The online hubbub over Syfy's "Sharknado" in early July came as a surprise because it was just the latest in a long line of cheesy, cheapo (about $1.5-$2 million budget) cable movies that have been airing on Syfy for years.
Some of the fuss has to be attributed to the Twitter echo chamber effect, particularly given that the ratings for "Sharknado" on its initial broadcast were about average. But there was also a perfect blend of cheesy elements: The plot (Sharks! Picked up by tornadoes at sea and dropped onto land!), stars (Ian Ziering! Tara Reid!) and awful special effects helped make it a buzz magnet.
But it's also possible that there's been an evolution of the Syfy movie brand from unintentionally cheesy to we're-in-on-the-joke bad movies. With sharks in tornadoes, how could there not be?
And while it's hard to imagine social media lightning striking twice, Syfy's latest intentionally weak effort, "Ghost Shark" (9 p.m. Thursday), has some moments that are almost as jaw-droppingly insane as Mr. Ziering chain-sawing his way out of a shark's belly. Almost.
"Ghost Shark" begins with a hillbilly-type fisherman and his daughter murdering a shark with a grenade when it interferes with their fishing tournament. The shark, in the throes of dying, somehow manages to swim into a cave filled with hieroglyphics that begin to glow upon its entry, and, voila! The shark is now Ghost Shark, which glows in the dark underwater, presumably because if it was entirely invisible, viewers at home would not be able to see it and that would spoil all the fun of the movie.
Rather than jumping the shark, Ghost Shark jumps over a snooty girl on a jet ski, biting her in half above the torso so that only her legs and waist remain on the Jet Ski after the beast dives back underwater. (This turns out to be a signature Ghost Shark move that he also employs on a couple of obnoxious children later in the movie.)
Beyond the title character, the film's lead players are sisters Ava (Mackenzie Rosman, who played little Ruthie Camden on "7th Heaven") and Cicely (Sloane Coe) and their friend, Blaise (Dave Randolph-Mayhem Davis). The girls' father is killed in the initial Ghost Shark attack and they're the only ones at first who believe in Ghost Shark along with town drunk/lighthouse keeper Finch (Richard Moll, who played bailiff Bull on "Night Court").
"Here's something you're not going to see on Discovery Channel," a deputy says when he finds video of the Ghost Shark on a cell phone after an attack.
The bodies continue to pile up as do ridiculous plot turns. Because Ghost Shark is now a ghost, he's no longer confined to the ocean, allowing him to terrorize people in swimming pools, buckets of water, cups of water, puddles and even pipes under a sink.
"Maybe all we have to do is stay dry and it will leave us alone," suggests Cameron (Jaren Mitchell).
Another thing to note about "Ghost Shark" is how gleefully it embraces every bad horror movie stereotype. Anytime a character misbehaves in any way - being rude to a shark, smoking a cigarette, taunting a "nice" character - they seal their fate as shark bait.
"Ghost Shark" is credited, somewhat impossibly, to two different writers. The credits show a teleplay by Paul A. Birkett but there's also a "written and directed by" credit for C.E. Furst. But the screenplay seems more likely to have been transcribed by those guys with the plot dreamed up by an imaginative child or a drunken fanboy.
Visually, the film is poorly directed sometimes to a point of such incoherence that it's not always clear what's going on, who's talking, etc. And the ending is laughably awkward.
While Syfy has already ordered a sequel to "Sharknado," "Ghost Shark" seems somewhat less likely to score a follow-up but if it does, perhaps it will start with a search for the survivors of this movie who, after dispatching with Ghost Shark, seem to be swimming out to open sea. Because that's what anyone who's just encountered a shark would do: Go swimming in the ocean!tvradio
Rob Owen writes this Sunday TV column for Scripps Howard News Service. Contact him at: email@example.com or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. Ask TV questions at post-gazette.com/tv under TV Q&A.