Blake Lively getting chomped on in The Shallows joins a long tradition of shark horror films, kicked off by the iconic Spielberg blockbuster Jaws and sustained almost exclusively by SyFy.
And sure, shark movies are traditionally bad, but as scary monsters, sharks are kind of a no-brainer. Sharks feed into some of our most primal fears: they have lots of teeth, could theoretically eat us, and live in the depths of the goddamn terrifying ocean. They don’t require much tweaking to be the stuff of nightmares.
(Since Jaws actually precipitated devastating shark culls, here’s a necessary disclaimer that sharks are actually pretty harmless, even if they show up by the thousands or are fucking huge. You should be polite and respect their space. Leave them alone IRL and follow them on Twitter instead!)
On to the important stuff. Which are the scariest?
You can’t just slap any two scary things together and expect miracles. This SyFy fiasco is proof. Zombies are notably slow and dimwitted, which takes all but the literal bite out of the cunning, ruthless movie shark.
From another SyFy creation, 2-Headed Shark Attack, this monster follows the simple logic that more teeth equals more scare. However, shark heads are big and clunky. If we’re to believe that the shark is propelled by a relentless desire to eat you, the twin heads would actually just get in each other’s way, rendering this monster a clumsy disaster. Two regular sharks working as a team would be way scarier. Don’t even get me started on the sequel, 3-Headed Shark Attack. Get out.
The Finding Nemo sharks
Sure, fish are friends, not food. But they said nothing about people, so what are they eating?
Malibu Shark Attack somehow made goblin sharks look less freaky than they are in real life. Sure, they are creepy deep sea dwellers, but realistically, how can that thing even eat you efficiently with a nose that big? It should give you plenty of time to get away while it maneuvers into eating position, plus everyone knows you are supposed to punch a shark in the nose, and that’s one hell of a target.
Somehow this happened twice in 2011, between Snow Shark and Avalanche Shark. Unfortunately, like Sand Sharks and Swamp Shark, “shark in an unexpected place” doesn’t add much to the concept, and snow just raises a whole lot of logistical questions.
Sure, Sharknado was the butt of every joke for a couple of years there, but let’s think about this conceptually for a moment. Tornados are pretty terrifying, and water spouts are probably just as bad. Getting pulled out of the ocean and tossed around is definitely enough to aggravate even the chillest shark. But it’s, let’s just say, implausible that enough flooding would occur as a result to actually make the sharks a danger. The sharks in Sharknado are probably more dangerous just by virtue of being large and flying through the air than intentional malevolence.
Every great white shark other than Jaws
Thanks to Jaws, great whites became the go-to movie shark. While I appreciate the purity of just a plain ol’ shark, great whites are actually a threatened species and their continued vilification in film is harmful. Sad!
If you feel the need to amplify a shark’s natural scare-factor in any way, this is the way to do it. These guys are massive, terrifying, and they used to be real, which is enough to make some people believe they could still be out there.
Cyclops in Night of the Sharks
Tiger sharks are the real species most likely to appear on film after great whites, even though they are the IRL most dangerous species. Being almost as big and naturally more aggressive makes tiger sharks the ideal subject for a pure shark movie, and Cyclops is the best of the lot.
Jaws remains one of the scariest movie sharks of all times, mainly by virtue of being the shark in an actually scary movie. That shark didn’t need fancy mutations, just its god-given teeth and a dash of cinematic bloodlust. Plus its circa 1975 animatronic still manages to look better than cheap CGI.
This shark-human mutant from Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy
SyFy loves its shark + literally anything formula, but it actually gets somewhere with this one. A normal hammerhead would have all the same drawbacks of a goblin shark, but combine it with prehensile thumbs and a much more prominent/accessible mouth for devouring, shit gets real. This one can also travel on land, so watch out.
The shark-ocotopus hybrid found in the eponymous SyFy movie was also in the 1984 film Monster Shark sans the catchy name. Sharktopus is not just a great portmanteau, it’s actually a terrifying concept. Sure, at first glance, combining a shark with another deadly creature or weather phenomenon might seem like double the lethality, but octopi are super scary smart. So Sharktopus doesn’t just have the deadly teeth of a shark and the strong multiple arms of an octopus, it’s also way smarter than you. Everybody stop (looking at you, SyFy), because this is peak shark franchise.
Anyway, sharks are chill and have survived for millions of years, so remember not to kill them over a scary movie or two!