If anyone has ever said to you that they’ve never watched a B-movie and they never will, know that they’ve told a big fat lie. We’ve all seen one, at least once: bad acting, fake effects and unrealistic script make for a terrible premise, true, but we do keep coming back to them. To me, they’re kind of like an addiction, and the fact that so many have been made doesn’t certainly help the cause.
It’s like the Circus of Freaks and the more unreal they are, the better. Snakes are fighting for territory, old ladies have crocodiles for pets, giant squids terrorise small towns, businessmen take pleasure in playing mad scientists to create enormous creatures, and sharks have become natural disasters, have two heads, can fly, go through sand and snow, and can still be dangerous killers as ghosts.
They have become so addictive that I always look forward to watching them. But why can’t we help watching them if they’re so awful?
B-movies have turned into a sort of way out of the reality of everyday life, as they’re the perfect after-dinner entertainment. There’s nothing on telly, so where do you turn to? They’re sure to send the tension away and do the job if you’re in for a laugh.
Whether we like it or not, they have become a huge phenomenon, and the Sharknado franchise is what started it all. The Los Angeles Daily News accounted the premiere of the first movie: “cheesy lines, B-movie stars and a ridiculous premise that a storm could hit Los Angeles so hard it would rain sharks propelled what should have been a movie flop into a phenomenon.”
The fandom is unbelievably large, and everyone is going crazy over the merchandise: Pop Vinyl figures, hoodies, t-shirts, costumes and books. Actually, one book. How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters has become the go-to guide for fans of the franchise. I had the chance to chat a bit with the author, Andrew Shaffer, who shed the light on why this franchise is so popular.
What gave you the idea of writing this book?
I was a fan of the first Sharknado, and jokingly told my agent I’d love to do a novelization. A couple of months later, she learned Penguin Random House’s Crown Publishing was looking for a writer to do a tie-in for Sharknado 2: The Second One. Syfy already knew what they wanted—a monster-fighting guide. I sent Crown a sample, and a month later signed the contract to write How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters.
How did you become involved in the Sharknado movies?
Although the book appears as a plot point in the second movie, I didn’t have any involvement in the films. In fact, I didn’t see a rough cut of Sharknado 2 until a few days before it aired. Syfy was smart to stick with what worked the first time around, and brought back the same writer and director. I thought they cooked up a fun flick that fulfilled people’s expectations.
Why do you think these movies (Supershark, Sharktopus, Robocroc… and basically every single one that has been made) are so successful?
Syfy had been airing these b-movies for fifteen years before Sharknado hit. Few of them had more than a couple of million viewers. They worked for Syfy because they were cheap. They worked for viewers because they were fun. Sharknado was by far the most successful, both in terms of viewers and in cultural impact. For the book, I watched a couple of dozen Syfy original movies like Sharktopus and Robocroc. I also worked closely with Syfy to create new unnatural disasters and creatures, which was a lot of fun.
What is it that you personally find addictive about these movies?
Everyone’s kind of in on the joke, from the movie studio to the viewers. No one’s going to mistake Sharknado for The Avengers. However, it’s fun to see what Syfy can do on shoestring budgets. The budget for Sharknado was probably the same as the catering budget on a big-budget film. For my time and money, I enjoyed it more than a lot of the big summer blockbusters I saw in 2013.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really looking forward to Shark Week, now!