A Primer for Sharknado Newbies, Starting With Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!


Watching Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!—experiencing Sharknado for the first time—I quickly learned that the first rule of Sharknado-watching is to never ask questions. Especially the all-important one: What am I watching? From what I knew of this cultural phenomenon secondhand, the SyFy Channel’s Sharknado TV-movie franchise has all the cognizant simplicity of a Disney Channel film. The titles alone (Sharknado 2: The Second One) suggest a frank self-awareness that’s in part a result of how instantly Zeitgeist these movies became, and how good they are at being so bad. For a franchise where the dialogue is the adult’s version of Dick & Jane, I know going into this third sequel that there’s no point overanalyzing or wondering why I’m choosing to indulge this goofy entertainment. This is just like all those times I watched That’s So Raven in college.

There’s not much I knew about Sharknado, other than the fact that people like it, it’s stupid, and it has tons of celebrities. Ian Ziering from 90210 is the star and hero of Sharknado, and Tara Reid plays his wife April, who also fights sharks. For most of the opening sequence for Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No—before I learned to stop asking questions—I’m calling him Ian Ziering in my head: Why is Ian Ziering from 90210 running? Why is Ian Ziering running to the White House? Soon, I find out his character’s name is Finley, and it still takes me several minutes to realize the “shark” “fin” connection. Clueless and easily entertained, I’m truly the ideal Sharknado viewer.

To be fair, putting two-and-two together with this movie often involves throwing all logic out the door and realizing that much of what you put together will make no sense. This primer could be just one sentence: Sharks are attacking America. You need to know nothing else, because this is a movie where everyone helps out by identifying exactly who they are (“I am the Chief of Staff”), saying their feelings (“I really hate sharks”) and stating the obvious so you know what’s happening (“The Sharknado has pretty much destroyed everything in sight.”). It’s like Sharknado For Dummies: For Dummies. It’s unnecessary to even define a Sharknado. It’s a shark tornado.

Anyway, Fin is running. I know Fin is some sort of hero because 1) He’s running. 2) He speaks in a tone that’s a mix of Batman and simpleton Don Draper. 3) He gets a Presidential Medal of Freedom from the President of the United States, Mark Cuban, in the opening sequence. Here, I learn that in the previous Sharknado installments I missed, Fin saved New York and Los Angeles from the threat of shark storms. Of course, they’re not safe for long. A shark storm hits the White House. Fin kills the sharks with swords and chainsaws.

Whatever the plot was in the previous two Sharknado movies, it doesn’t matter. It’s not that different from this one, which is that Sharknados are killing everybody on the East Coast. The destruction begins almost immediately while Fin’s receiving his medal at the White House.

This hokey opening—during which Fin thankfully alerts us that “there’s a storm coming”—ends with him and a group of people that includes his brother-in-law played by Mark McGrath (thanks so much for telling me “I’m Fin’s brother-in-law”), killing a shark that’s flying toward them from the sky by impaling it with the American flag. Fin says, “God bless America.”

Alas, this third Sharknado storm is the worst Sharknado the world has ever seen since the last one. While Fin is driving, a jock on his car radio jokes that whenever a Sharknado hits, “Nobody else survives, yet Fin Shepherd and his family seem to always survive just fine.” Fin can now sense the storms. The Sharknado threat starts in Washington, D.C. and then hits Orlando, where April and their daughter Claudia are staying.

Learning a lot at this point. Sixty percent of this movie is sharks killing people, and forty percent is people killing sharks. It’s kinda like The Walking Dead in that it’s not at all like The Walking Dead. It’s silly mediocrity at its best, but anyone who’s experienced the first two Sharknados might be too exhausted with its goofiness to even enjoy it as much as a newbie (L.A. Times says it “sinks” and NPR thinks it “fails at being really good bad television”). Part of the humor is in its freshness.

Ninety-eight percent of this franchise is celebrity cameos: Ne-Yo, Kim Richards, Rick Fox, Anthony Weiner, Reza from Shahs of Sunset, Jerry Springer, etc. Michelle Bachmann plays herself. Ann Coulter is the Vice President of the U.S. (Sharks are “wrecking our schools, our hospitals, our roads,” she says). Ray J works for NASA.

Fin meets up with some woman he seems to know (Who is this lady Nova? Another superhero? Her and Fin had a thing? More questions suppressed…) and Frankie Muniz, whose character’s name I keep forgetting so I just call him Muniz (According to IMDB, it’s Lucas). His best line about Sharknados is that it “Could be worse. Could be zombies.” (See my Walking Dead reference earlier). April has a prosthetic arm; an educated guess says she had it bitten off by a shark.

The best way to describe the rest of this movie is with a series of random, disassociated thoughts, which now follow:

Sharknado sharks are now eating birds (yeah) and surviving longer in the clouds. The Sharknado storms are merging. “It could destroy the entire East Coast,” says Fin. A Sharknado interrupts a NASCAR event. April and her friends are at a theme park. People are trapped on a rollercoaster. A shark gets on the rollercoaster. Nova is good at killing sharks. Fin has to fly into outer space to kill all the sharks. “It’s not the space I’m worried about. It’s the sharks,” says Fin. Whoever works on Sharknado has one of the best jobs in the world. I would love to write for this movie.

What happens in the end must be written down for society’s records. You can skip if, for some reason, you really care about spoilers for this silly movie.

Fin’s dad (David Hasselhoff, of course) sacrifices himself to save the world by shining a beam from space into the earth that kills the sharks but somehow doesn’t kill people. He’s a goner. Sharks get into the space shuttle. April is eaten by a shark. Fin dives in after her. The shark lands in the ocean back on Earth. Fin escapes from inside the shark and pulls April—AND THEIR NEW BABY—out of the shark. There’s a cliffhanger. Sharknado 4 is coming, and as bad as it is, it could be worse. It could be zombies.

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Images via SyFy/NBC Universal

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