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Seven Rules for Avoiding Shark Attacks, Based on Syfy’s Extended Shark-Movie Universe

If films like ‘Santa Jaws,’ ‘Jersey Shore Shark Attack,’ and ‘Ghost Shark’ are to be believed, it’s a dangerous, predator-filled world out there—so you better read this survival guide

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Thanks to The Meg feasting on this summer’s box office, I’ve succumbed to a serious and potentially incurable case of shark-movie fever. In the span of two weeks, I’ve rewatched The Shallows and 47 Meters Down, and revisited Jaws for the umpteenth time (no shocker: it still slaps). A trip into Discovery Channel’s Shark Week archives offered up similar thrills, and, in one instance, video of an oceanic whitetip biting an unsuspecting diver—which was pretty freaky in its own right, though Discovery’s editing was a tad schlocky.

But after all of that, my shark-related cravings weren’t satiated. I needed to go down a particularly delectable rabbit hole not yet scoured: The pantheon of Syfy’s original shark movies. While most people are familiar with the Sharknado franchise—it’s exactly what it sounds like—Syfy has done much more than that in the shark-movie space, putting together a plethora of C-movies about sharks for the better part of the decade. And having pored through several of them in anticipation of Tuesday night’s premiere of Santa Jaws (don’t ask, though you can probably guess that it’s a rare, shark-plus-Christmas film), I can tell you that Syfy’s shark movies share these traits: overt cheesiness, horrible special effects, even more horrible acting, and, of course, many deaths by shark. Syfy might’ve been reticent to renew The Expanse, the best sci-fi series since Battlestar Galactica, but the network will never stop making bad shark movies—and God bless them!

These movies, like the Sharknados, exist in an alternate reality where sharks are insatiably hungry and unrealistically aggressive toward humans—and in many instances exhibit supernatural properties or fuse together with different animals. (The sharktopus is most certainly Lovecraft for Dummies.) Much like you do when watching an overwrought zombie film, I began to wonder: How could someone survive a Syfy shark movie? Can someone survive? Would I ever stand a chance?

Here are the lessons I’ve learned from myriad Syfy shark originals—with images to serve as a graphic guide to these horrors.

Don’t Be Evil and/or Creepy

This one’s pretty straightforward, but it bears repeating: Aside from being able to smell blood, Syfy movie sharks have an inherent understanding of which humans are bad, and thus, deserve to be eaten horribly. Consider 2011’s Swamp Shark, which punishes two of its bayou deputies, one for being involved in animal smuggling, and the other for using binoculars to snoop on a couple about to have sex.

Thank you, morally righteous shark! I will never be evil, nor creepy, regardless of my proximity to water.

Don’t Have Sex

Because the Syfy sharks have puritanical values not seen in a horror movie since Jason Voorhees and his mom, it’s an extremely bad idea to be in one of these movies and attempt to have sex with someone. (For the aforementioned swamp shark, choosing between the horny couple and the creepy deputy who was spying on them must’ve been a predatory Sophie’s choice.) In fact, merely going on a gondola ride—as a teen couple did in 2012’s Jersey Shore Shark Attack—seems to have enough sexual undertones, as evinced by the shark that unleashed terror on the great state of New Jersey and its many guidos and guidettes.

Jersey Shore Shark Attack contains multitudes: Not only does it preach abstinence, but the premise for why these sharks attack the shore—drilling for an opulent new amusement park attracts the ocean’s apex predator—is clearly a coherent anticapitalist and environmentalist message. Why fund a new amusement park when you can revitalize the community? Is drilling into the ocean really a good idea? No, I’m not overthinking a “film” titled Jersey Shore Shark Attack.

Avoid the Ocean, Entirely

This is a tough one, because the ocean is awesome. But if you’re living in the Syfy shark universe, being anywhere near the ocean is probably a bad idea. You don’t even have to be touching the water to get yourself in danger, as one unfortunate bungee jumper discovered in 2010’s Sharktopus.

Now, another lesson: Unfortunately, it was the U.S. government that was responsible for creating this half-shark, half-octopus monstrosity. In other words, when local law enforcement isn’t breaking out the binoculars to watch you having sex, the nation is putting your taxpayer money toward creating sharktopuses. Syfy’s depiction of America is pretty messed up, but also … quite eye-opening.

Also: Avoid Space

Yeah … I don’t know what to tell you. Even the cold, vast emptiness of space isn’t exempt from murderous sharks. As Tara Reid finds out in 2015’s Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, sharks can survive and attack you in space—even if it’s extremely unclear how that’s possible, which she also openly acknowledges.

The ocean, being anywhere near the ocean, space—really, is there any place you can go in a Syfy shark movie that doesn’t spell imminent doom?

Don’t Use the Bathroom

… Right. So it’s high time we talk about 2013’s Ghost Shark, arguably the pinnacle of these so-bad-they’re-good Syfy shark movies. It’s your worst and most unrealistic fears realized: Some fishermen kill a great white, and its ghost enacts gruesome vengeance on unsuspecting townsfolk, from locations as varied as water slides to—yes—the toilet.

Not using the bathroom seems like pretty uncivilized behavior, but if it prevents the spirit of an angry shark from emerging from a toilet bowl and shredding you like a deli slicer, it’s a small sacrifice.

Don’t Drink Water

Sticking with Ghost Shark here, but for good reason: If you drink water, you run the risk of ingesting a ghost shark, and subsequently getting torn apart when the beast wants to break free from the bounds of your flesh with its gaping ghost maw.

Suggestion: Purchase bottled water for the rest of your life, even if it’s impractical and bad for the environment (which might make the environmentally conscious Jersey Shore sharks angry, but when literally every action puts you at risk of a shark attack, you gotta choose the lesser of two evils).

Do Not Illustrate a Comic Book Called Santa Jaws With Your Wannabe Frank Miller Best Friend, Accept an Ancient German Pen With Ominous Inscriptions From Your Well-Meaning Grandfather on Christmas Eve, and Finish a Santa Jaws Sketch With That New Pen While Simultaneously Wishing Your Annoying Family Would All Go Away

Of all these scenarios, at least the premise of Santa Jaws seems quite avoidable. Thankfully, you’d have to really go out of your way to ruin Christmas—even in Syfy’s wildly perilous shark universe.

Still, with all the evidence gathered from these movies, here’s the best way to avoid getting eaten in the Syfy shark-verse: Become an abstinent, water-bottle-drinking, non-comic-book-writing hermit in the middle of the desert. Then you ought to have a fighting chance against these deadly sharks. But also keep your eyes peeled for the whalewolf.