Summer is behind us, which means I probably shouldn’t include Jaws among this series’ entries. And yet, if we’re talking about why I am the horror writer and fan I am, we have to talk about it.
The real brilliance of Jaws is in how many genres it touches. Of course it’s a sea adventure, with strong overtones of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. It functions well as a thriller in its pursuit of prey. And, of course, it’s a horror story. And a very good one, especially in its portrayal of our fears of the deep, and of our fear of sharks. The shark in question in a twenty-foot great white, and when seen in a shot alongside Quint’s boat The Orca, it’s absolutely terrifying.
This was only Steven Spielberg’s third feature, after both Duel (based on Richard Matheson’s short story) and The Sugarland Express. Jaws not only put him on the cinematic map, but in a way became the standard by which many of us judge horror movies. Few others match Jaws’s power and intensity, and it is in part due to his actors, especially Robert Shaw as Quint. One look at him, and you see someone who practically reeks of fish.
There are too many great set pieces to single out a single one, so I will simply say that, if there’s any one movie in this series I would recommend unreservedly, it would be this one.
One final note. The movie is based on a novel by Peter Benchley. It was a bestseller at the time, but I’ve never been fond of it. This is one of the rare instances where the movie actually improves on the book.
Do you have a favorite sea-themed or underwater horror movie? Let me know in the comments.