Movies from the Black Lagoon: ‘Sharknado’

Tom Doty Times Columnist

October 4, 2013

Sharks rain down on Hollywood like a biblical plague, in this fast-paced fright flick from the way-too-caffeinated folks at Asylum Entertainment.

Anyone needing to know more about Asylum is referred to previous cinematic endeavors like “Snakes on a Train.” These guys usually rip off bigger budgeted flicks that are playing theaters, but they skip that formula this time around and surrender control to Anthony Ferrante (former scribe for Fangoria).

Ferrante is a horror fan and knows his target audience. He opens the flick with an establishing shot that fills you in on what the next 90 minutes are all about. His camera pans down into the ocean where we track a swarm of sharks desperately trying to outswim a tornado. Not going to happen. The wind funnel picks up the fish and carries them up the coast from Mexico, before depositing them on a beach where our cast is waiting for the action to begin.

The characters are led by Fin (laugh it up). He is a surfing tavern owner who is about to lose his beach bar to an uppity shark that crashes through the window, and gets impaled by a pool cue (you are free to laugh at that joke too, though it is almost subtle for this movie). Fin opts to head up the coast and rescue his ex-wife, April.

What follows is a road trip so wacky and frenetic that you won’t be surprised when they have to slosh through the freeway alongside sharks that have no trouble out pacing an SUV. Occasionally, they take time out to rescue a school bus or protect a senior citizens center and that gives them plenty of time to befriend new characters before they are fed to the real stars of the movie.

It all leads to a thrilling climax where I learned that you can stop tornadoes by dropping homemade bombs into them. I also learned that sharks can swallow you whole, even if they are being thrust around by a twister. Turns out, they can still snatch you up if you have the bad luck to fall out of a helicopter. I guess they covered this stuff in science that week I was out with mono.

This works because Ferrante has figured out that CGI effects go hand in hand with cartoons. The whole film feels like an old Daffy Duck short. I kept expecting to see “Acme Products” written on all the props. You get scenes of people thinking nothing about rappelling off bridges or leaping into six feet of water (in a living room) to attack a shark with a china cabinet. You even get a bit where a guy chainsaws his way out of a shark’s belly, only to thrust his arm back inside and pull out a second survivor.

Put your brain on hold and enjoy this one, but I do have a home work assignment for you. Produce your own sequel to this by matching the names of natural disasters with animals. My sons took this assignment to heart and came up with some worthy sequels. “Cobra Quake” would have snakes escaping from a subterranean lair to wreak havoc on Mardi Gras. Maybe you would prefer to see “Zoo-Nami,” wherein the animals from the National Zoo are airlifted to a remote apartment complex by the titular event. Perhaps you would enjoy “Crabalanche” or “Boar-Easter.”

Just email your ideas to Asylum Studios. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, having sat through this, don’t get me started.

2013, unrated.

Best Lines

“We can’t just wait here for sharks to rain down on us.”

“We’re gonna need a bigger chopper.”

“Sharks? I never saw that coming.”