'Sharknado' Part Deux: The Laughably Bad Epic Strikes Back
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
If it were real, it might be the worst natural disaster in recent memory - a tornado filled with man-eating sharks.
(SOUNDBITE FROM ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Look out, more sharks.
SHAPIRO: Fortunately for all of us, the Sharknado phenomenon is not real, as far as we know. The Syfy channel created this tongue-in-cheek b-movie last year and if you are hiding under a rock, you may not be aware that it became a social media sensation. So tonight the sequel debuts, and it's called "Sharknado 2 - The Second One." NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says this is a new kind of TV disaster movie, the intentionally bad kind. Welcome Eric. I'm so excited to talk to you about this.
ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: So glad to be here.
SHAPIRO: I know you're not a meteorologist, but to the extent that you can, tell us what exactly a Sharknado is and why are not one, but two movies about it.
DEGGANS: Well, in the movies, a Sharknado is a waterspout that essentially lifts up these loads of dangerous sharks and then drops them on unsuspecting people, flooding the city with man-eating sharks. So Syfy built this gloriously bad TV movie around this concept last year and it was starting "Beverly Hills 90210" alum Ian Ziering and American Pie 2 star, Tara Reid.
SHAPIRO: Luminaries of the silver screen, both.
DEGGANS: You've got to love - you've got to love these guys. And it was such a social media hit, that Syfy made a sequel. And this time the Sharknado hits New York. Now we've got a scene here from the movie with Reid and Ziering just after they survived a Sharknado attack.
(SOUNDBITE FROM FILM, "SHARKNADO 2 - THE SECOND ONE")
TARA REID: (As April) The shark kept chasing me. And it had this huge scar across its face and I shot him in the eye, but it took my hand. It's he knew who I was.
IAN ZIERING: (As Fin) He didn't know you. If he did, he would have run the other way. I'm sure about that.
SHAPIRO: Eric, it's so good because it's so bad.
DEGGANS: What are you laughing about?
SHAPIRO: I know...
DEGGANS: That's drama.
SHAPIRO: I'm remembering the show "Mystery Science Theater 3,000," which was basically people making fun of really bad old movies. I feel like those movies aren't supposed to be bad in the way that "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2" are supposed to be bad.
DEGGANS: Exactly. That's what makes "Sharknado" and Syfy's growing roster of these made-for-TV movies really unique. It's a B-level disaster movie that's seriously awful on purpose so people can make fun of it.
SHAPIRO: Can I get you to put on your cinema historian hat for a minute and talk about where this came from?
DEGGANS: These kind of disaster movie start as attempts to make serious films on a budget, like say "Airport 75." But they were also fans who made fun of how stilted and preposterous they were. But "Sharknado" is different, it doesn't really have jokes, but it's not trying to be serious either. It tells a story that's so absurd and so earnest, with such bad acting, that the result is an intentionally unintentional comedy.
SHAPIRO: But it seems like the joke is on us because while we are busy talking about and tweeting about this movie, Syfy is making a ton of money off something that cost very little to produce.
DEGGANS: Yeah, that's a great point, and they hire some of the cheapest actors - people who are amateurs like Kelly Osbourne, and Billy Ray Cyrus and rapper Biz Markie to make cameo roles so yeah, it's very cheap to produce these movies.
SHAPIRO: OK, so when I watched "Sharknado 1," and I am not ashamed to admit that I did, I found the Twitter reaction almost more entertaining than the show itself. So give tips for the best way to watch a phenomenon like this.
DEGGANS: For sure. First you want to watch this in a group so you can shout your snarky insults at the screen. Second, you got to know your D-list actors. I watched this with my teen and tween daughters and you know, a lot of the people they didn't know - it kind of went over their head. And then there's a whole second screen experience here where you can tweet your snarky lines to your friends across the country, and that's important too. Syfy has been making these kind of movies for a long time, but I think with "Sharknado" they've got the perfect marriage of outlandish concept, amateurish acting and middling production values. And if you miss it on TV, you can see it in theaters on August 21st, which even be more fun.
SHAPIRO: Thanks, Eric.
DEGGANS: Thank you.
SHAPIRO: NPR TV critic, Eric Deggans.