Or if you are into more BuzzFeed-y titles: 12 Things You Can Find in Pretty Much Every SyFy™ Movie.
There is a clear difference between a sci-fi movie, and a SyFy™ Movie, but if you love to trash trash movies with the same self-righteous pleasure as I do, you already know this. One consists of actual writing that delves into the humanity that lives inside not-so-human concepts like outer space and dystopian futures; the other has zombie sharks and bad acting. And I live for bad acting. My Netflix recommendations are absolute garbage because of it, but we all make sacrifices. Not everything the SyFy network produces is completely horrible, but it has done enough damage to earn the title. Spending countless hours watching these types of “films” (and there are many more sarcastic quotations to come, so strap in), you start to notice the formula they all seem to follow in their storytelling, so I thought it would be fun to break it down for you. Just a warning, there are spoilers ahead; if that is something you care about. For the full list of movies I am going to mention, just skip to the bottom.
Before we get into it, I think the most important thing to realize and have in the back of your mind is the moment of conception for these beautiful movie babies. The “you know what would be sick, bro?” in the “writer’s” room moment. The Scene the entire movie exists around, and you know it when you see it. For Sharknado, and don’t worry this is the only time I am mentioning Sharknado because I know it’s been beaten into the ground (and yes I did clickbait you with that cover photo, sorry, they had the best poster), it was that scene when the shark swallowed a girl whole then came crashing down onto a man with a chainsaw who had to cut the shark in half mid-air to save her. Why else did they happen to go to that hardware store? For Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf, well that fight scene just writes itself. Whalewolf won by the way. Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs. If that immediately made you go, “They probably only made that movie to have a ”cowboy” ride a T-Rex like a bucking bull.”, you’re right. When you realize these are the only scenes that anyone in production actually cared about, and the rest is just to get you there, everything else starts to make sense.
1. Fill in the Blank Titles Like: Dino___, Shark___, Franken___, Zomb___,
They usually fill in the blank with random animal names; shark, wolf, and piranha are the most common. Building a great combo word title is the first step to creating The Scene. How else are you going to get bored 50 year old men to click on your movie at 3:00am? Ghost___, Robo___, ___Borg, Monster___, and Croc____ are also some good ones.
2. The “I Just Bought a Drone” Opening Shots
3 Headed Shark Attack and Zoombies both had over 4 minutes of just constant aerial, roll-the-opening-credits shots. We get it. Drones are expensive and you are cool for having one.
3. Some Sort of Jurassic Park Rip Off
Jurassic Park was a crazy successful sci-fi film, so of course you have to steal from the greats who came before you. While the story was a little different, Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs straight up ripped the iconic velociraptors-in-the-kitchen scene. The whole premise of Zoombies was that a zoo had a bunch of big animals that suddenly start attacking all of the guests. Truly original. “It’s a zoo. Not Jurassic Park.” is an actual quote from this movie.
4. The Half Naked “Teens” Who Exist Only to Die
As mentioned before, they know the only people watching their movies are bored 50 year old men on the couch scrolling through On Demand at 3:00am, so they have to draw them in other ways as well. My friends and I like to calculate the bpm (Boobs Per Movie) of every SyFy film we watch. So far 3 Headed Shark Attack has the highest bpm of 8. We are going to have some cannon fodder in these movies, we are here to see some “monsters” murder people after all, and these “characters” are always there for us when we need them most.
5. The Psycho Fake Out Shots
If you have ever seen Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Pyscho, with its iconic shower stabbing scene, you may have not realized we never actually see her get stabbed. For real, go back and watch it. They implied the gore with fast cuts and close ups. You can find the same technique in most SyFy™ Movies, except they aren’t doing it for ratings or by artistic choice; they do because they have low budget and bad CGI skills.
This isn’t a fake out shot, but it was too funny to not include:
6. The News Footage That Explains the Entire Premise
Why actually write a script when you can just throw some news footage of “There was a zombie virus break out this morning, more on that at 10pm.” and let the carnage ensue?
7. The Science Talk
They have to have the smart scientist character who can rationally explain everything that’s happening. They usually use words like, “seismic”, “anomaly”, and “radioactive”. They have to sound like they know what they are talking about without actually knowing what they are talking about.
8. The Window Jump Scare
If there is a zoom in on a window that holds for way too long, we all know what is happening next. It is usually a bloody hand smacked onto the window that is then smeared downward ever so slowly.
9. The *Zoom In* “ Insert Dramatic Line” They Were Way Too Proud of
I think The Office ruined the zoom in for me, because regardless of what happens after it, I just laugh. “Why should he give up. *zoom in* He’s winning.” from 3 Headed Shark Attack and “They sound like babies. *zoom in* Yeah, crazy babies” from Zombeavers are among my favorites.
10. Danny Trejo
I was going to name this one “Look! There is a Famous Actor In My Movie Please Watch It”, since Eric Roberts was in Cowboys vs. Dinosaurs, but I realized that most of the time, it’s Danny Trejo. And most of the time his character is named Machete. He’s been in such works as Cyborg X, 3 Headed Shark Attack, The Burning Dead, VooDoo Possession, Zombie Hunter, Rise of the Zombies, Eyeborgs, and oh so many more. He’s even been in some trash romantic films, I mean just look at this movie poster:
11. The Funny Guy Not Taking Anything Seriously
They are supposed to be comic relief, but they always bring more pain than relief. The most obnoxious I’ve seen was Buck from Zombeavers. Second Runner-Up would be the guy from Tremors 5 (yes, they have made up to 5 Tremors movies). The only reason he is in second because he sounded like a teenage voice actor for an older brother in a cartoon, but looked like Paul Giamatti and Giorgio A. Tsoukalos had a son, and that made me laugh a little:
12. The Scene That Was Actually Kind of Good
These are always rare, but are so beautiful when they appear. The only one I can think of is this one death scene from Zoombies. A character was in the atrium and had been hanging out with a parrot the whole movie. The virus had been slowly spreading and it was implied it got to the birds already. When the group of survivors entered the atrium, they found the parrot standing in a pile of blood repeating, “Help Me! Help Me!”. Kind of good, right? It was subtle and sinister, but who knows, maybe I am just reaching for something to be done well in these movies.
Bonus: The Occasional Crew Member Visible in the Finished Movie
This went on for a solid 2 minutes in 3 Headed Shark Attack:
Who are you?
The worst ones you have to look out for are the self aware SyFy™ Movies. These are the ones that know they’re movie is bad, and are trying to make it funny on purpose. Sharknado 2, 3, and 4 (I lied about not talking about it again), Tremors 5, and Dead Snow 2 all tried this and failed. Zombeavers got close to being satire, but after the incessant beaver jokes and the killing of their best character, their dog, I was over it. These movies completely miss the mark on why these types of movies are fun to watch. The fact that the creators think it is actually good is what makes it funny. So to the SyFy network, keep putting out your trash films, and to all the “satirists”, you’ll never be as truly trash as SyFy™. And just like Rob Van Dam (not to be confused with Jean Claude) from 3 Headed Shark Attack said:
3Headed Shark Attack
Cowboys vs Dinosaurs
Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf
Dead Snow 2