Jaws is available to rent or buy now
On this day in 1975, Steven Spielberg unleashed a new terror, one that remains one of the best movies ever made and the most enduring of all creature horrors. However, was Jaws really about the shark at its heart? Or was Jaws about the nature of human fear? Over the years, many have dissected Jaws, looking for the answers to these questions. And while some argued that Spielberg’s film is laced with discussions on masculinity in crisis, others have pointed to themes of humanity versus nature. Our desperate need to rule over all other life forms, both dangerous and misguided.
However, for me, the real story of Jaws sits within its ability to redefine modern cinema and give birth to the summer blockbuster—the classic B-Movie creature horror born in the 1950s, coming of age. Here, Spielberg understood how to make an audience squirm with terror without unveiling his creature until the very final act.
In Jaws, the hidden, dark depths of a calm ocean would be stalked by a serial killer with a taste for human flesh. The fun and pleasure of a summer beach subverted into a nightmare as humans lost control of their summer fun. Spielberg took clear inspiration from Hitchcock in creating Jaws, ramping up the tension and fear to excruciating levels. While at the same time using sound and music as a character in its own right. The result, one of the most taught, engaging and terrifying films of all time. However, beyond its fear, Jaws also gave birth to the summer cinematic scare and the very notion of the summer blockbuster.
Released in 500 U.S theatres simultaneously, Jaws would also embrace TV advertising more than any film before, using slogans such as “stay out of the water” and “The most terrifying movie of the year“. This created a buzz long before Jaws even surfaced in cinemas. Meanwhile, a few film trims took the rating from R to PG, ensuring a big family audience. The film’s poster providing a warning that Jaws ‘may prove too intense for some children‘. Only increasing the wish of kids to see it, nagging their parents to get a seat. All of these masterstrokes would ultimately change Hollywood forever, with Jaws the starting gun for a new style of blockbuster that lives on today.