The executives up at SyFy should be popping bottles all day today. Why? Oh, just a little made-for-TV schlockfest known as Sharknado—maybe you've heard about it?
Piranhacane is basically inevitable.
If you were on Twitter last night, you couldn't have avoided the #SHARKNADO. The usual tweeting celebrity suspects were all over the cable network's cheap-o look at a tornado that flings hungry, man-eating sharks all around California: Patton Oswalt (sample tweet: "Guy Fieri struggles to name his ahi bacon butter stack. Looks up at TV. Sees SHARKNADO. Stands. HITCHCOCK ZOOM."). Judah Freidlander ("Just finished my scripts for 'Vaginaconda' and '3-Headed Sharkdick Viagravalanche.'"). Somehow, Mia Farrow became a part of the moment, too. Even the New Yorker published a think piece about Sharknado this morning—that esteemed publication sure as hell didn't bother caring about past SyFy crapfests like Dinoshark, Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, or Sharktopus.
It's only July, mind you, but Sharknado, the little Roger Corman production wannabe that could, is shaping up to be 2013's biggest television event, at least within the realm of social media. A month from now, though, Breaking Bad's beginning of its end will undoubtedly cause a bigger ruckus, but let's not rob those killer fish of their 15 minutes. They haven't been lauded like this since Jaws in 1975.
Self-aware garbage like Sharknado has been common ground for SyFy, a network that has kept itself relevant in recent years by teaming up with camp cinema factory The Asylum and cranking out one ridiculous animal-centric genre flick after another, usually with interspecies silliness (piranha + anaconda = Piranhaconda) and always starring at least one D-list has-been. In Sharknado, you've got Beverly Hills 90210 alum Ian Ziering as the heroic leading man, Tara Reid inexplicably not getting devoured by a CGI shark (what a fail), and, for all you Home Alone fans out there, John Heard. A month ago, nobody at SyFy could have expected their latest original movie to trump the Game of Thrones "Red Wedding" in terms of the pop culture zeitgeist. They just had yet another charmingly bad film ready to air, one that, granted, they invested more pre-release promotion than usual, including a fantastic teaser trailer and press conference call with Tara Reid and director Anthony C. Ferrante. But owning Twitter and making the New Yorker take notice? Only in their wildest dreams.
What now, though? With Sharknado, SyFy has finally perfected the schlock formula the network's been trying to turn into a "thing" bigger than something that only a bunch of horror websites and irony-loving TV bloggers acknowledge. First, there's the film itself—in its barrage of shark attacks, shitty visual effects, and ludicrous death scenes, Sharknado doesn't disappoint. One character's arm gets chomped off by a shark, while another shark gnaws at his leg, and then, as he's writhing in agony, a third shark falls from the sky and crushes his skull. Then, during the movie's showstopping finale, Ziering, armed with a chainsaw, leaps into a shark's mouth, saws his way through its body, and cuts his way out of the animal; not to mention, he pulls another human character out of the hacked-up shark, a woman who, minutes earlier, was seen being swallowed by said shark. That's right, Ziering somehow chainsawed his way through a shark without cutting through his female friend. Screenwriting brilliance.
What makes Sharknado such a game-changer for SyFy isn't what happens in the movie, however, but, rather, what went down on Twitter last night, with Mia Farrow and acclaimed writer Philip Roth somehow being connected to a movie called Sharknado. And what's happening this afternoon in the media world, with all this coverage. Without forcing anything or totally abandoning their usual release strategy (as in, letting the film's hilariously stupid title and a few short, appetizing clips do the promotional legwork), SyFy reached its bad movie apex last night, and did so with what could very well go down in history as the best bad SyFy movie ever made.
It didn't happen last year with Jersey Shore Shark Attack, the disappointingly uninspired spoof of MTV's Jersey Shore with, what else, killer sharks terrorizing one of that show shameless stars, Vinny Guadagnino, along with some Italian-character stock actors (Paul Sirico, a.k.a. "Paulie Walnuts" on The Sopranos), and, naturally, Joey Fatone. Sharknado didn't need to gratuitously lampoon something as obvious as Jersey Shore. The stars aligned, the world paid attention, and now, today, SyFy is home to the culture's biggest, most universally beloved phenomenon.
Which means, of course, that we'll soon see every kind of Sharknado rip-off imaginable. Don't for a second think that SyFy's executives haven't already green-lit a Sharknado sequel and at least five more films that merge natural disasters with sea predators. Piranhacane is basically inevitable. But SyFy won't ever be able to emulate Sharknado's organic explosion without seeming desperate, or lazy. Like horror pundits with the Saw franchise by the time Saw VI debuted, every celebrity, average Joe, and one-time Rosemary's Baby actress will turn against those tornado-loving sharks. Sharknado will become a bad joke, not one to celebrate any further.
After more than a decade of knowingly terrible original movies, SyFy has taken this joke as far as it can go. That tornado has flung all of its sharks into the company's figurative ceiling. Enjoy the magnificence of Sharknado while it lasts, folks. It's all downhill from here.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)