I haven’t seen “Sharknado” nor do I plan to. As someone who frequently hosts “bad movie” nights this might seem a little strange, but movies like Sharknado (and generally anything produced by Asylum) are joyless, punishing affairs with little to no redeeming value.
This morning I read the news that Syfy’s Sharknado, already with two films in the books, will become a trilogy next year. The announcement let a groan rumble through my vocal cords that would rival the depths of Khazad-dûm and force Gandalf to change his wizard cloak.
So why, if I have gleefully watched films like The Room, Birdemic, Hard Ticket To Hawaii and Samurai Cop, would I loath Sharknado so much. To understand this we need to explore one of the oldest gags in comedy, the pie-in-the-face gag.
What makes a person getting a pie in the face funny? Typically the mark needs to be someone dignified, a person who demands respect, even if they don’t often get it. If the receiver of the pie doesn’t have dignity, then being splattered with cream and crust will be at best not funny and at worst sad and upsetting.
Imagine if a homeless person were to be hit by a pie. Would you laugh or be sad that this man who is down on his luck is now also covered in pie?
Now imagine Justin Bieber getting hit by a pie in the face… heh heh heh. Pretty great, right? I chose Bieber because his antics suggest to me he desperately wants to be respected, maybe even feared?
But someone slamming pie in his face takes all that way, he’s just laughable mess, the opposite of how he wants to be perceived.
You see, what makes a bad movie funny is that it asks to be taken seriously when it is in fact ridiculous. If effect, a bad movie is Justin Bieber asking you to respect him as an artist while his pet monkey masturbates behind him.
Sharknado doesn’t ask to be taken seriously, it asks us to watch and agree with how bad it is. It’s all punchline and no set up. Asylum and Syfy saw the phenomenon of movie riffing rise in popularity and tried to capitalize, but it’s clear they don’t understand at all why bad movies are fun to watch.