The ocean is an enormous place. And as much as we’d like to think we have this world figured out, the fact is that there is just too much space down there to really know everything thats going on underwater. It’s cold; it’s dark; it’s dangerous, and there are things down there that we just don’t understand. Just look at this: http://listverse.com/2012/08/06/top-10-fascinating-globsters-and-sea-carcasses/. Thats where the real source of the horror in Spielberg’s classic monster movie Jaws comes in. For years after this movie came out, people just didn’t go to the beach. Maybe they were afraid of a giant great white shark chowing down on their arms and legs, or maybe they were just scared scared that something unknown might be approaching unseen below the waves. The shark is just one example, one manifestation of the unknown. The potential for danger in an environment where we have little to no control. Thats what actually makes this film so scary.
So there’s the primal, internal fear at play here, deep below the surface (pun intended-sorry) and then there’s the very real and present suspense of the storyline itself. There’s an enormous, powerful, and unrelenting killing machine that doesn’t seem to stop eating people. Of course, Spielberg frames everything so well and does an awesome job of building the suspense. The final scene is so intense that you feel like you’re on the boat and you need to grab a bucket and start bailing.
I think one of the best elements of Jaws is that the plot is actually pretty simple. The simplicity of the plot allows Spielberg to focus on developing the characters and to take his time building the suspense. The movie is about a police chief and his family who move to a New England island community that is suddenly attacked by a giant shark. The local economy relies on summer tourism so the mayor refuses to close down the beach even though people are being gobbled up by this monster. So the town is pissed off that everybody’s getting eaten and they send the police chief, Richard Dreyffus- a marine biologist guy, and a captain Ahab-type ship captain to go out and kill the shark. Needless to say, there are some bumps in the road.
It’s a monster movie, but it’s based in reality. The shark is probably bigger and more powerful than a shark you’d really find in the wild, but who’s to say. The fact that it could technically happen in real life makes it even scarier. Overall, Jaws is smart, simple, well-written, and just scary as hell. There’s not really much more to say about it. Jaws inspired a bunch of sequels (some of them shitty) and probably inspired too many other monster movies to count.
Let’s see how the classic holds up to the test.
1. Is it scary: 7- It’s suspenseful and scary both psychologically and literally. Though it might be a little dated. Maybe I’m just desensitized.
2. Originality: 7- Giant monster animals had been done before but this angle was still pretty fresh. It set the stage for the modern monster movie.
3. Blood: 4: Not too bloody, overall. Movies weren’t that bloody back then I guess.
4. Believability: 8- Overall, everything was really authentic. The characters were well-developed and realistic.
5: Setting/Cinematography: 7- The way Spielberg shoots this thing is perfect. The final scene is awesome too. You’re isolated out on the boat with this shark in the water and you know somebody’s not coming home in one piece.
Final Score: 33/50