Will ‘Sharknado’ Be Salvation From the Weak 2013 Summer Movie Season?

By  · Published on July 7th, 2013

With The Lone Ranger confirmed as one of the biggest bombs in an altogether underwhelming summer at the movies, it’s the perfect time for Sharknado to rear its ridiculous head and draw in millions. It won’t be in theaters, though, only on the SyFy Channel (and soon enough home video). Directed by Antonio C. Ferrante (SyFy’s recent version of Hansel & Gretel), Sharknado is one of those uber-high-concept SyFy originals that’s easily understood by its title alone (“enough said!” is its tagline, after all). But what is a sharknado? Well, it’s a massive “super tornado” that has sucked up tons of sharks from the ocean and is “hurling” them at Los Angeles. Humans played by Tara Reid, John Heard and Ian Ziering (playing a guy named “Fin,” no kidding) do something on the ground in order to add some sort of plot to the carnage.

There’s no way Sharknado is going to be a quality movie, but that’s not it’s aim, and that’s part of what shall make it a refreshing alternative to this year’s blockbusters, many of which seem intended to be taken seriously in spite of how dumb they are (“legitimate” sci-fi flicks Star Trek Into Darkness, Oblivion and After Earth included). Viewers and critics, meanwhile, have been overthinking other tentpoles that shouldn’t be taken too seriously, like top grosses Man of Steel and Iron Man 3. Still, there is a weight given to these movies due to their caliber of production brands and price tags. Sharknado is a cheap B-movie and will be dependable in meeting exactly what we expect of it.

It’s not surprising to see reactions like the following from comic book artist Adam Hughes on Twitter (via Mashable): “Frankly been disappointed with most of the big summer movies so far, but I know that will change. For I have seen the teaser for SHARKNADO.”

It helps that Sharknado is on cable, too. There’s the cost in having the service through which to watch SyFy, and there is commercial interruption and pop up ads, but it’s looked at as free entertainment compared to the cost of going out to the movies. Summer is when we think the high ticket prices will be reciprocated with event movies that are worth the money and the time and the effort. When these movies fail us, why not just stick with something that’s going to be so bad it’s good? At least we know Sharknado will be a laugh riot, right?

“These are not comedies,” claims SyFy programming and original movies VP Thomas Vitale (via the NY Daily News). “They have that outlandish, campy, over-the-top tone, but the people involved are real and want to survive. If you were in a situation where all of a sudden you have sharks falling from the sky, once you got over the insanity of it, you’d try to survive.”

Do people in comedies usually think they’re in comedies? Even in something as meta as This Is the End (one of the few real theatrical treasures of this summer) the characters are for the most part taking the situation they’re in seriously. But anyway, Vitale is right to a degree. Movies like Sharknado aren’t made with jokes, necessarily, but they are as a whole just big gags. There is no denying that internally.

It’s also worth noting that years ago we might have seen this as schlock counter-programming at the multiplex. B-movies of this nature were once staples of drive-ins especially decades ago. And as recent as 2006 it was thought that the straightforwardly titled Snakes on a Plane was going to be huge just because of its name and premise. It also came out at the tail end of another weak summer movie season, which coincidentally had its own Superman movie, its own Fast and Furious sequel (the then-unsuccessful Tokyo Drift) and another disappointing Gore Verbinski adventure (the second Pirates of the Caribbean installment, Dead Man’s Chest) and another M. Night Shyamalan bomb (Lady in the Water). SoaP came in only at #93 that year on the box office chart, far worse than most of the films it promised to be salvation from.

Sharknado might not have a larger audience in the end (especially considering SoaP’s viewership on video) but it might get more than enough curious eyes at least for part of the movie. Because it’s so easy to just give it a try. Whether it holds our attention or requires a drinking game to go along with it, that’s another matter. The TV movie debuts on SyFy this Thursday, July 11, at 9pm ET (following a marathon of shark-centric SyFy originals, like Sharktopus and Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus). The DVD and Blu-ray of Sharknado will be released via The Asylum on September 3. Check out the teaser below.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.