I love the movie Jaws. I love it more than I love you. I just need you to know where you stand. You can buy me flowers and chocolates but you’re just not Jaws. Because Jaws is never not good.
Jaws is one of the movies I remember seeing as a child that actually scared me. My parents divorced when I was young and my mom lived in central NJ while my dad split his time between Staten Island and a condo on the Navesink River, which is basically the mainland side of Sandy Hook, NJ. I spent weekends there and, for a long time after seeing Jaws I was terrified to enter the water. This was despite the fact that I’m a really strong swimmer and that I wasn’t swimming in the open ocean. That is how much Jaws terrified me.
Then, I read about the Matawan Creek Shark Attacks of 1916 in an issue of Weird NJ and that just compounded my terror. Between July 1 and July 12, 1916, four people were killed and one were injured by sharks attacks. The first two attacks were in Beach Haven and Spring Lake along the Jersey coastline. The next attacks scared me, though, because they occurred in a brackish creek inland from the ocean. So, I have a history with Jaws, having grown up near where the attacks that inspired the book occurred.
But, golly, do I love this movie. I love that it’s 36-years-old and still manages to be scary.
Here are some of the methods that add to the terror. First, there’s John Williams’ iconic score. Is there anyone who doesn’t know the Jaws theme? The shark’s music is only used when the actual shark is around, never as a fake-out. This actually makes it pretty startling when the shark shows up later on without the music.
Then there’s the fact that we don’t see the shark for one hour. The first hour of the movie features monster-POV shots and people’s reaction to the shark but there’s no sighting of the actual shark.
The attacks are bloody and vicious but not really graphic. This one scene always struck me, though. It’s when Alex Kintner is attacked by the shark.
It’s hard to see from the screen cap but his body is shaken like a rag doll. When the viewer sees him being shaken, the only thought is what could be that strong.
Interestingly, there was supposed to be a lot more of the shark but there were technical difficulties with the mechanical shark. This would be a very different movie if we’d seen more of the shark and possibly, a less scary one.
Another aspect where this movie really works is the characterization. We end up really caring about the fates of Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfus), and Sam Quint (Robert Shaw).
The actors manage to create characters with distinct personalities that are able to clash with each other without being annoying.
My personal favorite is Quint and my goal in life is to interrupt a meeting the way he did with his nails on a chalk-board.
Really, he attains levels of badassery that few of us will ever reach. Plus, he survived the sinking of the U.S.S Indianapolis, another actual event mentioned in the movie.
Finally, there are actual scary moments! Like when Brody is chumming the water and the shark is RIGHT THERE. Or when Hooper is in the shark cage and the shark bends the fricken’ cage bars with its teeth. That scene is so claustrophobic and scary. And confirmed, according to the Mythbusters.
When I watched Jaws for this blog, it was probably the first time I ever saw it uncut. Before, I’d always seen it on TNT or TBS where I’m certain it was cut for time and/or content. So if you’re one of the three people left who haven’t actually seen Jaws you should really see it. At least so you can see the sequels, which are hilarious hot messes.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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