Horror Movie Month: "Jaws" Review

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When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.
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Horror Movie Month: "Jaws" Review

Rating: PG (language, violence, partial nudity)
Length: 124 min
Release date: June 20, 1975
Directed by: Steven Spielberg Genre:
Horror/Thriller

"Jaws" is a 1975 film based on a novel bearing the same name by author Peter Benchley. To say the film was successful would be an understatement, as "Jaws" grossed more than $7 million its opening weekend and went on to become the highest-grossing movie of all time. It remained the highest-grossing film until "Star Wars" took its place in 1977. However, "Jaws" is considered by many to be one of Spielberg's best works and is still known in Hollywood today as being the very first "blockbuster" movie.

"Jaws" is a film that centers around a killer great white shark that staked a claim of territory on Amity Island. This fictional island is a vacation spot that attracts lots of tourists and beachgoers, all of whom are unaware that the man-eating creature exists. The first victim is Chrissie Watkins, a young lady who decides to go skinny dipping at the beach after leaving a party. She is ultimately reported missing, and her remains are later found by Martin Brody (Roy Schneider), the island's police chief. It is later discovered that young Chrissie was killed by a shark, which prompts Brody to close the beach. However, the mayor of Amity Island, Larry Vaughan (Murray Hamilton) fears that closing the beach will keep tourists from visiting the island. Because tourists are the town's primary income source, Mayor Vaughan decides to keep the beach open and tells everyone that Chrissie was killed in a boating accident.

The man-eating shark's next victim is a young boy who was simply going for a swim. Shortly after the boy's death, it is revealed to all that both the boy and Chrissie were killed by sharks, which caused the townspeople to panic. However, the panic is eased when fishermen capture a large tiger shark, leading everyone to believe the problem has been solved. Chief Brody and marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) are not convinced the problem has been solved, and they secretly decide to investigate further. They open the tiger shark's stomach and discover that it does not contain any human remains, which means the killer shark is still in the waters surrounding Amity Island.

A third victim, a fisherman named Ben Gardner, is discovered by Brody and Hooper as they are out at sea searching for the killer shark. They not only discover Gardner's corpse, they also discover a large shark tooth protruding from Gardner's boat. Still, the town's mayor keeps the beaches open, and tourists begin to arrive for the Fourth of July. In the next few scenes, the shark continues its killing spree, taking down multiple victims and almost killing Brody's son. Prepared to take matters into their own hands, Brody, Hooper, and Quint (Robert Shaw) decide to hunt for and kill the great white shark.

In the beginning and middle of the film, you never actually see the shark. You see the victims being thrashed around and pulled under water, but the shark is not revealed until the third quarter of the movie when Brody, Quint, and Hooper are out at sea. The three men watch in amazement as the shark, which appears to weigh approximately three tons, makes a brief appearance and disappears underwater. This is the start of an all-out battle between the shark and the three men. The shark viciously attempts to attack the men, and the men are desperate to kill the shark. The boat is immobilized, and one of the men ultimately loses his life due to an attack. The film did receive some criticism in the form of many viewers stating they would have liked to see more of the shark. However, Spielberg believed that withholding images of the shark until the later part of the film would heighten suspense, and numerous movie critics agreed with him.

Many movie critics also liked the fact that "Jaws" was not just about a killer shark. The main characters of the film are family-oriented men who are extremely likeable, which makes it easy for viewers to connect with them. The film also had a slightly comedic edge thanks to the fun-loving personalities of the main characters.

Due to the great success of the first film, three sequels were made. They were not nearly as successful as the original 1975 film, however. Spielberg thought making a sequel would be a bad idea, and he ultimately did not work on any of the three sequels. However, the original film and sequels inspired a variety of toys, video games, theme park rides, musicals, and mobile games. "Jaws" is also available on Blu-ray, and the Blue-ray version is said to be very high in quality and one of the best movie transfers of an older film available today.

Rating: 3 out of 5