Back in 2013, a storm descended on Twitter. But this was no ordinary social media whirlwind. This was a tornado. With teeth. Sharknado, SyFy’s delightfully schlocky apex-predator-meets-extreme-weather TV movie, did exactly what it said on the tin, and captured the public imagination to became one of the biggest memes of the year.
Two years down the line, we’re on the third instalment of this fishy franchise – Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! – and the premise is unchanged. Only this time there are more explosions, more cameos, more bad CGI sharks, more lingering shots on sponsors’ products, and more outlandish scenarios. So is there any bite left in this aquatic thrill ride, or does the whole thing stink worse than week-old chum?
Sharknado 3 jumps right into the action and escalates quickly. Fin Shepard (Ian Ziering) is now with the Secret Service and has been summoned by the POTUS to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Only he ends up having to use his golden chainsaw trophy when yet another Sharknado hits Washington DC. Before long, the random likes of Mark McGrath, Lou Ferrigno, and Jackie Collins are painting the White House walls with their blood and Fin is lobbing grenades and impaling Great Whites on a Stars and Stripes flagpole. And this is all before the animated opening title sequence which, incidentally, is really pretty and has a nice grindhouse feel to it.
Meanwhile, Fin’s ex-wife (and soon to be wife again) April Wexler (Tara Reid) is pregnant, and at Universal Studios in Orlando with her mother (Bo Derek) and her teen daughter. I guess pro wrestling ain’t what it used to be, because for some reason Chris Jericho is working there as a rollercoaster operator, and familiar-looking park guests include Jerry Springer, author George R. R. Martin (who meets an end so splattery, it wouldn’t be out of place in one of his own books), and my favourite singing twins in the whole wide world, John and Edward Grimes, who also penned and performed the title track. John even has a line of dialogue, so Jedward are officially a triple threat now. Watch out, world!
Fin enlists the help of Sharknado survivor, Nova (Cassie Scerbo), a sort of Xena, (Shark) Worrier Princess who talks incredibly fast and looks great in a crop top, and her associate, Lucas, to reach April, his daughter, and mom-in-law in Florida. Lucas is played by Frankie Muniz, and it’s not long before Malcolm in the Middle is just a middle when sharks bite off all his limbs. Still, he manages to detonate a bomb with his chin. Fair play to the lad.
At about this point, my mind begins to fill with questions about the scientific validity of a sharknado. I mean, sharks have to keep swimming or they die, so why are they arsed about munching people when they are being flung about by high winds on dry land? Surely they’d have other things on their minds, like suffocation? But I’m roused from my ponderings by the revelation that these sharks have been sucked up so high into the atmosphere they have been frozen and survived their stasis only to rain down on unfortunate ‘mericans, thaw out, and commence chowing once more, like toothy, marine versions of Ellen Ripley.
Meanwhile sharks cause chaos at a NASCAR event, there’s a helicopter crash which results in Nova and Fin wading out of the sea in a state of undress, a sticky end for a teen boy with designs on Fin and April’s daughter (remember kids, sex is a dangerous business in B Movies), and there’s slo-mo. So much slo-mo.
Finally, Fin and his crew are reunited with the Wexler ladies, and it’s time to meet Fin’s father, David Hasselhoff (or Gil Shepard as he’s known in the world of Sharknado, because you can never have enough fish puns). The Hoff is in a diner with Penn and Teller when he’s rallied by his son, because why the flip not, at this point? It turns out Fin’s daddy works for NASA, which is handy because it also transpires that the only way to disperse the mondo fustercluck of sharky wind is with some kind of Regan-era giant laser which has been left in space.
The Hoff steals a rocket (as you do), taking Fin with him, and it all goes a bit Armageddon complete with soft rawk soundtrack. Hoff’s never piloted a spacecraft before, but reckons it’s just like riding a bike. No, David. It’s really, really not. Contravening all the natural laws of maternal instinct and self-preservation, April insists on riding along too, and before long, the Wexler-Shepard clan is taking a moment to appreciate the magnificence of the final frontier. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure it takes more than a few minutes to get to outer space…
Anyhoo, Gil must leave the rocket to deploy the anti-sharkicane tech, and props to Ian Ziering for mustering actual man tears during The Hoff’s departing speech. Either he’s a diehard professional, or he’d sat on himself just prior to the cameras rolling. Gil channels George Clooney, and from then on, we’re treated to basically a remake of Gravity, only with sharks instead of regular space debris and sharks instead of escape pods, and sharks instead of…well, everything really.
April foolishly questions how sharks can survive in space, and is roundly gobbled up by one for her troubles. Fin also gets swallowed down, and the pair return to earth in the bellies of sharks which prove to be both surprisingly resilient to burning up on re-entry, and incredibly well cushioned – bouncy enough to enable you to fall FROM SPACE, hit the ground, and emerge unscathed.
In fact, April goes one better than that. Not only does she survive the being eaten and the fall FROM SPACE, she manages to give birth INSIDE A SHARK, in the ten seconds it takes her to fall FROM SPACE, and do enough crunches to get a completely flat post-baby tum as well. It’s decided that their new son should be called Gil, after The Hoff (who seems to have made it to the moon), but Fin and April’s joy is short-lived when a falling piece of shuttle looks set to crush the new mom. A post credits call to action gives viewers the option to tweet and decide April’s fate, confirming that Sharknado 4 has been greenlit, and this franchise still has legs. As will the sharks in the next movie. Probably.
Sharknado 3 was always going to make critics and audiences alike roll their eyes. The organic success of the first movie was a celebration of kitsch and ‘so bad they’re good movies’, but with each inevitable sequel comes more profile, a bigger budget, more product placement, more self-awareness, and more absurdity until all the silly charm of the original venture is eroded. Yet continued ratings for The Asylum titles such as Sharktopus, Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, and Mega Python vs. Gatoroid shows that there is always an appetite for this stuff, and they’re not called exploitation movies for nothing. Personally, I’ll take the bad science, smell-the-fart acting, terrible SFX, and jingoistic shtick of Sharknado over a Michael Bay blockbuster any day of the week.