Special Features – A Sharknado of Bad Movies That Must Be Stopped

Luke Owen on the current state of the monster movie….

With Pacific Rim hitting cinemas today and the Godzilla marketing campaign heading into full swing, it seems as though giant monster movies are making a comeback. Not only that, but based on Guillermo del Toro’s most recent kaiju-eiga inspired effort and the early viral attempts for The King of the Monsters, it appears as though we’re in for some well written monster movies with great concepts, fantastic visuals and a sense of fun and wonderment.

All of which is being undone by SyFy.

While the monster movie genre has laid dormant in the eyes of mainstream movie goers, SyFy have taken it upon themselves to fill the void with TV movies that work on one gimmick – a wacky name that will trend on Twitter.

SyFy movies are clearly titles first, story second. This is not an uncommon practice and it has been one used by many production companies during the 40s and 50s era of horror and sci-fi. But there was a vast difference between the two comparisons: Those writers and directors were trying to make a good movie that will entertain, not just a stupid movie to match the stupid name.

As someone who will defend almost every entry into the Godzilla franchise (I can kind of see what Yoshimitsu Banno was trying to do with Godzilla vs. Hedorah), I am no stranger to terrible movies that have a certain charm about them. But again the difference between Godzilla vs. Gigan and 2-Headed Shark Attack is that Jun Fukuda was trying to make the best with what he had work with. Toho was going through massive budget constraints during the movie’s production and while he knew what he was making was bad, he was at least trying to make it entertaining so as not to insult his audience or fans of the genre.

The SyFy movies don’t have this concern – all they want to see is their movie title trending on social media channels. The more people who think it’s a funny title, the more people will watch it (in theory). Yesterday’s premier of Shaknado is a prime example of this. All I saw yesterday was people talking on Twitter about how stupid the movie looked and it’s been top of the trending list all day today over the likes of Pacific Rim and Monsters University. SyFy have seemed to have found a winner with this one.

I wouldn’t mind so much if the movies were any good. Even half decent. Passable would be fine. But they’re not because the filmmakers go for an option that many low budget horror directors have fallen victim to – they’re trying to make a movie so bad, that it ends up being good.

This is an argument that has been used to describe many movies, mostly 80s action movies featuring the likes of Arnie, Sly Stallone, Van Damme et al. Even some of the 50s b-movies have been labelled by the same brush along with the alumni of the slasher genre. But I come back to my original point – those films were trying to be good but ended up being so bad that it 180’d  back into being good. Take Troll 2 for example. As demonstrated in the documentary Best Worst Movie, Claudio Fragasso will argue to his very core that the movie is brilliant and that it makes several comments on social issues and he doesn’t understand why people laugh at it. If people challenge him on it or if he hears the cast say negative remarks about the movie or its production at conventions, he will argue their criticisms. Mostly by calling them names, but you get the idea.

I don’t think the director of Sharktopus could do the same thing.

What annoys me greatly is that the ideas behind the SyFy movies are actually great fodder for the Troll 2 category of movies. Films that are incredibly stupid with asinine plots but have so much character and effort put into them that you can forgive its faults – like the aforementioned Godzilla vs. Gigan. For every single one of its problems, Sharktopus should have been a bona fide rubbish classic. Come on, it’s a half shark half octopus (all killer) monster – how did it go wrong? A lack of effort and care, that’s how. There was no hope for Piranhaconda, but 2-Headed Shark Attack? Genius. But lazy and unimaginative writing stunted any chances of it being remembered outside of its name.

SyFy have got half the puzzle right, they’ve found a market to tap into and they can promote the heck out of their movies. I’ve been sent no less than 6 emails today with jokes about Sharknado from people who would rather do anything else than watch movies. However the other half of that puzzle is actually making movies people would want to watch and that’s where they fail.

Son of Godzilla is a dumb film made for children, but I would rather watch that than Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.

Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Month in Review show for Flickering Myth’s Podcast Network. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.