Jaws represents a lot of things to the horror genre and movies in general. Right in the middle of this horror movie renaissance, Jaws represented a major breakthrough in terms of box office performance. It ushered in a hot new name in Hollywood. Jaws was the moment when horror broke out of the drive-in ghetto and into the majors. It was the dawn of the summer blockbuster, when that one movie hit during the season that everyone had to see. Man, it was huge.
I’m not a major Jaws fan but I like the movie quite a bit. I know some people who go positively apeshit for it, though. People who consider it the greatest horror movie of all time. I wouldn’t go that far, but it is good. It is masterfully executed and deserving of all the praise it gets. Spielberg is the shit!
When I was a kid, I would obsess over the idea of sharks in the water near where I lived. Sharks are cool as hell! They’re this race of killing machines in the ocean that evolved in a crazy-efficient manner. It’s like millions of years ago they found the right biological balance and stuck with it. Sharks are fucking primal, man! It’s no wonder that when Discovery runs Shark Week, people go nuts for it. I grew up on the coast but aside from some jellyfish I never saw anything really exotic. I wasn’t afraid of sharks swimming in to bite me or anything, mind you. I mostly just wanted to see a shark. A real one. I wanted to see that fin tracing the water. My mom told me that most sharks, the cool ones at least, didn’t live in the north Atlantic. No great whites. No hammerheads. No tiger sharks. Total bummer, man. Those things swam in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, in warm water. Much to my surprise, this wasn’t entirely true and the story was inspired by actual events happening several times around the waters off of New York during the 20th century.
I’m cheating. I admit this. Jaws the movie is based off of Jaws the book, a novel by author Peter Benchley. This one is brief. I owe you a slow pitch after last night’s nightmare about two men sharing the awful delicacy of eating a man’s penis. In the early 60’s fisherman Frank Mundus caught a great white shark in the waters off Montauk Point. Montauk Point being the northernmost tip of Long Island, New York. This thing was massive, too, weighing in at nearly 5,000 pounds. It didn’t end there, either. Mundus, a seasoned fisherman caught several more of these perfect predators off those same waters over the course of the next several years. What’s more, in July of 1916, New Jersey became home to an epidemic of fear as four deaths and one injury resulted from as many shark attacks on the coast. No one has ever been able to nail down the species of shark responsible for the attack but popular theories suggest Great Whites and Bull sharks. The attacks were savage, too. These sharks can fuck shit up, proper, and they did. The first victim bled out from near total loss of their left leg. All that remained when the life guard pull the victim from the water was his bone. The second victim was nearly bitten in half. The third was pulled under water and a fourth was attacked while trying to rescue the third. Both died from massive trauma from shark bites. A fifth victim was attacked, but friends managed to pull him free from the shark’s mouth before it could do any life threatening damage.
Locals went berserk and began loading boats with fisherman and shark hunters out to find this rogue shark and kill it and just like in Jaws, the local yokels came out in droves, causing more harm than good. A bounty was placed on its head, too. $5,000. In the end, a great number of sharks, including a great white, were captured and killed and the attacks ceased, leading many to believe that among the shark carnage of the days following the attacks, one of these boats of drunk lunatics had nailed it.