What is our obsession with films about sharks?

Chuck in a shark attack and it seems films hit the right notes with movie lovers

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What is our obsession with films about sharks?
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Booking a holiday usually involves a quick internet search to ensure the glorious beach-based resort I’ve chosen doesn’t come complete with sharks.

I want to relax on a lilo free from the sound of the Jaws theme drumming through my mind.

But when it comes to films, throwing a killer shark in seems to be a good thing.

Syfy’s Easter Monday showing of Jaws was watched by 193,000 viewers last year. Given it was originally released in 1975, that’s pretty good going.

Sharknado, the film about sharks flying out of tornados and eating people, came along to steal its crown. It nabbed a peak audience of 200,000 last August. Its sequel, the aptly named Sharknado 2: The Second One, ran a simulcast with the US in the early hours of this morning, resulting in nine trending topics on Twitter. Tonight's more amenable 9:00pm showing is bound to see a new record for the UK channel.

Unlike Jaws, it’s not that anyone is saying Sharknado is a top-notch film. The films are firmly under the ‘so bad its good’ umbrella. Syfy itself showcased the latest instalment as part of its Terribly Good season. Its making no bones about the fact that this is a film laughing at itself as it pulls various bodies, and body parts, back out of sharks that were just flying through the sky.

It does after all come from film company The Asylum, who also boast Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus and Bermuda Tentacles among its hilarious creations.

But while a spokesperson for Syfy tells us the channel isn’t just made up of fin-filled fun, Avalanche Sharks, 2-Headed Shark Attack, Sand Sharks and Jersey Shore Shark Attack make up a huge chunk of its current ‘What’s showing’ list. The demand for shark films is clearly there.

The cast of Sharknado even had a panel at San Diego’s recent Comic-Con, billed alongside the likes of Marvel and The Hobbit franchise. The third film is already in discussion, and it may even be set in London. For a film that's not trying to be serious, people are taking notice.

A quick look at Amazon Instant Video throws up 88 shark-themed titles. Even Back to the Future scoped out the potential box office potential of films about sharks, predicting cinemas would be showing Jaws 19 come 2015.

Sharks are seemingly ‘hip’.

30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander, who stars in Sharknado 2, puts it down to social media.

“When you see something like Sharknado, which is so insane and so entertaining, you don’t just want to watch it. You think, I need to share this with my friends and put my input into it. Put my jokes into it or whatever. It’s very interactive," he tells us.

“When you go to a horror movie or a big sci-fi adventure movie on opening weekend, the crowds are roaring, they’re screaming, it’s interactive. And now with social media, people are like, ‘I’ve got to tweet it, Instagram it, I’ve got to share that experience’, so there’s a community aspect to it.”

If only Twitter had been around for Jaws. #needabiggerboat would have been a brilliant hash tag, wouldn’t it?

“Sharknado has really tapped into something with people,” says Syfy’s EVP, Marketing, Digital and Global Brand Strategy Michael Engleman. “There’s a general affinity for the drive-in style creature feature films because they’re escapist, they’re popcorn fun, they attract a lot of different demographics. Obviously Sharknado transcended its genre,” he tells Forbes.

Shark sightings and news of attacks, the actual threat of freak weather storms and a “Gen-X and Gen-Y nostalgia with Ian Ziering and Tara Reid” has also helped create the “perfect storm” he says.

How long will the sharky zeitgeist last? Perhaps the guys over at Jurassic World will have something to say on that…

See Sharknado 2: The Second One tonight at 9:00pm on Syfy