Sharknado was a bizarre and sporadically beautiful thing. At first people were outraged by its laziness as it felt more like a life support system for a premise; then again, when your premise is a tornado full of sharks, you can get away with that. After the initial storm had died down, a second, significantly bigger storm built up.
Much like in the films, this was a whirlwind of ironic praise and so-bad-it’s-good hype, pushing the film for its go-for-broke ‘who really gives a shit’ use of effects, plot jumps and, most importantly, terrible acting. The thing that made it work was that despite the audience response, the film never felt like it was in on the joke. That said, it also could have been about 30 minutes long and still been as effective. As I say, it was a sporadically beautiful thing.
Now we come to Sharknado 2: The Second One. A film so important it doubles up on both a numerical title and a colon-subtitle. The sequel to a SyFy original movie about a tornado of sharks, it seems a done deal as a reviewer: watch the first thirty minutes, slag it off, pour myself a stiff drink and hate myself for watching it. So how did this film become almost a modern masterclass in how to do a sequel? It uses a simple formula: Make it similar, make it bigger and, most importantly, you make it completely and utterly batshit insane.
The sequel reunites original stars Ian Ziering as Fin (yes, fin), a former professional surfer who is surprisingly competent at bomb making and Tara Reid as his ex-wife but still-girlfriend, April. She’s travelling to New York to do a book signing for her bestseller ‘How to Survive a Sharknado’. Despite the author of this book and her husband, the subject of said book, travelling on a plane in heavy turbulence and Fin telling everyone that there are sharks outside, no one believes him.
At this point, the movie immediately takes a ten minute diversion to become a weird cross of Snakes On A Plane and classic Twilight Zone episode Terror at 20,000 feet as no one believes Fin that they are in a second Sharknado despite the fact he’s at this point basically an expert on them and no one seems to realise they are in a film called Sharknado 2. Random cameos at this point: The Good – Robert Hays from Airplane as the pilot; The Bad – Kelly Osborne as a flight attendant and The Nerdy – Wil Wheaton and his wife. They die.
The film only briefly pauses to present the traditional ‘I Heart NY’ opening sequence with plenty of tourism-friendly images over a surf-rock soundtrack about sharknado attacks. From here on out, it goes like gangbusters from set piece to set piece constantly provoking the question, “How many different way can we kill people with sharks before it gets old?” The answer is a hell of a lot. A lot of the film works on the fact that you can probably predict who’s going to die and in what order and often how.
Early on in the film, Tara Reid loses her hand in a shark attack. Can you guess if she manages to have it replaced with some kind of Evil Dead-esque saw? We see Fin’s brother-in-law and his son buying water guns and lighter fluid, can you guess if they are going to be used as flamethrowers? Professional wrestler Kurt Angle turns up as the New York Fire Chief, can you guess if he’s going to wrestle a shark? Actually that one doesn’t happen, the one glorious pay off they missed.
Now before anyone starts to worry, this is not necessarily a good film but it’s not a bad film either. I think they’ve finally managed to recreate the style of the aforementioned Airplane in that it is a comedy played so straight it sometimes forgets it isn’t a serious movie. That said, the approach of playing it straight does lead to some lesser performers failing miserably. For every Oscar nominee Judd Hirsch paying tribute to his star making role in sitcom Taxi as a cab driver, we have Tara Reid.
Tara Reid gives one of the single most tone-deaf performances in recent history. You can argue that this is the kind of film where you expect that and that part of the fun is the poor acting but honestly, she doesn’t even manage to raise her performance level to hilariously bad most of the time. She just presents a shrill, one dimensional role as the chemistry-deficient love interest. When you’re being out-acted by Billy Ray Cyrus as your doctor (when she wants to leave the hospital because of shark attacks, he offers to move her to another room. Thanks, Billy), you should worry. At least Ziering seems aware of how inherently ridiculous the film is and plays his cheesy action lead in as much cheesy action glory as it deserves.
Really, I could keep writing about this film but how much analysis does a film like Sharknado 2: The Second One deserve or need? It is campy, ridiculous, fun, gory nonsense. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but at the same time it doesn’t spend too long winking at the camera. I watched it all (some choice clips twice) and I don’t regret it; in fact, I would recommend it.
In a summer blockbuster season dominated by sequels and remakes and adaptations, Sharknado stands out as a follow-up that improves on the original. It’s not big, it’s not clever – heck it’s really not very good – but it’s entertaining and it has more shark attacks than any other movie this year. What more do you want? A chase sequence with the head of the Statue of Liberty? Oh, yeah, it has that too.