Sharknado is a treasure to watch if you come in with the right frame of mind.
Before the start of the movie, the Fail Film Festival team plays a short Public Service Announcement (PSA). This PSA, in defiance of standard cinema etiquette, asks the audience to laugh, cheer, whistle and be as loud as they wish during the film. They even encourage live tweeting and checking social media; normally behaviour that would make any film lover seethe with fury. This should give you an idea of what kind of film experience you are in for.
The plot, in the most laboured of terms, is a simple man versus nature tale. The man in question is Finn Shephard, played by Ian Zeiring, and his motley crew of bar staff called Nova (Cassie Scerbo), surfing buddy Baz (Jaason Simmons) and local alcoholic George (John Heard) with his trusty barstool. Together, they rescue Finn’s ex-wife, April (Tara Reid, also the most recognisable name in the film) and daughter, Claudia (Audrey Peeples) before finding their son, Matt (Chuck Hittinger) and having a last showdown with the titular Sharknadoes. Their solution? Throwing bombs into the tornadoes from a helicopter.
Sharknado is a terrible movie. The acting is campy, similar to watching a preschool production, and it seems that it was too expensive to invest in decent audio equipment. The special effects are atrocious, with clearly CGI (computer-generated imagery) sharks and unconvincing wind effects galore. The whole film has the feeling of amateurishness about it. That is without even mentioning the messy editing that often ended with profile shots of actors saying nothing, staring into the middle distance as if caught off guard. There is not one redeeming feature in this film; from beginning to end it is cheap, terribly acted and spliced together as if the editors had left everything to the day of release. Why then was this movie chosen for a film festival? Simply, it is a masterpiece because it is such a poorly made movie. The dialogue and delivery are so bad the film becomes comedy, and every outrageous death is a monument to overacting and computer-generated gore.
In a group setting, Sharknado is a treasure to watch if you come in with the right frame of mind. The main attraction is not the film itself, but losing yourself to the howls of laughter from the other cinemagoers as they heckle the film. Moments such as cheering when drunk George uses his barstool to fight off sharks, or whoops when the protagonist’s car explodes (caused by a shark bite and water in the engine apparently) are what make this film a joy to watch. It helps that the venue, the Projector, allows alcohol to be brought into the screening, making the whole social affair that much more enjoyable. It is a film that should be enjoyed with friends (or family) for what it is. The crowd, to their credit, wholly bought into the atmosphere and played along admirably.
Watching films to deliberately laugh at their poor quality is a longstanding tradition in the United States. The most famous example is Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (MST3K), which would air terribly movies from the ’60s and ’70s while the three protagonists laughed and joked over the movie. It is this kind of experience that the Fail Film Festival wishes to emulate in Singapore.
How much of a lifespan does this kind of cinema going have? Around 50 or so attended the screening Saturday evening, and should interest remain high then this could very well be a regular event in alternative cinema.
As for teaching Singaporeans about the joy of failure, this is a tougher sell. The enjoyment was certainly there, but whether or not the lessons were learnt is another matter entirely.