RiffTrax Live: Sharknado

RiffTrax Live - SharknadoSynopsis: Considered by many critics to be one of the greatest movies ever made in the “Tornado full of sharks” genre, Sharknado debuted in 2013 to unprecedented buzz. Not since Snakes On A Plane had the internet been so excited about a movie, and not since the late 90s had anyone been so excited about anything starring Tara Reid.

From the moment it debuted, Sharknado was one of the most requested titles in RiffTrax history. It makes Jaws IV look like Jaws III, and Jaws III look like Jaws. Riffed LIVE from the State Theater in Minneapolis and broadcast to over 700 theaters across North America, this hilarious live event also features an all-new take on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan-favorite short A Case of Spring Fever starring Coily the Spring Sprite!

Look, why are you still reading this? It has chainsaws, helicopters dropping bombs, and the aforementioned TORNADO FULL OF SHARKS! Join Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett of RiffTrax.com for an uproarious riff on the most outrageous flick of 2013!


RiffTrax Live: Sharknado 8.0

eyelights: sharks + nados. the riffs. the chainsaw kill.
eyesores: the godzilla edit.

“Now I hate sharks, too.”

On July 10, 2014, the RiffTrax crew went live in cinemas across North America with their latest offering, an excoriation of the modern cult favourite ‘Sharknado’. I had long wanted to see them at my local cinema, but they were always limiting their showings to the United States. This was to be the first in Canada.

Naturally, I tried to get my local alternative cinema to join in but they didn’t see it as a financially viable endeavour, what with the university crowd away for the summer. But, thankfully, my local chain actually decided to carry the broadcast. To support this first Canadian excursion, I rounded up a few friends.

Half of them had never seen Mystery Science Theater 3000 or RiffTrax and some only had a vague idea of what to expect. But it looked like fun and they were game, so they came out to play, knowing full well of ‘Sharknado’s reputation. If they didn’t have an appetite for it, at the very least they were curious.

We had a great time out, and laughed our heads off. One of my closest friends said that ‘Sharknado’ was the perfect bad movie – and that’s saying quite a lot because we’ve seen our share together through the years. Unfortunately, the presentation was marred by audio drop-outs throughout the show, ruining my experience.

(For the record, I’m sure the issue was with my cinema, not the broadcast, or else we would have heard about it – this presentation of RiffTrax was broadcast in hundreds of cinemas to thousands of fans around the continent. Had the issue been widespread, there would have been no hiding from the fans’ disappointment.)

I would have written it up, as I tend to do, but I hadn’t brought anything to take notes with that night; I didn’t want the newbies’ experience to be hindered by the sight of me furiously taking notes during the show. I thought it would be uncouth. Sadly, aside for a reprise five days later, this was to be a once in a lifetime thing.

A home video release of ‘Sharknado’ was never planned.

Last week, I got word from the media relations people at RiffTrax that they were finally intending to release it – on Wednesday, February 18, in fact. My feeling is that, due to massive fan demand they found ways to circumvent the costs and legal hassles to make it available. Demand was great: ‘Sharknado’ was one of their best.

And so it was that I finally got a chance to blurb about the ‘RiffTrax Live: Sharnado’ live performance. Armed with a media screener (it’s lower resolution, but it’s fine for reviewing) I sat down to revisit this so-bad-it’s-good cinematic masterpiece. To say that was rather eager is very much an understatement.

Although I technically saw this back on July 10, 2014, I decided to date the blurb based on my viewing the screener not the show because there are a few notable -but insignificant- differences between them. For starters, there’s a newly-minted animated intro, and there’s a small edit in the middle (more on that later).

As I mentioned, the home video release begins with a RiffTrax animated title. This traditional 2D animation is cheap-looking but it’s filled with amusing pop culture references. Its theme song is fun, spritely. Actually, I kind of wish I knew who the artist was, because I might enjoy more of his work.

The show as we saw it back in July then began with a stage hand knocking on Mike, Kevin and Bill’s dressing room door. They open, feign surprise, come out, and walk to the stage where they are greeting warmly by the live audience at the Hennepin Theatre Trust in Minneapolis – which seemed filled to capacity.

The trio introduced the show, plugged their then-upcoming RiffTrax Live events ‘Godzilla’ and ‘Anaconda’, and talked about some of the terrific surprises that they had in store for the evening. Kevin decided to clear up the fact that there wouldn’t be any of those mundane surprises, just good ones.

The show began with a brief set-up for a black and white educational short about the value of springs – something they’d also riffed back in the days of MST3K. Called ‘A Case of Spring Fever’, Mike comments that this is “what you get when Jenny McCarthy convinces you to not get the spring vaccine”. Nice.

“A Case of Spring Fever” finds a middle-aged man trying to fix his couch and muttering to himself that he is sick of springs, wishing he’s never see one ever again. Naturally, a grating cartoon elf called Coily appears and strips his life of all springs. Now nothing works and Coily taunts him by saying “No springs”.

After he takes back what he said about springs, the guy goes out golfing with his friends and pesters them about the value of springs the whole way through. “This is worse than when he quit gluten then wouldn’t shut up about it”, Mike adds. While the audio issues at the cinema had marred this one, it’s actually brilliant. 8.0

In cinemas, they then teased their upcoming ‘Godzilla’ performance, a film that they had had their eye on for a long time. It wasn’t especially funny and there were technical difficulties in the broadcast. For good or bad it was edited out with the only trace of it being the awkward cut that takes place in between segments.

However, their short preview of ‘Sharknado 2’, which was then being released only two weeks later, remains. I suspect that this is how they got to do ‘Sharknado’: cross-promotion. Anyway, the sequel looks like crap, and it was weird to see it before the original. “It’s like dessert before dinner”, offers Kevin.

Then comes ‘Sharknado’ (or “Shark-nah-doh” as Bill calls it – a deservedly snooty title for a highbrow film such as this one). They set up the picture for those caught unawares. Bill also pokes fun at the science behind ‘Sharknado’ – although I suspect that just because it never happened doesn’t mean that it can’t.

In any case, for those new to this picture, here’s the plot: an environmental anomaly has created a string of tornados on the West coast of the United States. Sharks are being lifted out of the water and carried around in these rampaging tornados, dropping sharks just about everywhere. It’s a disaster movie.

Or is it just that the movie is a disaster? Anyway, think of “Shark-nah-doh” as ‘The Birds‘ but with sharks.

Or ‘Piranha‘ with tornados, I suppose.

Um… yeah.

To make matters worse, the stars of “Shark-nah-doh” are Ian Ziering (of ‘Beverley Hills 90210’ “fame”) and Tara Reid (of ‘American Pie’ “fame”). There are plenty of jokes made at their expense, given the state of their careers now. And, in Tara’s case, her intellect and plastic surgery – which I only noticed for the first time here.

The picture begins with a sharknado for effect, then it cuts to a small boat where an illegal transaction is taking place between the ship’s captain and a bookish Asian. Naturally, a storm breaks up the scene. Which means sharks. Which means a gunfight. Which means awesome. Or, as Mike calls it: “The dark reboot of Gilligan’s Island”.

Then we go to an unrelated ‘Baywatch’-like montage taken from multiple beaches but that are meant to be the same one. Our male protagonists are surfing – or, in “Shark-nah-doh” terms, are paddling around on still waters while talking about the gnarly waves no one else sees (except in unrelated inserts, of which there are plenty).

Then there’s a shark attack, and no one notices it, no matter how much shouting our hero (Ian) does. When they do, it’s too late, the sharks are everywhere and SoCal brahs are mutilated. Later, the friends talk about the storm that is supposedly happening but that we can never see. Suddenly, they look out the window and there it is.

Amusingly, these people hang out at the bar all the time (Who needs to work, eh, brah?) (In all fairness, two of them work there. My heroes!) so they’re best buds and get along well enough. And yet they need hamfisted exposition to get to know the most mundane details about one another. Yeah, this is not Bill Shakespeare!

Anyway, their inane small-talk is interrupted by sharks launching through the window. So there!

They escape to the flooded streets of Los Angeles. They drive around surrounded by sharks but no nados. In fact, some areas are rather quite dry, considering the supposed breadth of the storm that’s hit the area. And it’s not especially infested by sharks. “All the terror and intensity of a no-touch car wash”, sneers Mike.

Our hero goes to pick up his kids and there’s a confrontation his ex (Tara) and her Ken-like boyfriend. For some reason, they weren’t aware of the storm at all. And yet, their shark-infested pool explodes into their living room. This happens. It’s called science. Also science: escaping the flooded house without trickling a drop.

Then our hero and his peeps go through L.A., find a trapped schoolbus, and save all the kids by repeling down a bridge and pulling them back up one by one – after which the kids just vanish. At this point, there were wicked aerial shots of the city with sharks flapping about on rooftops. Then they go to a liquor store for essentials.

Seriously. And why not? That’s where I do my groceries too.

Afterwards, they go looking for our hero’s son at aviation school. Pay attention. This is a key plot point. You see, at aviation school, they have a huge workshop filled with every tool you can imagine, and they use them to make bombs. The plan: to fly over the sharknados and these drop bombs in their centres to destroy them.


“Shark-nah-doh” is a bad movie lover’s wet dream: the script makes no sense, the actors are pathetically trying to make it look real, disparate scenes are edited together in a vaguely orderly way, the effects are horrible (ex: the blue-screening, sharks, waves, rolling Ferris wheel that crashes into a building, …etc. Wait… what? Ferris wheel?)

The only thing that could possibly make this a better “bad movie” would be, as Bill suggested, that a plane filled with snakes might crash on them – then we’d have the ultimate movie. I agree. Still, I do take issue with the fact that ‘Sharknado’ was purposely bad. That’s not as fun. At least ‘Birdemic‘ and ‘The Room‘ didn’t do it on purpose.

They just failed spectacularly. Whereas’ ‘Sharkando’ succeeded at failing.

In any case, it made for a hilarious night out and now a hilarious time at home. I would never watch ‘Sharknado’ on its own because it’s a piece of crap, but Mike, Kevin and Bill not only make it palatable, they make it so funny that it’s worthwile. I think that they did the right thing by releasing it; it really is one of their best.

I wuvs it.

“I do too, and maybe more”

Date of viewing: February 15, 2015


Post scriptum: In the days following this post, we landed email interviews with Kevin and Bill. It got a little bit silly. Read here

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