Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015)
“Oh Hell No!” Never has a movie title seemed more apt. Clearly meant as an up-front apology, the makers are obviously recognising the inevitable reaction to Sharknado 3 as they serve up yet another humourless meteorological smorgasbor(e)d of cartoonish CG shark splatter.
With ominous storm clouds once again gathering overhead, Finley Allen "Fin" Shepard (Ian Ziering) attends an awards ceremony at the Whitehouse in recognition of his previous heroics in Los Angeles and New York. But sure enough, no sooner has Fin accepted his ‘Order of the Golden Chainsaw’ award, then the heavens open up and sharks rain down on Washington DC. The president and Finn stand fighting shoulder to shoulder in a scene resembling the dynamics of the arcade game ‘House of the Dead’ (albeit with less convincing graphics here) as this latest sharknado turns the Capitol Building into a (Great) White House. Meanwhile, down in Florida, Fin’s heavily pregnant wife April (Tara Reid), their daughter Claudia and April’s mother (Bo Derek) are at Universal Studies Orlando, where the ‘Twister’ attraction is about to become a whole lot scarier. With multiple sharknados merging (sharkicane!) it’s a race against time to prevent a cataclysmic cyclone of carcharodon carcharias (and loads of other species of sharks that I don’t know the Latin names for).
How dispiriting it must be for SFX companies commissioned to work on a film like Sharknado 3. Hi guys, we need you to deliver a barrage of intentionally sub-par visual shots of random shark species flapping unconvincingly through stormy skies. Then we need lots of shots of sharks landing with repetitively telegraphed precision on victims turning them into human piñatas bursting with point and click CG blood? Gee thanks – we’ll get right on it – this’ll look great on our CVs!
The trouble with a franchise that strains so intentionally to be knowingly rubbish and self-aware is that having set the ambition bar so low to begin with – by the time it gets to Sharknado 3, the bar is practically scraping the floor (or barrel). So instead you end up spending most of the film’s running time counting up the number of celebrity cameos you can spot – and feeling slightly cheated if they don’t end up as shark-bait (e.g. Jedward).
To be fair, Ian (Beverley Hills, 90210) Ziering throws himself into his heroic Jonah-like role as Fin with more straight-up commitment than the film frankly deserves. Tara Reid on the other hand appears to ‘act’ in a near-comatose state of tranquilized disengagement. This is however understandable given the fact that the sole raison d'être for her character here is to deliver (both literally and metaphorically) a tired double-whammy punch line finale. David ‘The Hoff’ Hasselhoff - having already previously survived another toothsome fishy peril in Piranha 3DD - somehow manages against all odds to retain a modicum of dignity as Fin’s estranged father and former NASA colonel.
The Moonraker(ish) finale sets up the only reasonably successful tongue-in-cheek moments in the whole film. If you thought Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity was scientifically dubious, Sharknado 3’s dénouement makes Sandra Bullock’s predicament look like an Open University documentary - and Piranha 3DD a discarded segment from BBC One’s The Blue Planet.
Following its premiere on the Syfy Channel, a Twitter campaign was launched for fans of the series to vote on the fate of Tara Reid’s character for Sharknado 4 (confirmed). The options were either: #AprilLives or #AprilDies. Given the choice, I’d have typed: #SharknadoDies.