As anyone who’s seen Jaws knows, shark movies are pretty scary. They’re also pretty damn popular. Cult film followings seem to get a little weirder and more daring every year. The past couple of decades has spawned a plethora of crazy cult films: zombies, vampires, medieval games and kids on broomsticks. But none are quite so crazy and well, painful, as the phenomenon of shark-themed action films.
Although Jaws certainly had an influence on this string of low-budget, teeth-gnashing, fin-fearing flicks, there’s something else at play here. Something deep, dark and altogether… bad.
Take 2010’s Sharktopus. Yes, it features a half-shark, half-octopus (genetically-engineered, for the record). Yes, there’s a killing spree. And yes, it’s so bad it’s good. Good enough, in fact, to generate a raft of sequels: Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda (2012) and Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf (2014).
You can’t have a cult following without a mutation or two, so 2 Headed Shark Attack took to the helm in 2012. This monstrosity (featuring, as you may have guessed, a rather hungry bi-headed freak of nature) only whet its audience’s appetite for more shark-vs-human bloodlust. Fortunately, fans didn’t have to wait long: the film was dutifully followed by 3 Headed Shark Attack in 2015.
2013’s Sharknado ventured further into the water with a couple of B-list celebrities (can we call Tara Reid B-list?). Aptly named for the tornado that sucks up man-eating white sharks and tosses them up hapless Los Angeles folk, this is one film that should have sunk out at sea long before the final cut.
But Sharknado’s premiere on the US Syfy network in 2013 blew every other made-for-TV movie show out of the water. The film made waves on social media, with over 5,000 #sharknado tweets made per minute over the following eight hours.
The shark cult era only seems to be gathering more momentum. Although the titles leave little to the imagination (Ghost Shark, Sand Sharks, Shark Week, Robo Shark), the trope works. Stick ‘shark’ in the title, cast a few damsels-in-distress, create a monster from the deep that has a taste for human flesh and bingo! You’ve got a hit that leaves Snakes On A Plane floundering in the water.
The internet rewards anything that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and social media has no doubt plays a large part in keeping these films afloat. Just don’t expect to be dazzled by the plot. There’s a formula at play here: shark appears, shark kills, shark is hunted, shark is killed. Along the way, hijinks (namely featuring blood, brawn and breasts) ensue.
One thing is clear. People like this stuff. The craze has even reached the online gaming world, where fans can test their own skills at fighting these man-eating monsters of the deep by playing the Sharknado online slots title. This interactive slot game was released following Sharknado 2: The Second One, and allows players to slay sharks while hanging out with most of the movie characters.
There’s also a fin-tastic range of snappy shark film merchandise: mugs, t-shirts, bumper stickers, throw pillows, bloodied bobbleheads…
This is one film genre where validity takes a backseat. And this is one cult following that’s showing no signs of slowing down. Sharknado 5 was released this year. Enough said.