Having exhausted available US locations for airborne shark attacks, this fifth installment in the all-but-unstoppable schlock SyFy/Asylum franchise opts for a grand tour. Thanks to a mystic artefact dug up near Stonehenge, sharknados become teleport gates so series hero Fin Shepard (Ien Ziering), his cyborg wife April (Tara Reid) and Sisterhood of the Sharknado cultist Nova (Cassandra Scerbo) get whisked up by shark-infested twisters and dropped into shark attack scenes in London, Switzerland, Egypt, Australia, Rome, Japan and Brazil. The minimal plot hook is that Gil (Billy Barratt), Fin’s obnoxious son, is sucked into the air while wearing a GPS-equipped sharkproofed hat and so can be traced by the others. Fin is torn between the need to save his son to stress the family values of this surprisingly right-wing saga (there’s a nod to making America great) and the fact that everyone else wants him to save the world instead. Just about the only quality aspect of the film is Ziering’s manically sincere performance – my guess is that this is almost entirely the reason why we get these thrown-together farragos every year while the Megashark and Sharktopus series have run aground.
Mostly, it’s an excuse for weak gags about national monuments and stereotypes –Sydney Opera House morphs into an anti-sharknado base commanded by Olivia Newton-John (and her real-life, Morlock-lipped daughter Chloe Lattanzi) and Rio’s Christ statue lends a helping hand to the Shepard family – with a ton of cameos by local TV personalities (including some UK faces) and a strange fetish for featuring female survivors of grotesque plastic surgery in bit roles. Among this year’s crop of who-the-hell-was-that cameos are Chris Kattan (terrible as the UK Prime Minister), Samantha Fox (the Page 3 girl not the porn star), Katie Price, rocker Bret Michaels (playing a guitar while stuck to the front of an old-fashioned Routemaster bus), David Naughton (cuing a ton of American Werewolf references), Nichelle Nichols (as Secretary General of the UN), Geraldo Rivera (flying a cyberpunk zeppelin), Lucy Pinder, wrestler John Hennigan, Sasha Cohen (the ice skater), Bai Ling, Gilbert Gottfried, Tony Hawk as himself, Downtown Julie Brown, Margaret Cho, and — in not-even-remotely-funny joke casting — Fabio as the Pope and Charo as the Queen of England.
The finale features a cameo from Dolph Lundgren, and a promise of a trip to the future in Part 6. The shark chomping gags are running thin, and even gambits like having a swarm of irradiated sharks form into a composite kaiju to roll over Tokyo come across as blah thanks to the usual utterly inadequate special effects. A non-stop parade of movie in-jokes includes Fin finding Indiana Jones’ skeleton, hat and whip in a shark-trap under Stonehenge – continuity buffs can hope it’s just that Shia LeBeoeuf character from Crystal Skull – and then using the whip for the rest of the film. Anthony C. Ferrante directs as usual, but Scotty Mullen (Zoombies) takes over from Thunder Levin on script. There’s a theory that the even-numbered Star Treks are better than the odd-numbered … well, the any-numbered Sharknados are terrible. Not one-tenth as funny or outrageous as they wish they were, and proof that all the cameos and margin gags (there’s a nod to MAD Magazine’s Fold-In) in the world can’t make these enjoyable even on the level of a Raging Sharks or an Ozark Shark.
NB: My new book, Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon, contains reviews of the first four entries in the series. Print out this page and laminate it, and slip it between pages 532 and 533 so your copy can be more complete than the next completist’s. This is a public service.