Schlock-horror! The Twitterati jump the Sharknado

Social media have made a hit of a cheap gore-fest

Almost 40 years after Jaws became the original summer blockbuster in 1975 – the first film to take $100m at the American box office and resting at the top of the charts for 14 straight weeks, an altogether different shark tale is promising to send ripples through the film industry by redefining ways that success is measured. Sharknado, a-made-for-TV movie about sharks transported from the Gulf of Mexico to Los Angeles in tornados and attacking the city from the sky, aired last week on America's Syfy Channel. With an audience of 1.4 million, the schlocky picture would have disappeared without much fanfare had it not been for the unprecedented interest in the film on Twitter.

While the film was airing the public were tweeting with gusto. Mia Farrow posted a recent picture of herself and novelist Philip Roth having lunch, jokingly adding, “we're watching #Sharknado”, Olivia Wilde stated that she was now recording the movie on Farrow's recommendation while Elizabeth Banks joked “there goes my Emmy”, when a sequel starring Wilde and Farrow was mooted. Comedian Patton Oswalt chipped in, as did Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof.

Syfy channel owners NBC Universal reported Sharknado has become the most “social program on all television – broadcast and cable – as well as Syfy's most social telecast.”

At its peak there were 5,000 tweets per minute and 318,232 tweets about Sharknado were made while it aired. More than 100,000 different tweeters contributed to the phenomenon.

Twitter released its own analysis of the phenomenon that included comments from Craig Engler, Senior Vice President of Syfy, noting that about 20 minutes before the film aired they saw that there was a frenzy of activity about the shark attack and they jumped into as many conversations as they could.

The tweeting started to kick up a storm when first Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof began tweeting and then Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Will Wheaton, who has 2.4 million followers, began posting. He started with a countdown, before adding when the film started: “WE HAVE SHARKNADO. I REPEAT WE HAVE SHARKNADO. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

All of a sudden Sharknado became the movie that everyone wanted to talk about, despite relatively few watching it. Google search Sharknado and there are around 14 million results.

Sharknado is as bad as one would expect from an idea seemingly drawn on the back of a cigarette packet after a long night out. It stars Ian Ziering, Cassie Scerbo and Tara Reid – yes! – the one from American Pie and Scrubs. Ziering plays Fin, an ex-surfer and now bar manager who alongside barmaid Novo (Scerbo), head to the house of Fin's mean-spirited ex-wife April (Tara Reid) to save his daughter when they realise something odd is going on with the sharks.

The awful CGI looks like it was designed on a home PC in 1984. But what the film does have is some fantastically cheesy lines combined with some humorous social commentary – one character is convinced Sharknados are part of a government conspiracy. When the sharks do finally attack and helicopters are sent up to help combat them, bikini-clad Nova screams, 'we're going to need a bigger chopper'. Sharknado is meant to be watched ironically, as a spoof of disaster movies, in which the poor quality is the unique selling point.

The reaction and the reporting of the social-media phenomenon marks a sea-change in traditional measures of success such as box-office figures and audience numbers. What was important was Sharknado was being talked about. The media quickly jumped on the audience-led bandwagon, reporting the phenomenon, and all of a sudden a sequel to Sharknado was in the works.

The beauty of the movie was that watching was unnecessary. Even main star Ziering admitted he was busy working with The Chippendales, so was taping the movie to watch later. To enjoy Sharknado you just needed to be able to comment online. Reading the audience reaction and commentary became the event.

What's apparent is that audience appetite for movies made cheaply and featuring bad acting has not been sated, and every so often a film, such as Plan 9 From Outer Space, Bad Taste and now Sharknado, will capture the wider public's imagination.

'Sharknado' will screen on UK Syfy channel in September

The Jaw-Jaw: Critics' views

“Oh sure, it's easy to pick holes in a story about a weather system that makes it possible for sharks to fly and take to the streets, but that's the whole point of movies like this: fabulous in-home commentary. Often accompanied by the consumption of many alcoholic beverages.” (Los Angeles Times)

“There is a durable history of people getting together to watch famously bad movies: 'Plan 9 from Outer Space', 'The Room', 'Gigli', 'Snakes on a Plane'...The shared fun of 'Sharknado' on Thursday night was a reminder of the lingering power of live television. We were all in it together - laughing, cringing, absently checking our email and wondering if we'd miss those two hours later in life.” (The New Yorker)

“'Sharknado' is the most politically uniting thing to happen to America for a decade.” (National Review)

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions