Jaws Review (1975)

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Jaws Review (1975)

Horrorific content by penguin_pete on August 30th, 2018 | Movie Review | Cult Classic, Drama, Creature, Wildlife, Shark

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It’s about a seaside community under attack from a giant great white shark.

Jaws was directed by Steven Spielberg (who also directed Duel and Something Evil) and stars Roy Scheider (from Night Game), Robert Shaw (from A Reflection of Fear) and Richard Dreyfuss.

Don't go in the water.

Jaws Review

The Very First Fish Movie

The Present Author needs to get a confession out of the way: I don’t “get” fish movies. Now excuse me while I hide behind this podium until you all run out of sushi to pelt me with. There, got it out of your system? The reason I don’t get fish movies is, fish are confined to water. When it comes to scary things, ghosts can get me right through walls, zombies can go anywhere I can go, and a Lovecraftian elder god can simply squash the planet I’m standing on, should I prove too evasive. But a fish? I can escape a fish. It is easy to evade a fish. The important part of avoiding killer fish is - attend me carefully here - stay out of water. Long as I keep my tootsies dry, that fish is of no concern to me. Even if it wriggles its way onto the sand somehow, safety is only a door away. I don’t even have to lock it.

I’m also a bleedin’ heart nature lover who thinks sharks, beautiful and majestic creatures, are unfairly maligned. One, count ‘em, ONE person per year dies in a shark attack. You know how many people get killed by deer every year? ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY. Where’s our deer horror movies, huh? Six bunny horror movies, but not one deer horror movie. Trust me, I live in the Midwest, where we’re surrounded by deer. If they rise up against us, we’re screwed!

But for the vast majority of the theater-going horror audience, fish movies just seem to hit the right spot. It might have more to do with the fact that they’re all set at the beach, always open in summer, and afford ample cause for bikini models to frolic about. As evidenced by the recent box office performance of The Meg, $414M at last count, fish movies never get old. So perhaps that calls for revisiting the very first fish movie, Jaws.

The Plot

(Spoilers) It’s about a killer fish and several people who do not stay out of water.

The Citizen Kane Of Horror Movies

It’s no exaggeration to say that not only did Jaws revive the creature-feature horror genre, but it established the summer blockbuster movie (two years before Star Wars, mind), and changed the business of cinema forever. There’s scholarly analysis out there linking this film to the Watergate political scandal. Literary theorists writing about Jaws bandy SAT-test words like "polysemy” about (ask them what a David Lynch movie is about and they’ll drool ‘Daw, it’s a dream.’). When Jaws came out, it smashed all existing box-office records immediately and set several more. “One of the greatest movies of all time,” says anybody who compiles lists of movies.

Bet your sweet bippy that it has established fish horror as a genre. It spawned sequels, parodies, toys, a Universal Studios theme park attraction, and, perhaps the greatest legacy a film can have, the Saturday Night Live Landshark sketches. What else is there to say about it after all that?

The take-away is that we dregs of the horror genre are lucky to have Jaws at all. The things that make Jaws great would have made it great even if it wasn’t a horror movie. Steven Spielberg’s Golden-Globe-nominated direction, Peter Benchley’s BAFTA-nominated screenplay, John Williams’ Oscar-winning score, Richard Dreyfuss’ BAFTA-nominated acting, and every seagull that flew into the frame just happened to be one of the most talented seagulls in the world.

In fact, the much-storied special effects failure of the shark model itself, which frustrated the crew no end, forced them to rely on the shark less and take a more subtle approach. Which accidentally made it better. It doesn’t matter how not into fish movies I am, because when I watch this, I’m too caught up in the brilliant story-telling to remember I’m watching a fish movie.

But after all that, we go and give the Long John Silver of fish movies just nine stars. What happened to the tenth star? It’s a mystery. Maybe a deer ran away with it. Yes, there it is! The animal that’s 130-times more deadly than a fish is holding onto the fish’s tenth star. You want it, come get it!

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