Dude. It’s Jaws.
Jaws is about a big-ass great white shark that somehow finds its way to a quaint little Long Island beach town and starts eatin’ up swimmers like gangbusters in the days leading up to Fourth of July weekend. The chief of police wants the beach closed down, the idiot mayor fights him tooth and nail, a marine biologist rolls into town and tells the mayor he’s a fuckin’ moron, and then more folks get turned into hot lunch. Eventually things get so bad that they all decide the best course of action is to hire the shadiest buccaneer in the bay, take this fight to seas and turn this 25-foot sonofabitch into a shark sandwich.
I feel nothing but pure, cold shame for not writing up a single horror review over the entire span of October this year, but since this past weekend was the first time that my good buddy Fred and I actually came to the conclusion that if I wasn’t gonna man up and go trick-or-treating in my Dora the Explorer costume, something had to be done about this elephant in the room if. So I figured I had to make it a classic. And if anyone out there thinks that this isn’t a horror movie, brother, you are NUTS!
So Duel might have gotten him noticed, but this is what put Spielberg on the map. Didn’t take long for him to become Hollywood royalty as a result, but as misguided and easy as it is to call the guy a “hack”, the fact of the matter is that he’s just damn good at what he does and that’s why his movies make bank. His pacing is out of sight, he never moves the threat level outside of flaming hot crimson even when the shark isn’t around, and even though I’ve only heard stories, I can only imagine what a pain in the ass it must have been to make this movie. All the more reason why the finished product is that much more impressive.
Then again, he should probably be thanking his lucky stars that the machine used to operate the shark was a total piece of crap because half the reason this all works as well as it does goes back to us not even getting to see the damn fish ’til the last half-hour. But other than that fluke, Steve gets it done like a pro. From that horrifying music to the vague glimpses we’re provided of the shark’s leftovers, man, Steverino clearly knows a thing or two about tingling spines.
And even though the fish looks pretty dated these days once he starts belly-flopping onto the stern of the Orca, he’s pretty damn convincing under water. Also love the way Spielberg goes back and forth between the model and actual shark footage in certain scenes like when Hooper has the bright idea to try and poison the damn man-eater through a cage made out of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Anyone have any clues as to why he holds the spear outside of the cage? Yeah, that was a unusually dumb move.
But it doesn’t hurt that Steve’s got a trio of outrageously badass actors and characters to work with. Roy Scheider is great as water-phobic police chief Brody, Richard Dreyfuss is kind of the man as out-of-town fish nerd, Hooper, and Robert Shaw – hot off the heels of his insanely cool turn in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three – is just plain epic as 20th Century Ahab/proud Narragansett Beer spokesman, Quint. You got your brains, your brawn and your average joe, they are no effing joke, and I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie with three leads as hardcore and cool as these guys. And better yet, they’re all a blast to be around. They’re all totally fleshed out and unique, they’ve all got their own hang-ups and back stories (how about that “Anyway, we delivered the bomb” story of Quint’s?), and they’re not just chum for the taking, they’re genuine comrades through and through.
Alright, this movie just rocks, but one of my favorite movie memories was actually the first time I ever saw this, so it’s got that nostalgia factor going, too. I was in middle school, maybe 11 or 12, rented this on a lazy weekend, started watching it by myself in broad daylight in a room lined with floor-to-ceiling windows and tucked myself under an afghan on the couch so my eyes could barely see the screen. Clearly, I was ready, I was one hardcore mofo. The movie starts, the skinny dipping hippie gets it, no big deal. I feel so badass that I consider getting a tattoo, probably tribal. Then I’m fifteen minutes in and I witness this a-hole shark completely pass by the morbidly obese lady floating around in her tube and go straight for pruny little Alex on his dinky yellow raft. Before I know it, there’s blood everywhere, the raft is torn to shreds, Alex’s mom is a mess, and I am flat-out terrified. Without thinking twice, I lunge for the remote, jam on the STOP button and immediately fast-forward to the very end just to see how the shark dies. And, yes, the ending is as awesome as they come and if I hadn’t been so shell-shocked by the whole experience I probably would have cheered out loud, but no movie has ever had the same paralyzing effect on me that Jaws did.
With that being said, it is no surprise whatsoever that 35 years later this movie is still scaring the bejesus out of folks and making them think twice about taking a bath let alone cooling off in the ocean. Yeah, it’s more of a thriller than anything else, but if Quint’s final minutes don’t make you cringe and the captain’s head jumping out at Hooper doesn’t make you scream like a banshee, you, sir/madame, are a top candidate for bravest cat alive. It sucks that writer Peter Benchley ended up having to devote the rest of his life to reverse the damage this movie and his source material ended up causing to shark populations across the globe, but, man, sharks are bad news. Shark extinction: one of the rare drawbacks of having a great, funny script.
Folks, this is one of those movies I could go on about, but the long and short is that if you’ve never seen Jaws, you haven’t lived. I don’t care about that Nobel Peace Prize you won, throw that shit in the garbage and boot up Netflix, STAT! You don’t know what you’re missin’.
One of the best horror movies ever made, people. Truly makes you appreciate being at the top of the food chain.