Jaws is a 1975 Thriller directed by Steven Spielberg it was based on a novel by Peter Benchley that shared the same title. Jaws is often regarded as the starting point for the movies industry’s yearly ‘summer Blockbuster’.
Jaws begins with a girl named Chrissie Watkins (Susan Backlinie), she leaves a party on to go swimming. While she is out in the ocean near a buoy, she is attacked by something from below, which in turns drags her down under the water.
She ends up listed as missing and her gruesome remains are found washed up on a beach by chief of police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider). The medical examiner later concludes that a shark killed her. Brody then decides it is a good idea to shut the beaches to avoid further incidents, but is overruled by mayor Larry Vaughan (Murray Hamilton), because he doesn’t want to ruin the forthcoming tourist season, the town's primary source of income. The medical examiner then lies about the death claiming it to be nothing more than a boating accident.
Brody reluctantly has no choice but to follow along with the lie, this however was a grave mistake as the shark goes on to kill a young boy swimming along the shore. This leads to the boy’s Mother placing a large bounty on the shark, sparking an amateur shark hunting frenzy along the beach; however, a local professional shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw) offers to kill the shark for $10,000. A large tiger shark is caught by a group of fishermen, leading the town to believe the problem is over. Brody asks to examine its stomach contents, but Vaughan refuses, as he wants the whole thing to be over. Later that night Brody and Marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss)secretly open the tiger shark's stomach, only to discover it contains no human remains, meaning it could not possibly be the attacker. This leads to Brody, Quint and Hooper heading out to sea to find the shark. Only to end up being hunted themselves.
One of the key factors that makes jaws such a successful thriller are the cleaver use of camera angles to create suspense and shock audiences. One key factor is the fact that the shark hardly has any physical on screen time. The viewer’s instead get to see things from the sharks point of view as he swims thru the water towards victims, watches on from a distance or as he is eating. “We see the shark close up, we look in its relentless eye, and it just plain feels like a shark.” (Ebert, 2000) Viewers are also led to fear the sharks power by being shown the left overs from his destructive path. All of this adds together to create very tense and scary moments, where you genuinely fill that this could be happening, and is not just some cheesy robotic shark nomming on actors. “Spielberg knows exactly how the human mind works, and he uses that knowledge to plumb the elemental fear buried deep within.” (Scott, 2012)
Sound wise, the film has a very good score composed by John Williams, the music just before an attack is probably one of the most known horror songs of all time and can instantly be recognised, and associated with Jaws around the world. “The use of silence is far more powerful and effective than the score” (Ewing, 2010). However, complete silence often plays a huge role in horror movies and Jaws is no exception. Scenes where it is dead quiet and all you can hear is the ocean are often more chilling then some of the attack scenes. For example the scene at the end of the movie with the trio battling the shark has very little music of fake sound effects, this adds to the realism and great sense of danger these men face in their struggle.
1: Roger Ebert: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/jaws-1975
3: James Blake Ewing: http://cinemasights.com/?p=3960