova notices a shark in the water. “That’s a tiger shark”, she says. Fin asks “How do you know that?”. Nova responds “Shark Week”. I was literally in stitches when I heard that line. Seriously! In a later scene, Nova tells this gut-wrenching……….ly story to Matt about how her grandfather died at the hands….oops, I mean teeth….of a shark. “They took my grandfather. That’s why I really hate sharks”. Mr. Exposition, seeking a response to console the poor girl, says: “Now I really hate sharks too.”. Funniest…..response……EVER!!
And what’s a review on “Sharknado” without the sharks themselves? The only thing realistic about the sharks is the footage shown during one scene where a shark finds itself in the pool of a retirement home. These sharks find themselves capable of breath, even when they’re suspended in mid-air in a fucking tornado, they drop out of the sky at will, they use flood water to smash their way through windows and devour human beings and die easily by handgun bullets and shotgun blasts provided by Nova who’s amazingly skilled in using a shotgun (though it’s never explained how). One issue I had with this movie was the lack of non-Caucasian characters. There was a female Chinese surfer who calls Ian Ziering’s character “grandpa” in an early scene in the movie. And there was a black man in one of the retirement home scenes in the final act, but unfortunately he’s placed far in the back, and shot out-of-focus that you’d easily miss him. Apart from those two individuals, the rest of the cast is primarily white. Even J.J. Evans from “Good Times” had some screen time in the 2011 SyFy Original Movie “Super Shark”. J.J. fucking Evans! Kid Dynomite! Anyhoo….
“Sharknado” is, by far, one of the best worst movies I’ve seen all year. Who knows? After a couple more viewings, it may find itself in my upcoming “Top 10 Best Movies of 2013” list. Ah, who I am kidding? It’ll easier find itself in my “Top 10 Worst Films of 2013” than anything else. Then again, I’ve been meaning to add a “guilty pleasure” segment to my best and worst movies lists – so maybe (I’m not guaranteeing anything) “Sharknado” will be my guilty pleasure movie of 2013. If I could rate “Piranha 3D” (not to be confused with “Piranha 3DD” – i.e. the worst movie of 2012) as my guilty pleasure movie of 2010, then why not “Sharknado”? Time will tell. This movie truly changed the way I looked at television, and it changed the way I looked at sharks. And tornadoes for that matter. It’s far from scary, far from intelligent and far from boring. Unless you genuinely abhor everything SyFy Channel, you should check this movie out as soon as you can. Like Lifetime’s “Liz & Dick”, “Sharknado” is a certified so-bad-it’s-good cult TV movie. And with a sequel in the works, you’ll be hearing about “Sharknado” for a long time to come. Now if only Animal Planet can muster up some competition.
“THE CONJURING” – 4 out of 5 stars (“See this movie”)
“SHARKNADO” – 1 1/2 out of 5 stars (“That shit cray!”)