When Steven Spielberg’s movie Jaws was released in 1975, it became a blockbuster hit that both thrilled and terrified audiences around the world. The film, which tells the story of a giant man-eating great white shark that terrorizes a New England beach town during the Fourth of July holiday, is often cited as a classic example of a horror movie that still holds up today. But is Jaws really scary?
The Elements of Fear
To answer this question, we need to first examine what makes a movie scary. Fear is a complex emotion that involves not only the perception of danger but also the anticipation of harm and the vulnerability to attack. Horror movies often exploit our primal fears by using various elements such as darkness, isolation, suspense, gore, jump scares, and psychological manipulation to create an atmosphere of dread.
Jaws uses many of these elements to great effect. For example:
- The music: The iconic theme composed by John Williams builds tension and signals danger even before we see the shark.
- The setting: The beach town of Amity Island is idyllic and crowded at first but gradually becomes more ominous as the attacks occur.
- The characters: Chief Brody (Roy Scheider), Quint (Robert Shaw), and Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) are likable but flawed heroes who face not only the shark but also their own fears and conflicts.
- The editing: Spielberg masterfully cuts between underwater shots of the shark’s perspective, close-ups of its teeth and eyes, and wide shots of the ocean to create a sense of disorientation and unpredictability.
The Limits of Scare
Despite these strengths, Jaws is not a perfect horror movie, nor is it universally scary. Some viewers may find the shark’s animatronic movements dated or unrealistic, while others may be put off by the film’s occasional humor or sentimentality. Moreover, different people have different thresholds of fear and tolerance for violence and gore.
Yet even if Jaws does not scare everyone equally, it remains a classic example of how to craft a suspenseful and engaging horror movie that resonates with audiences decades after its release. The film’s impact can be seen not only in its many imitators and sequels but also in the popular culture references to sharks, beaches, and summer holidays that continue to evoke the primal fear of being preyed upon by a powerful predator.
The Final Verdict
So, is Jaws scary? The answer is yes, for many reasons.
It may not scare everyone equally or in the same way, but that’s part of its appeal as a horror classic. Whether you watch it for the first time or revisit it as a fan, Jaws still has the power to make you jump, scream, and even laugh at its witty dialogue and memorable scenes. Just be careful if you go swimming afterwards..