Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, directed by Anthony C. Ferrante, debuts this Sunday on the SyFy channel. The Sharknado franchise has quickly become a cultural phenomenon that transcends most conventional wisdom. The last three films have smashed viewership records for the Syfy network, and this one is sure to follow suit.
These films shouldn’t be judged by same measuring stick that we use to evaluate conventional releases, obviously. Ferrante isn’t trying to win the next Academy Award or even produce a quality product; for him, it’s all about good old fashion cheesy fun with a dash of horror. With that in mind, Sharknado: The 4th Awakens is a cheese lovers paradise. Rarely does a film combine homages to iconic films along with C-level action and special effects. The film is ridiculous, the narrative will cause people to question their sanity, but it’s still a lot of stupid fun.
It’s been five years since the last Sharknado attack. Billionaire high-tech guru Aston Reynolds (Tommy Davidson … yes, the guy from In Living Color) has saved us all from the Sharknado phenomenon by inventing something called an “astro-pod” that shoots isotopes into these twisters. Reynolds aims to capitalize on his newfound fame by opening an ornate Sharknado themed hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) decides to leave Kansas along with his cousin, Gemini (Masiela Lusha) to attend a family reunion. The plan is for them to meet up with his son Matt (Cody Linley), his girlfriend Gabrielle (Imani Hakim), his father Gilbert Shepard (David Hasselhoff), and then attend the reunion. Fin seems to have turned his focus from slaying sharks to family first following the “death” of his wife April (Tara Reid who apparently is alive as it’s revealed in the first ten seconds of the trailer). Of course, all hell breaks lose.
One of the highlights of this film is the commitment exhibited by the cast to maintaining the campy nature of the movie. Everyone seems keenly aware that they aren’t making a serious film or even a quality film by any real metric, but they are making a movie that is as much ridiculous as it is entertaining. Ferrante demonstrates that there is joy in the absurd. For example, during the initial Sharknado attack, a group of Chippendale dancers take off their shirts and use their gyrating dance moves to combat the airborne menace. Watching this “action” sequence is flabbergasting, but hypnotizing at the same time, as one after another the pelvic thrusts cause the sharks to fly away from the hotel.
In Texas, as Fin and the family are trying to get away from this Sharknado, they happen to stumble upon the only chainsaw store for miles. Yes, a chainsaw store (which happens to be run by Dog The Bounty Hunter). As they run outside to stand their ground, it’s increasingly clear that the group will need a bigger weapon. So, of course, the store happens to have a piece of construction equipment affixed with a chainsaw. Sharknado logic.
Thunder Levin should be commend for developing a script that may have a razor thin narrative but is so full of entertaining moments. From homages to Star Wars, to The Wizard Of Oz, to borrowing famous phrases from the Las Vegas Tourism Board, his “narrative” (again using that term very loosely here) will make you giggle and leave you stunned, because Levin doesn’t believe in “not going there.” In the midst of the first Sharknado attack, Fin and Gabrielle fall 50 floors down in a car and get swept up by the high winds. Instead of accepting fate, Fin decides to windsurf using the power of the storm to help ease their decent. That isn’t even the most outrageous part. Gemini sees the car falling so she grabs a parachute and does what any rational human being would do and jumps off the building. Somehow, Gemini beats the car to the surface (Sharknado logic) and gets in the car when it lands. When fin hits the ground, he sees that Gemini made it and asks how she did it. She responds: ” What happens in Vegas, stays in vegas.” Groan.
The performances in this film are good and the cameos are plentiful (Sorry, I have been sworn to secrecy). This is the type of film that no one should overthink and just enjoy the mayhem as it unfolds. We sometimes forget that enjoyment and films go hand and hand.