“It's exactly what you think it is—a tornado full of sharks”
July 12, 2013 3:36 AM   Subscribe

The rise of video-on-demand services like Netflix and dedicated cable-TV channels has created a new industry in low-budget B-movies; meet Asylum Films, an outfit in California following in the footsteps of historical B-movie auteurs like Roger Corman, Menahem Golan and Uwe Boll, with films with titles like Sharknado, Transmorphers, Sex Pot and Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies. Asylum's new B-movies are made quickly and cheaply to ride the coattails of the big studios' fads, filling gaps in the market for more films about, say, adorable puppies, alien battleships or apocalypses. The films are made to a strict formula, are played entirely seriously, with no hint of irony or knowingness, and are designed primarily to pad out rental lists and appeal to recommendation engines, though the producers point out that often mainstream Hollywood fare is often no less hackneyed and formulaic. (Previously...)
posted by acb (118 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
This movie blew up Twitter and Facebook last night, all the way up to Mia Farrow and Philip Roth tweeting a picture of themselves watching the film.
posted by KingEdRa at 3:47 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't forget the legendary Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.

I've been kind of fascinated by The Asylum for a while now. I like to say I'd rather watch Transmorphers than Michael Bay's Transformer's movies, and it's true, in the sense that zero is still greater than a negative number.

The ingredients to most Asylum movies:
1. A title that sounds almost, but not quite, like a relatively recent Hollywood release. Example: The Day The Earth Stopped.

2. An actor in the Decline portion of his career. Example one: Michael Gross, the dad from Family Ties. Example two: Jaleel White, a.k.a. Urkel, in Mega Shark vs. Crocosaurus.

3. Enough special effects to pad out the trailer. You can be certain, when watching the trailer to an Asylum (direct to DVD) movie, that you are watching every special effect in the whole movie.

4. Depending on the movie, long, interminable scenes of talking heads and/or tense, hunched-over exploration of vaguely similar techno-corridors.

It's this last one that break Asylum movies for me, that stop me from recommending them wholeheartedly as riffing fodder. Because those scenes will be, by far, most of the movie, and for every awesomely schlocky scene like this one from Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, you're going to spend fifteen minutes in a poorly-lit submarine watching people say stupid things to each other, and that wears on the soul.
posted by JHarris at 4:08 AM on July 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


I still want Max Knight: Ultra Spy on DVD. C'mon. "I ♥ Sailor Moon" as the CEO's super-secret password, right there in the first ten minutes? I'm sold.
posted by adipocere at 4:09 AM on July 12, 2013


> Mia Farrow and Philip Roth tweeting a picture of themselves watching the film.

Were Mia Farrow and Philip Roth each, individually, posting selfies while watching Sharknado, or were they huddling on a couch with their iPads, snarking online with their literati and Hollywood friends while sipping white wine and dehydrated kale leaf snacks?
posted by ardgedee at 4:20 AM on July 12, 2013


> 4. Depending on the movie, long, interminable scenes of talking heads and/or tense, hunched-over exploration of vaguely similar techno-corridors.

Surprisingly little of that in Sharknado. Not a non-zero amount and certainly more than I wanted, but less than I expected. And usually what came out of anybody's mouth was so appallingly stupid that the non-efforts kinda' redeemed themselves.
posted by ardgedee at 4:22 AM on July 12, 2013


Man, I do have a fondness for Stonehenge Apocalypse.

There's a robot head on the moon! A pyramid under Maine! And Stonehenge can rotate!
posted by Katemonkey at 4:36 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's like Birdemic after a bird/shark find-and-replace. (I'm bad at sed notation.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:41 AM on July 12, 2013


Sounds like its no Titanic II but ill watch it
posted by smackwich at 4:46 AM on July 12, 2013


So the Asylum has an official pitch submission form and they helpfully included a comments section for those aspiring screenwriters who have no idea how the internet works. I would watch any of the following films made from pitches posted in the comments:
Don’t Call Me Monkey: Earl and Dominic decide to borrow a top-secret, high-tech memory machine from the laboratory where Dominic works and also borrow a tits-obsessed chimpanzee from its owner, for whom Jordan works, in order to put them together, collect the chimpanzee’s memories, which are filled with the sexual exploits of his owner, record them, sell them as a Sex Monkeycam DVD and make a fortune. When things go haywire on multiple fronts, chaos ensues, and they must try to find a way to achieve their goal and avoid being caught by the FBI/CIA agents investigating the case, or the furious owner of the chimp and his gangster security people.

Palo de Rosa: After a bloody shootout at the border of Mexico leaving 85 people dead the Mexican goverment legalizes the sale of illegal drugs in the small town of palo de rosa to stop the violent conflicts on the border. Millions of Americans cross the border to purchase drugs and to move to Mexico after its economy receives a boost from the sales.The US sends a group of Afro-Cuban paramilitary men deemed expendable to palo de rosa to burn it down and stop the flow of revenue.

The Soulless Princess: The Soulless Princess is a super heroine and born in San Francisco,California.Her mother is white than her father is Asia.She have 3 Step brothers and 3 Step sisters.She is 25 years old and she is working at the restaurant in Chinatown in San Francisco,California.Her boyfriend is living in San Francisco,California and his job is undercover CIA as his secret job that noones don’t know about.She have her own secret noones knows she have super powers and she goes after mafia and ect.
She will take down anyone who are evil people.
posted by item at 4:50 AM on July 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


The best bad movies are the ones that aren't bad on purpose (i.e. Zardoz, Battlefield Earth) or the ones where you can't tell (i.e. Showgirls, The Room, Trapped In The Closet). Once you've seen one Asylum film, you've seen them all.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:53 AM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


So, Buzzfeed the Movie.
posted by dumbland at 4:56 AM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


So these guys are SyFy's pusher?
posted by Thorzdad at 4:58 AM on July 12, 2013


Wait one year and these guys will likely own SyFy.
posted by arcticseal at 4:59 AM on July 12, 2013


Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

Bah, that's nothin'.
posted by odinsdream at 5:00 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


But can we forgive them for pushing "Atlantic Rim" onto DVD three days before "Pacific Rim" hits theaters? If Del Toro's Robots vs. Monsters epic isn't the blockbuster it should be, I'm blaming The Asylum.
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:23 AM on July 12, 2013




I wonder how much a production system like Asylum could be automated, and long until they can eliminate most human involvement from the production process. Let's see: the scriptwriting could probably be automated using software, given that the scripts are 100% formula (parasitise off Hollywood market research and structure the film to fit into clients' delivery models), with no space for anyone who fancies themselves as an auteur. Currently they need human actors, not to mention camera/lighting crews and set builders, but as CGI gets better, they will be replaceable. (Right now, they could probably do everything in CGI, hiring voiceover talent to voice the graphics; this would have the advantage of being able to localise films into different languages without obvious lipsync errors.) Someone has to do the set design, but that could be automated by building up (or sourcing) a clip-art library of components (think the standard corridor only expanded to what can be rendered; parametric palaces, space stations, high schools, futuristic CIA moonbases, haunted castles, standard sitcom house sets, all of them with enough randomness to make each invocation effectively unique).

So eventually you could have a turnkey library: Netflix want more films about, say, post-apocalyptic mutants with bazookas or gothic werewolves in mediaeval France or space squids or whatever it is, they go to Asylum or another provider (or bid on the open market) and get a film delivered. The next day, the market research indicates demand for a film about giant bees terrorising rural Texas, so they commission one of those. Meanwhile, the subsidiary in Argentina calls for the werewolves-in-France film, only with gothic werewolves replaced by steampunk vampires, but everything else left pretty much as is, and the one in China wants space squids of a slightly different hue with a different bad guy, so those are tweaked, rerendered and sent over.
posted by acb at 5:29 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


So the Asylum has an official pitch submission form

This reminds me of the pitch idea I had last week, the entirety of which is, "Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh, it's International Pug." From the producers of Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Call me.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:32 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife brought home Transmorphers by mistake awhile back and it's been a running gag around here ever since. I didn't know they had a pitch form. I think I'm going to send them my Volcanombies and Tsunampires idea.
posted by jquinby at 5:39 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Taravalanchula?
posted by uncleozzy at 5:42 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


The best bad movies are the ones that aren't bad on purpose (i.e. Zardoz, Battlefield Earth) or the ones where you can't tell (i.e. Showgirls, The Room, Trapped In The Closet).

Yeah, we were talking about this last night after watch Sharknado and the even worse (?!) Two-Headed Shark. Unintentional camp is almost always much campier than intentional camp, and movies that look like they're trying to become cults classics is....a thing people should do.

I loves me some terrible good movies, but these are not them.
posted by rtha at 5:47 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I DID IT.
posted by jquinby at 5:50 AM on July 12, 2013


I watched about an hour of Axe Giant on SyFy a month or so ago. The pace was way too slow. More axe giant, less hardass-corrections-officer.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:53 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got stuck watching a rerun of Annihilation Earth with friends and the one-two punch of that and SyFy's Caprica disaster made me happily delete SyFy from my TiVo's channel list. They're a shitty, shitty, shitty network of nonstop shitty shittiness and they can't even show fun campy movies—they show us the execrable Marina Sirtis execrably being odious with a Southern accent so impossibly terrible that I believe it to be a long-delayed terrorist revenge strike for every "English" accent ever attempted by Dick Van Dyke.

These ho-ho-so-bad-they're-good (but they're not) films are so full of nonsensical filler dialogue that I suspect the production companies maintain a warehouse full of aphasia patients suspended on wires like in Coma with Dragon Dictation apps capturing their word salad for all those tense and techie romantic character-building moments (i.e. seventeen-eighteenths of the film).

Campy is fun. These monster monstrosities are not fun.

Not fun at all.
posted by sonascope at 5:54 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


If it wasn't for Asylum, we wouldn't know the joy that is Jerry the Pool Boy from Dinocroc vs. Supergator.
posted by inturnaround at 5:54 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


My guess is the creative process goes like this for an Asylum picture:

1) Find out what popular movie is coming out
2) Producer asks his kid to draw up some storyboards and plot, with only the title as his point of reference
3) Producer's kid is 5 years old
4) Buy coke and mescaline
5) Hire someone from the WGA write a script based on the storyboards, and the moment the writer realizes what he's been hired to do, taser him and lock him in a basement with the coke and mescaline as his/her only sustinence
6) Wait until you hear the writer collapse, take the script and ditch the writer somewhere on the drive back to the studio
7) Hire blacklisted actors and whatever director you can find that will work on Saturdays
8) Tell them they have two weeks to get you coverage
9) Buy more coke and mescaline
10) give the footage to an adult film editor, composer, and foley guy (same dude)
11) Spend the weekend in a hotel room doing coke and mescaline
12) Call the editor, composer, and foley guy and ask for the cut
13) ???
14) Netflix
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 5:59 AM on July 12, 2013 [17 favorites]


The best bad movies are the ones that aren't bad on purpose (i.e. Zardoz, Battlefield Earth) or the ones where you can't tell (i.e. Showgirls, The Room, Trapped In The Closet).


Starship Troopers. Starship Troopers.
posted by slogger at 6:00 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: an adult film editor, composer, and foley guy (same dude)
posted by jquinby at 6:01 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: a warehouse full of aphasia patients suspended on wires like in Coma with Dragon Dictation apps capturing their word salad
posted by slogger at 6:02 AM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Metafilter: fifteen minutes in a poorly-lit submarine watching people say stupid things to each other, and that wears on the soul
posted by orthicon halo at 6:02 AM on July 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


Two of my favorite movies are Con Air and The Apple, because in both cases, it's clear that some people in the production were in on the joke and some people were not, but it's never really clear exactly who was and on what level.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:03 AM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]




This is where it can get difficult to make absolute statements, though. Sharknado! was intentionally bad and self-aware of it. More than a few of the actors seemed incapable of hiding their bitterness that these are the only sorts of gigs they can book any more. If I was watching it on my own it might've just been a soul-crushing endurance contest to get to the few bits of glorious idiocy.

Instead, I watched it with my wife and participated in a liveblog with a bunch of other mefites, and everybody had a blast. It was a grand night spent celebrating teh stupid. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

And that's what's missing from these bad movies that the bad movies of decades past had: the pleasure of company. The crowd makes the event. Rocky Horror is the classic example: it's really a boring parody on it's own but is a standard nerd rite of passage for, what, two generations of teenagers now. We don't have theaters to watch this new generation of junk film in, but we have the Internet, and maybe we're figuring out how to make something of that.
posted by ardgedee at 6:07 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


From the mind of (MeFi's own!) John Scalzi: Snailquake! Yes, Snailquake!
posted by Gelatin at 6:07 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


What sort of bums me about these Asylum and SyFy original movies is that peoples' interest gets piqued by just hearing 'Sharknado' and 'Mansquito', because they sound so ridiculous. People want to see how these things are pulled off, but the execution is always so lacking and cynical. No, you can't intentionally craft good-bad movies, but you can at least craft something weird intentionally. You can make an effort at crazed spectacle and it doesn't really matter how low your budget is.

This was proved to me by watching old Doctor Who episodes where you can have monsters made of green bubblewrap and still create something entertaining so long as the writing has an ounce of heart and brains, and you have game, decent actors.

All I'm saying is that it'd be nice if these schlock merchants hired some writers and directors who were actually interested in creating something a little different. I mean the heavy lifting for these guys is 90% in the fucking title, not even the story pitch, so what do they care if some actual creative people broke formula and went nuts with the idea, as long as it was under budget? Maybe the movies still wouldn't be great, but the could be somewhat entertaining instead of the snoozes they are now.
posted by picea at 6:08 AM on July 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


And that's what's missing from these bad movies that the bad movies of decades past had: the pleasure of company.

We have a friend who runs a bar and had we (okay, mostly me) not been so lazy last night we would have headed over to his bar, where he was hosting a Sharknado watching party, complete with shark-themed snacks and drinks. I'm thinking he's going to do similar events in the future, and I will totally be unlazy and go.
posted by rtha at 6:11 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the real question here is, how does JHarris know about ALL THE THINGS? Is he a single person, or some sort of borg-like collective?
posted by jcreigh at 6:21 AM on July 12, 2013


There's something I really appreciate about them undermining the pomp in hollywood. I love movies but, with the way things are going (particularly with regards to original content), I think Asylum is just ahead of the curve.
It also can't be a coincidence that these guys are in an upswing as medicinal/decriminalized marijuana becomes more commonplace.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 6:22 AM on July 12, 2013


Hilarious:

- When the Asylum caught legal heat last year for planning to release a low-budget fantasy DVD called Age of the Hobbits the same week Peter Jackson’s three-hour epic hit theaters, it changed the name to Clash of the Empires, then released a statement that said: “We continue to believe that this frivolous lawsuit was filed to divert attention from the adverse publicity and poor reviews received by ‘The Hobbit’ movie.”

- “We’re making fun of the commerce side of this. You made your movie for $200 million? I’ll make it for 20 bucks.”

- On its blog, the company instructs fans to add its titles to their Netflix queues to gin up the perception of “public demand” for the movie, and they couldn’t care less whether that demand translates into actual viewings. “This isn’t about trying to get you to watch our movie,” they wrote. “This is about gaming the system. This is about taking a stand. Against math.”


I mean, they're clearly bottom-feeding scum whose primary business model is "there's one born every minute" and picea's right that almost all of their product is joyless, cynical garbage only partially redeemed by the social value of laughing at it, and yet when they poke so directly at the bloated pomposity of Hollywood it's hard not to tip your hat at least once in their general direction. I laughed when I saw "Attack From Beneath" (which used to be "Atlantic Rim" [I'd have thought their lawyers would have had that particular line down by now]) appear Tuesday on the local video store shelves.
posted by mediareport at 6:24 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


I actually don't think they're bottom-feeding scum. I think they love B movies and have figured out that there's a place in the world for cheap effects done with tongue firmly in cheek, where all the blood is corn syrup and all the sharks are foam rubber.

These movies are profoundly silly, but they're supposed to be, and people have fun watching them, and while I wouldn't want to watch a lot of them, they don't offend me in the slightest.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:27 AM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


These movies are profoundly silly, but they're supposed to be

So why's the main rule that SyFy has for films like this the rule that you can't make fun of the films?

At Syfy, Lando follows a strict formula for its movies of the week: an eight-act plot structure, laced with kills every seven minutes, plus a plot recap disguised as dialogue an hour into the feature to brief viewers who are just tuning in. “But the main rule is: You don’t go for the funny,” Lando says. “You’re not supposed to make fun of the movie.”
posted by mediareport at 6:34 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


You're not supposed to make fun of the movie within the movie. Saying that the movie isn't supposed to point at its own comedy is compleeeeeetely and critically different from not understanding that the movies are funny and are enjoyed primarily as funny. The MOVIE isn't supposed to make fun of the movie. YOU can do whatever you want at home.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:36 AM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yeah, the goal seems to be to prohibit filmmakers from using the fourth wall rather than to treat the content as sacrosanct.
posted by ardgedee at 6:39 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, it's nice to imagine the folks who run Asylum have a deep, abiding love for the history of cheesy, B-movie schlock, but the evidence of that somehow never appears onscreen. As other folks have pointed out, Asylum films are mostly pretty joyless, which, to me, makes it clear that Asylum is run by a bunch of cynical fucks interested primarily in separating cash from an audience they consider stupid. They don't give a fuck if a small percentage of their sucker audience enjoys the movies "primarily as funny."

Hmmm. Now that I think about it, that's about as classic B-movie schlock as it gets.
posted by mediareport at 6:43 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


These guys may have gotten into it just cause they love the making of bad films and just for fun... but that time ended ages ago. And they definitely weren't brought about because of netflix. They have existed for years largely because of a very simple math equation.... blockbusters and it's like would each order a copy of just about any movie that sounded familiar to their buyers. So they knew they could sell x copies of anything with that kind of title. And there would be little to no marketing. So if they made a movie that cost just slightly less then they could sell those copies for everything else would be gravy.

They are trying to re-invent themselves post that age but it's not leading to anything better on the screen.

They totally lost me with "666: The child" where they padded the screen time to 80 mins by having a 20 min credit crawl. It was epic, single column, the whole cast pretty much had a whole screen. If you played it at fast forward it almost looked like a normal credit crawl.
posted by cirhosis at 6:45 AM on July 12, 2013


Yeah, that's a cynical fuck move. Laugh with/at Asylum a couple of times; it's fun. But don't lose sight of what they really are. They don't care two shits about the audience.
posted by mediareport at 6:47 AM on July 12, 2013


The best bad movies are the ones that aren't bad on purpose (i.e. Zardoz, Battlefield Earth)

Zardoz certainly looks silly, but it is not a bad movie. It's a movie about an Earth that's been through some sort of hard singularity and whose thin smear of posthuman eloi are trying to figure out a way around their own posthuman immortality so that they can finally just die. One of them takes a few centuries to try breeding superhuman intelligences out there in the wild...

It's the hippy-dippy trappings that turn people off, not the plot.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:00 AM on July 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


Zardoz is a good idea poorly executed.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:04 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


io9 asked the writer of Sharknado some very serious questions.


That writer is my new personal hero.

Interviewer: What would happen if you spliced a shark with dark matter?
Writer: You’d have a sequel!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:06 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only time I honestly, unironically enjoyed an Asylum movie scene was in Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, the scene where Tiffany and Debbie Gibson catfight and Mickey Dolenz gets eaten by a huge snake. The main reason I enjoyed it was that I knew who those three people are/were and at that moment, the movie seemed to be more or less self-aware and winking at its own absurdity. If I'd seen it with no prior knowledge of those people, it would have just played as trailer trash duking it out and some random dude swallowed whole by a shitty CGI effect. It would have fallen completely flat. I guess there are some lines sprinkled through the movie, too, like "I think we're alone now" and shit like that that approach an 8th grader's idea of cleverness, but that movie was -- like all Asylum flicks -- virtually pure dreck.
posted by cog_nate at 7:19 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't speak to a lot of the Asylum's movies, but I think Sharknado is what they are always trying to do (and not usually succeeding) with regards to tongue-being-in-cheek and being actually entertaining.

I wonder if that's why it ended up as more promoted than others -- if SyFy knew what they had.

(I don't think so, actually. I think it's all dumb luck and social media hype and oh my God, the perfect ending.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:21 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


B movies 10+ years ago were actually not a bad lot. Sure, some were wince worthy, but those were the days when you could find some real gems that had some real heart. And some ridiculous silliness. Those were your Dolph Longrin, Oliver Gruner, and Mark Dacacos movies. These movies are just low quality garbage. For a time, syfy sort of straddled the line with fun bad movies, but they gave up caring, and as many have said, it's just a cynical way to draw eyes as cheap as possible.

I mean, anyone catch the tagine? "Enough said" ? Did they just give up completely?
posted by [insert clever name here] at 7:22 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Zardoz might look more ridiculous now because of its dated context... But it was considered a bad (or at least laughable) movie when it was first released, so it's probably a bad example of film that simply didn't age well.
posted by ardgedee at 7:28 AM on July 12, 2013


They don't give a fuck if a small percentage of their sucker audience enjoys the movies "primarily as funny."

In my experience, essentially the entire audience of these movies enjoys them primarily as funny. I have literally never met or heard from a person who watches SyFy movies unironically, and if you assume there is a great unwashed mass that does, despite the fact that neither you nor I have actually met them, I would gently suggest that perhaps the people watching are a bit smarter than you think and are simply having a go.

The experience of watching Sharknado roll by on social media last night was many things; "joyless" was none of them. I'm sorry it doesn't meet with everybody's approval, but it was kind of fun.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:33 AM on July 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


JHarris: "2. An actor in the Decline portion of his career. Example one: Michael Gross, the dad from Family Ties."

You take that back right now. No one bad talks Steven Keaton around me.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:37 AM on July 12, 2013


The best bad movies are the ones that aren't bad on purpose (i.e. Zardoz, Battlefield Earth) or the ones where you can't tell (i.e. Showgirls, The Room, Trapped In The Closet).

Starship Troopers. Starship Troopers.


Shut your filthy mouth. That's no more a bad movie than Robocop is.

The best bad movie I have ever seen is Stealth.

Torque is a close second.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:41 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


My guess is the creative process goes like this for an Asylum picture

You may enjoy the saga of Magic Eye Shark Movie.
posted by yarrow at 7:42 AM on July 12, 2013


Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies was actually pretty... no, what am I thinking? It was terrible.
posted by Naberius at 7:53 AM on July 12, 2013


The experience of watching Sharknado roll by on social media last night was many things; "joyless" was none of them.

That's the redeeming value I mentioned above, sure.
posted by mediareport at 8:08 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies was actually pretty... no, what am I thinking? It was terrible.

Agreed, but even then it came off slightly better than the movie it copied. Ugh.
posted by bizzyb at 8:19 AM on July 12, 2013


"People, Sharknado does not mark the end of civilization. No, the end of civilization is marked by the COULD A SHARKNADO HAPPEN? articles."
posted by straight at 8:23 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sharknado. Starring: Alex Arleo, Justin Beahm, Neil H. Berkow, David Bittick, Sumiko Braun, Ryan Budds, Adrian Bustamante, Diane Chambers, Marcus Choi and John Heard.

How does an Emmy-nominated actor (Sopranos), who had once been first billed with Liv Ullman (Mindwalk), Jeff Bridges (Cutter's Way) and Geraldine Page (The Trip to Bountiful) end up in this DTV schlockfest? He gets nostalgic. (C.H.U.D.)
posted by wensink at 8:30 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


> But it was considered a bad (or at least laughable) movie when it was first released, so it's probably a bad example of film that simply didn't age well.

Scenes of people getting high off Sean Connery's sweat and Charlotte Rampling giving Connery a Science Boner were never going to age well.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:36 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've written before about the SuckOffs, the events where my friends and I pit a SyFy (usually Asylum) movie against a big-budget release on a similar theme to see if the budget makes a difference in enjoyability. (Ex: Python vs. Anaconda.) But what we've noticed after doing several of these is that while the acting, writing, and effects are all terrible in the SyFy movies, the story architecture is actually usually pretty tight; you have a protagonist, an antagonist, a disaster, an exposition, a climax, a denouement -- it is a Story in the Aristotelian sense. Compare this with big-budget failures like On Deadly Ground or Battlefield Earth, where the storytelling is so incoherent it's often hard to even really say for sure what actually happens, or what the real story is. It leads to some lively discussions on the nature of film, and which kind of failure is greater -- the joyless formulaic grind, or the self-indulgent incoherent mess?
posted by KathrynT at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Scenes of people getting high off Sean Connery's sweat and Charlotte Rampling giving Connery a Science Boner were never going to age well.
posted by straight at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


item: " she goes after mafia and ect."

Metafilter: she goes after the mafia and ect.

KathrynT: "It leads to some lively discussions on the nature of film, and which kind of failure is greater -- the joyless formulaic grind, or the self-indulgent incoherent mess?"

Silk purses from sows ears indeed.
posted by boo_radley at 9:01 AM on July 12, 2013


So why's the main rule that SyFy has for films like this the rule that you can't make fun of the films?

I give you Mel Brooks, in his 1975 Playboy interview: "There's one thing you've got to understand before you can direct comedy. Comedy is serious—deadly serious. Never, never try to be funny! The actors must be serious. Only the situation must be absurd."
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:06 AM on July 12, 2013 [11 favorites]


The thing about Sharknado, in particular, is that it is beyond parody. For there are no parodies of Sharknado -- only unmade sequels.

Here are some:

Sharkacane
Sharkplosion
The M1A1 Sharkbrams Tank
Explosive Sharkarrhea ("Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the bathroom.")
Sharket To Mars (a rocket whose exhaust is sharks, natch)
Shark Candy Mountain
Sharka Khan
posted by JHarris at 9:27 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think the real question here is, how does JHarris know about ALL THE THINGS? Is he a single person, or some sort of borg-like collective?

I'm depressed a lot, partly because I work delivering pizza. One of the few things that pulls me out of depression is, when I find something weird and enthralling in the world. I then develop an obsessive need to know everything about it. It becomes the entirety of my life for a period of time. Before the internet these urges would have passed unsatisfied, but now there's usually something I can discover. The obsession doesn't usually abate until I could at least teach a course on it.
posted by JHarris at 9:35 AM on July 12, 2013 [13 favorites]


...when I find something weird and enthralling in the world. I then develop an obsessive need to know everything about it. It becomes the entirety of my life for a period of time. Before the internet these urges would have passed unsatisfied, but now there's usually something I can discover. The obsession doesn't usually abate until I could at least teach a course on it.

I call that the Wheel of ADD.
posted by no relation at 9:37 AM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sharkzapoppin!
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Shark
Shark Soup
Abbott and Costello Get Eaten
Young Sharkenstein
The Jaws of Navarone

And for my own mental health this probably should mark my exit from the thread, from the Rifftrax guys: Love Theme From Jaws, a.k.a. "When a Man Loves a Shark"
posted by JHarris at 9:46 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Midnight Cowshark.
Despersharko.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Shark.
posted by boo_radley at 9:59 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, I do have a fondness for Stonehenge Apocalypse.

There's a robot head on the moon! A pyramid under Maine! And Stonehenge can rotate!


For my wife and I (former big Supernatural fans) the best part was that Misha Collins used his Castiel voice the entire damn time, despite often complaining about how much it hurts his voice. He knew why people were going to tune in.
posted by kmz at 10:00 AM on July 12, 2013


Sharkferatu
The Creature From the Shark Lagoon
An American Wereshark in London

Monster A-Shark-Shark
Sharkdemic
A Talking Shark?!? (it only says OM NOM NOM)
Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Shark
posted by JHarris at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sharknado (A XXX Parody)
posted by item at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honey, I Devoured the Kids with my Numerous Rows of Flesh-tearing Teeth
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:18 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Monster A-Shark-Shark: THERE WAS NO SHARK, just a line of finprints in the dust and the brave men of valor standing alone in the dark.
posted by JHarris at 10:19 AM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


World War S
posted by no relation at 10:22 AM on July 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh I think I know what the S stands for. its 'shark'
posted by JHarris at 10:24 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Sharkferatu

This.
posted by acb at 10:36 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite b monster movie is still Tremors. It also gave the world several more degrees of Bacon.
posted by Ber at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2013 [5 favorites]


Aw no :( I was somehow under the impression this was airing tonight, not last night...have they announced any plans to run it again, or put it on a streaming service?
posted by Merzbau at 11:47 AM on July 12, 2013


Donnie Sharko
posted by no relation at 11:50 AM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sharknado (A XXX Parody)

Mudsharknado?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:41 PM on July 12, 2013


Zero Shark Thirty
posted by fuse theorem at 12:46 PM on July 12, 2013 [6 favorites]


They could branch out from sharks and move inland? Bearicane. Wolfcano.
posted by migurski at 12:48 PM on July 12, 2013


Kittenquake.
posted by rtha at 12:54 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry guys, looks like Asylum's own have admitted to being in on the joke: "Between poking sticks at tigers, reading our fan mail, and producing two crappy movies a month..."

(Also has the obvious Sharkula already been addressed?)
posted by Mooseli at 1:09 PM on July 12, 2013


I skipped Sharkula and went straight to Sharkferatu. With Count Orshark.

I might be obsessing a little about this. But not as much as The A-shark-lum has, between the Mega Shark trilogy, Two-Headed Shark Attack, Shark Week, Sharktopus and Sharknado.
posted by JHarris at 1:25 PM on July 12, 2013


Best part of Sharknado for me? Our house got blown apart (via crappy cgi) by the Sharknado itself! While watching the Sharknado wend its way toward the Hollywood hills, the scenery started to look very familiar...I wonder if they'll...could be...maybe...BAM! Sharknado took out our house! (and indeed the whole block) That was awesome.

Two Headed Shark Attack was great as well. Plenty of everything: ridiculous premise, hilariously bad dialog, craptacular effects, plenty of eye candy, and yep, a two headed shark.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:27 PM on July 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


ShutterBun, do you have shark insurance?
posted by JHarris at 1:42 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


This sub-two-minute YouTube clip delivers more legitimate cinematic suspense and terror of the deep than the entirety of The Asylum's ocean-related output.
posted by cog_nate at 1:53 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I'm going to send them my Volcanombies and Tsunampires idea.

Oh! I'm so sorry, jquinby, but the answer we were looking for was Vampcanoes . . . Vampcanoes.
posted by MoxieProxy at 1:55 PM on July 12, 2013


My Dinner With Sharke.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:37 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's the hippy-dippy trappings that turn people off, not the plot.

On The Blue the lines "The gun is good. The penis is evil" is why no one likes it here.

Mention of the drugs used on the set by JOhn Boorman violate the 'no Bogarting' "rules" that anger the 'hippy-dippy'ies.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:27 PM on July 12, 2013


Star Trek: Into Sharkness
posted by mynameisluka at 5:10 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]




I don't doubt it. For all the fun we internet subcultures have with things like this, we're probably a couple of waves ahead of the mainstream interest which would be required to make a noticeable impact on ratings. Or, sadly, political processes.
posted by JHarris at 7:39 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's right. Vote SHARK 2016!
posted by JHarris at 7:40 PM on July 12, 2013


In my experience, essentially the entire audience of these movies enjoys them primarily as funny. I have literally never met or heard from a person who watches SyFy movies unironically, and if you assume there is a great unwashed mass that does, despite the fact that neither you nor I have actually met them, I would gently suggest that perhaps the people watching are a bit smarter than you think and are simply having a go.

It's the Weekly World News effect where everyone who reads it gets part of their enjoyment out of imagining the mythical people who actually believe this stuff.
posted by straight at 9:05 PM on July 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


jcreigh: “I think the real question here is, how does JHarris know about ALL THE THINGS? Is he a single person, or some sort of borg-like collective?”
No. That is homunculus.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:22 PM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always figured these movies were sort of like an interactive, you-be-the-hero version of MST3K. The movies are designed like the slow-pitch machines at the batting cages, so you can thrill to the power of rocketing the ball out of the park with your wit. MST3K would have been no fun with self-aware movies, and the same goes here. But they realized that the only thing missing which the viewers secretly wanted from MST3K was to be the silhouetted man themselves, to be themselves that funny, cracking up their loyal cowatchers with every zinger. But the only way to do that is to build the movies purpose-made to be lampooned and then re-erect the fourth wall that MST3K broke down.
posted by chortly at 11:54 PM on July 12, 2013


That makes sense. "Slow-pitched setups for amateur riffing" is a pretty good descriptor for these kinds of films.

Hell, just keep "I REGRET NOTHIIIIIIING!!!!" at the ready, and you'll have a good riffing opportunity every 2 or 3 minutes.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:12 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Over years I think I've become just about as good an ad-lib riffer as is possible.

To clarify--
The MST3K guys, of course, are the benchmark for riffing, but they watched the movies several times, wrote out scripts with hundreds of jokes, and really during the movies there was little room for improvisation. And they had a team of writers to come up with jokes. Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic are made in a similar way.

Against that kind of organization, a couple of guys watching a bad movie once cannot hope to compete. But with practice it's possible to achieve some level of competence at it. It's kind of like brainstorming. You have to accept that sometimes you won't be able to come up with anything, and sometimes you'll say something that seems stupid in retrospect. But, once in a great while, you knock it out of the park.

If I can ever make it to a meetup with suitable movie available, I will try to demonstrate.
posted by JHarris at 1:08 AM on July 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


We were joking about this movie in the office all day yesterday.
I think only one of us planned to seriously watch it.

I've seen enough Asylum movies to know they just don't care to make them so bad its good.

And then I discovered Sand Sharks and Swamp Shark on YouTube. And I think the Shark genre was over long before Sharknado.
posted by Mezentian at 4:31 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Sorry, Twitter: 'Sharknado' Was an Enormous Ratings Bust

That sounds to me like moving the goalposts.

The real metric should have been, "How much better had this done than the average Asylum direct-to-video premier on SyFy [sic]?"
posted by ardgedee at 4:39 AM on July 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because this is the, what, eightieth? Four hundredth? feature-length craptacular they've produced, so they're making these things on budget and to spec, and the only real difference would be that the cable channel thought this had "Snakes on a Plane"-grade viral potential and tried to roll with it.

Comparing it to Game of Thrones is a meaningless metric; SyFy has their own viewership targets, and I'd bet you they spent less to produce those two hours than HBO did for two hours of GoT.

It would be like claiming Five Guys is a failure as a hamburger chain because McDonald's sells more Big Macs than Five Guys does.
posted by ardgedee at 4:46 AM on July 13, 2013


Despite inspiring over 600,000 Tweets between 8:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. EST last night, Sharknado garnered a mere 0.4 rating in the 18-49 demographics. Or, at The Atlantic says (highlight mine), "That's not just a bust by cable standards. It's a bust by SyFy original movie standards. 'Most Syfy originals have an average viewership of 1.5 million people, with some getting twice that,' Claire Suddath reports." (Via)

Tweets were on par with the Red Wedding.

I'm told Sharknado had a budget of $1 million. But it seems, from this thread, a lot of people would have time-shifted this.

(The fact this movie did badly makes me happy, since in some dark part of me, I hope SyFy decided to renew Warehouse 13.)
posted by Mezentian at 4:47 AM on July 13, 2013


It's the Weekly World News effect where everyone who reads it gets part of their enjoyment out of imagining the mythical people who actually believe this stuff.

Huh. For everyone I know it was much more down the line of reading The Onion. It was a well done ongoing parody of the tabloids.

Of course everyone does get a huge amount of entertainment out of people who get bent out of shape while quoting The Onion as a news source, so perhaps there was some of that going on after all.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:35 AM on July 13, 2013


SHARKNADO: The Hyper-Ironic Face of Modern Exploitation

All exploitation films have audiences built in; they’re aimed at teens or black audiences or perverts sitting alone in raincoats. Sharknado, though, is made for white 20 or 30somethings working jobs that have them planted in front of computers all day. It’s made for the nattering class of snarking snobs, hyperironic bores who leave ‘witty’ comments on Vulture. It’s made for the people who get through their day by feeling superior to people in the news or celebrities in the media. The movie comes pre-snarked.

Any resemblence to Metafilter is surely coincidental.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:17 PM on July 14, 2013



The best bad movies are the ones that aren't bad on purpose (i.e. Zardoz, Battlefield Earth) or the ones where you can't tell (i.e. Showgirls, The Room, Trapped In The Closet).


Starship Troopers. Starship Troopers.


Starship Troopers wasn't 'bad'. It was just a straight up satire.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:18 PM on July 14, 2013


ShutterBun: “Hell, just keep "I REGRET NOTHIIIIIIING!!!!" at the ready, and you'll have a good riffing opportunity every 2 or 3 minutes”
JHarris: “If I can ever make it to a meetup with suitable movie available, I will try to demonstrate.”
I got to use my favorite, so I was happy: "They sure had a nice day to film this. In fact, you couldn't have asked for a nicer day to shoot a tornado sequence."
posted by ob1quixote at 12:04 AM on July 15, 2013


Another good generic riff line is "NOOOOooooo" when something bad happens.

A particular favorite gimmick, with modern low-grade moviemaking is "Orange and Teal." Or, just calling out which of those two colors, which depressingly often are the only colors that exist in the movie universe, predominates the current scene.

But in my personal riffing development, I try to work against turning to generic lines like these. Because if you're doing it around other people, you really only get to use those things once in a great while or, to them, you're just repeating yourself.
posted by JHarris at 4:06 AM on July 16, 2013


"How much better had this done than the average Asylum direct-to-video premier on SyFy [sic]?"

Worse. Asylum/SyFy schlockfests usually get 1.5-2million viewers on Saturday night. Sharknado got barely 1 mil. But a lot of the blame could be putting it on Thursday, NOT SyFy's Must See TV night.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:05 PM on July 16, 2013 [1 favorite]




homunculus?! Here?
posted by JHarris at 6:25 PM on July 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


You think I didn't know about this thread, JHarris? You can't hide from me.
posted by homunculus at 6:37 PM on July 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


I just saw Sharknado. What a terrible movie. Two things keep it a bad-bad movie as opposed to a good-bad movie:

1. The effects budget. The one-man stand against the sharks with the chainsaw is awesome in that B-movie way, but it's too little too late.

2. They forgot to make the protagonist the main character. Nova is clearly the protagonist; we meet her first, she's the only one who acts instead of reacting, she has the tragic backstory (as a . . . shark mercenary? I guess?) which she has been running from and now must face up to in order to triumph. But noooo, she can't be the main character, because the main character has to be the dude about whom we know literally nothing other than he's a prepper and has children.

Fix those two things, and it could be a great popcorn flick. As it stands? Yeesh.
posted by KathrynT at 12:26 AM on July 20, 2013


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