Jaws! or The movie that scarred the shit out of me as a little kid…
There you have it ladies and gentlemen, the scariest fucking movie of all time. I can hear the arguments brewing from you, The Exorcist, A Nightmare on Elm St., Friday the Thirteenth, Suspiria, Titanic, etc. But you, and I am completely confident in writing this, are simply wrong. There has never been a movie that terrified the common man like Jaws. And I think it safe to say that there will never be another movie quite like it.
On June 20th, 1975 Universal Picture released Jaws as the very first summer blockbuster. Before Jaws, movie were released in major markets, think New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, first and smaller cities and towns eventually. I remember stories from my Grandfather about him going into the city to see the newest picture because you never knew when your local theatre might get it. But Jaws saw fit to change Hollywood’s mentality regarding summer. Every tentpole film that opens to huge summer numbers owes a debt of thanks to Jaws.
I challenge you to find more than 2 people who don’t instantaneously recognize, du-duh….. du-duh. See, you just did it in your head. This film is so ingrained into our conscious that people who have never watched a single frame know the music. That’s impressive. And that’s John Williams. Everyone loves Mr. Williams as well they should. He has give us some of the most recognizable themes in movie history. Jaws was his first.
Jaws was also a first for Steven Spielberg. Before Jaws, he had directed mostly for television, the most famous being Duel, and had made his feature film debut with The Sugarland Express in 1974. With Jaws, Spielberg broke out and went on to have one of the greatest careers in Hollywood.
As for me, I saw Jaws when I was either 4 or 5, can’t really remember. What I can recall however is sitting in my Grandfather’s basement in New Milford New Jersey, watching on a big screen projector, and seeing the scariest thing my young mind could imagine. He showed me many films during my childhood, most he probably shouldn’t have, but none got me like Jaws. It was the unseen that really did it to me. Due to budget constraints, Jaws was made for a measly 9 million, and a stroke of brilliance, most of the violence is off screen. The viewer is left to imagine exactly what has happened to the girl we saw swimming only moments ago. Spielberg was certainly not the first to use this technique but it was incredibly effective. The unseen danger coupled with terrific performance from Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, and of course Roy Scheider kept me out of the ocean for a very long time.
35 years seems like an insanely long time for this movie to have debuted. It remains fresh even in the face of three terrible sequels, none of which had Spielberg involved. Put this film on again, sit back, and get sucked in all over again. I cannot wait to show this to my kids. Is that wrong? Even if it is, I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.