Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Flashbacks: Jaws

Jaws 1975
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb
Starring Roy Schieder, Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Carl Gottlieb and Jeffrey Kramer

Jaws is the film that started my love with horror films, as it is the first film I remember seeing as a kid and right away it solidified my love for the horror film. It is a superbly well crafted film and the benchmark of nature run amok horror films. This is a film that really freaked me out, especially during the scene where Hooper is investigating a shipwreck and a head pops up. That scene still give me shivers when I think about it. One of the things that really works about the film is really how little you see of the shark. It is a film that really builds on and plays with tension and suspense and that is why it works so well. Everything about this film came together and created a masterpiece. The cast, the locale, the score and the cinematography all come together to make one of the most perfect horror movies ever made. This was also the first film that started the trend of the summer blockbuster. This killed at the box office and began the trend that still goes to this day of releasing the big tent pole action films for the summer season.
The plot basics are this, in the idyllic summer resort town of Amity Beach something strange and frightening begins to happen. It seems swimmers are being attacked and eaten by a Great White shark, something that is unusual for these waters. The Sheriff, Brody (Schieder) figures it out and plans to close the beach down till it can be stopped but the mayor (Hamilton) doesn't believe him and refuses to let him close the beach down. After a horrible event at the beach the mayor acquiesces and Brody hires a gruff shark hunter, Quint (Shaw) and takes along a marine biologist, Hooper (Dreyfuss) for the hunt. All 3 go in Quint's ship and head out to sea to hunt down the monstrosity. Thus, begins a hard and grueling adventure that not everyone will survive and the mettle of these men will be sorely tested to their extremes.
This is a exceptional film. The direction by Spielberg is outstanding. The use of the ocean works really well. The cinematography is flawless. From the opening scene to the final battle with the Shark the film grabs you and does not let you go till the ending. The shark attacks are pulled off suspense fully and without giving away too much, which what makes the film all that much better. The script is solid and a great improvement over the book. It removes the unneeded subplot of a affair between Hooper and Brody's wife and instead fixates on the shark and what it does to this community. All the characters are fully realized and very lively. Quint is the most memorable character and this is most realized by his recollection of the tragedy U.S. S. Indianapolis. That scene is riveting and one of the finest scenes in the film. The cast is superb. Schieder as Brody is a great flawed hero who really pulls it together at the finale. Dreyfuss as Hooper brings a lot of humor to the role and it really balances the tension you feel throughout the film. Shaw is the true star of the film as Quint. He is gruff and sometimes just plain scary. He really comes alive during the camaraderie scene on the ship right before the shark attacks. Hamilton as the mayor is the dick you love to hate and it is great when you watch him break down and eat his own words. Garry has a thankless role as Brody's wife but does a great job of lending emotional support to Schieder. The SFX and effects of the film are flawless. The shark is not used too much but just enough to make it look authentic and to keep the story going. The effect of the floating head is a scene that still haunts me and proves how effective the SFX in the film is. The score by John Williams is such a focal point of the film and so simple yet effective. You know anytime those chords start something bad is coming and it raises the tension even more. This is a flawless horror film and for me still Spielberg's best film.
This one gets 5 out of 5

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