There is a creature alive today who has survived millions of years of evolution without change, without passion, and without logic. It lives to kill. A mindless eating machine, it will attack and devour anything. It is as though God created the devil and gave him Jaws.”
— Narration from the Jaws Trailer 1975
Fear, so the German proverb has it, makes the wolf bigger than he is. And Jaws makes wolfy look like that chihuahua in Paris Hilton’s purse. No film has fostered and magnified fear more than Jaws. A man in Kansas may have never seen the ocean, but by god he knows how scary a shark is because of this film. It attacks the primordial fear of being eaten and reduces us to our fight or flight response we can’t help but fall victim to. That makes Jaws the scariest film of all time. Or just ask this guy.
But what’s really so scary about a big fish with sharp teeth besides the John Williams musical score? When you think scary movies nowadays, Jaws doesn’t necessarily pop up on your radar. Whether it’s because it’s considered a summer flick, time and overexposure has mitigated its effect or simply because there are no ghouls or ghosts in it.
Considering how frighteningly real a giant great white shark is though; what is more frightening than enjoying a nice swim with your loved one, cutting your knee, and then being within biting distance of a shark? There’s no other film that has created such a phobia of the ocean. It makes all those that have seen it take a second thought before plunging into any type of body of water (chlorinated pools included!).
Jaws might be so frightening because it magnifies our fear of events that have taken place again and again over the years and also because it’s so damn easy to picture ourselves getting ripped apart by a shark. Think about the scariest scenes in movies and you’ll note it’s not when the dumb blonde is getting stabbed; it’s nearly always off camera, like the hum of a chainsaw, or a panning shot across the empty dark woods. Basically when there’s something off camera, or something in the shadows unseen. What is more difficult to see through than the murky waters of the ocean be it in a boat or on the shore?
Boston.com and IGN both rank Jaws within the top 3 scariest movies of all time for a reason. If that doesn’t sell you, at the very least the timeless quote “you’re going to need a bigger boat” is proof Jaws brings the spine tingly and will forever be reused and referenced by films of every genre.
Bigger boat? Why not a bigger bazooka?
Top Ten Monsters: Jaws Makes the List
And let’s face it, Jaws is probably in one of the top 25, and maybe even top 10 slots best movie monsters of all time as well. Sure it’s not your atypical radioactive, reanimated, revenge seeking baddy, but Jaws continues to scare generations of beach goers. You tell me a 4,550 pound shark with teeth that’ll turn bone into Jell-o isn’t a monster! On top of that, the film used Jaws so sparingly it was practically haunting the characters throughout the film.
Why It’s Not Scary… So You Think
If you still disagree that this film is among the scariest movie of all time, the problem might be the aforementioned overexposure. Because the film was such a huge hit, it was the first blockbuster after all, most folks have seen it on syndicated TV dozens of times.
Possible way of making this movie even scarier?
Think about the first ten times you saw this film as a child or all the times you saw it in the past five years. That’s a lot of times for the film to lose its ability to put fear into you. Then again, maybe it still scares you after watching it 400 times. That leads us to:
How to Make it Less Scary
Now that we’ve established why this film is so scary, and you are one of those folks who agrees this is a scary flick, I offer a solution. Yes, you too can get over your fear of this film. There’s no question Jaws changed the way people view sharks and the ocean and if you’re still scared of this film it might just be that you haven’t watched it enough.
Or, if watching the film doesn’t quell your fears, what better way to escape your fear, then to read a book that collects nearly every single production photo, note, or newspaper clipping during the filming of Jaws.
I love how the paper these are drawn on look like they came from a shipwreck.
The expanded second edition of Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard was recently released on October 1st, a little late for Shark Week, but just in time for the spooky season. This 312 page mammoth of a book contains nearly any and every detail that was captured while shooting the film.
Little known fact: Sharks are a great foot ladder.
I’m sure there are people out there who have collected every Making of Jaws book, but it’s clear writer Matt Taylor wants to blow all those books out of the water (pun sadly intended!). From behind the scenes photographs, casting photos, newspaper clippings and even copies of telegrams, this book has everything you’d ever want to know about making Jaws and then some.
That final scene isn’t half as scary now. Harumph.
Think of this as an old chest you’d find in your grandfather’s attic. You’ll crack this book open and find surprises, relics and a boatload (more, sigh… puns!) full of history. There aren’t any interviews, but there are quotes and essays from people who were involved with the filming.
Directors are ALWAYS pointing in production stills. Talk about ego. [rolls eyes]
It’s not surprising then that you’ll run into pages upon pages of stuff that won’t interest you. This is especially the case if you’re not the biggest Jaws fan, but you can’t knock the book for being thorough.
Do you really need to see the design of the shark? No, but it’s cool to look at goddammit!
By books end you’ll either be completely sick of this movie, or you’ll be dying to rewatch it. Either way it’s a win-win. You either want to go through the thrill of being scared again or you’ll be successfully cured of never being scared again out of boredom.
Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard runs around 30 dollars on amazon.com with non-discounted price of 50 dollars. It’s softcover, but well made and there isn’t a page wasted when it comes to content. Considering how stuffed every page is it’s well worth your dime either to quell your fears of sharks in general or to become a Jaws connoisseur.
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