On a small island, Amity Island, known as “a summer town” a shark comes to visit. Not in a good way, even though I don’t know what a good way for a shark to visit somewhere is. Not that it packs its bags and sunbathes on the beach and surfs on the waves… Basically, it’s always going to be a bad way. And this film definitely highlights the bad way in a death of a young girl straight at the beginning, as she is torn to pieces in the ocean when just wanting a night swim. So straight away you are brought in with the shark and understand that it wants food and it has found its new hunting ground, or water.
The first thing to remember is that if you haven’t seen this film, it was made in 1975. So don’t be expecting to have the special effects that there are now, because then they just weren’t as good. For example, the shark does look pretty fake. However, the clever way around this is that you don’t see much of the shark in the first hour of the film, so tension builds up and it still manages to be slightly scary due to the camera angles from under the water and the fact that you’re not actually seeing the predator. I have to say, for a 1975 film and having a shark as the main aspect, it’s done very well. But it’s Steven Spielberg, of course it is. I found that even though it is quite an old film, it was still tense and slightly scary watching it recently. Well I definitely found some parts quite scary, but then again, I hate sharks to begin with, no one needs to persuade me that they’re frightening. Have you seen at least a picture of one? Just no. Anyway, if you were watching this film in 1975, I would probably say that this film was quite scary and seemed quite real compared to other films that came out around that time. It has to have been anyway, as it was so successful and people still watch it nowadays as a classic. You must have at least heard of it!
Another way this film is good is the use of music. Everyone must know the classic duuun nu, duun nu, tune of a shark. And this is used in this film. This tells the audience when the shark is about and hungry. Additionally, there are moments of silence, where tension builds up, unknown where the shark is, but the silence senses something is going to happen. It’s not a film of constant music, there is the right amount in the correct places. Very cleverly done. Also as mentioned before, the camera angles are really key to this film. There are a lot of underwater shots that seem from the shark’s perspective. As you are seeing things from the predator’s point of view, it builds up stress and tension for the audience to want the people at risk to escape safely. But of course they can’t hear you.
So the plot of this film? Once the shark has attacked and killed two people, things start to take more serious action. This being Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) of Amity Police Department, and he tries as much as he can, even though he is massively restricted by the town’s Mayor, Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), who wants to keep the tourist money coming in from the beaches and the sea, which if it gets out that a shark is in it, he would clearly lose money; this restriction is perfectly shown after the death of the first victim hence why more action isn’t taken then. The people of this town clearly underestimate the danger of the shark which therefore leads to more deaths. An ocean expert arrives on the Island to help with the shark problem, this being Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss); however he says things people don’t exactly want to hear, the only person listening is Brody. So they work together to try and dissolve the problem they face, one like they’ve never before. Once things start to get more out of hand and the seriousness becomes more real, the last hour of the film is dominated by the hunting of the shark. The only person who seems serious enough to capture it is a slight crazy man who loves to sing, Quint (Robert Shaw). This last hour is more thrilling than scary horror as the shark is finally on show. It is more action-like.
Spielberg plays with mood and instinct in this film. The audience is constantly in the know of everything that the characters on screen do. There aren’t hidden meanings behind things or secrets that will be revealed, everything is out in the open when it’s discovered by the characters. However, Spielberg creates a fear for the characters as he plays on victims that would be more emotionally effective towards an audience, for example, children. This adds to the horror in an urgent and tense way. Although, this is definitely not a film of constant fear, there are some tense scenes and some jumpy ones, but overall a lot of the film is based on land away from the shark. This just develops a background and realisation of the potential of the shark from the people of the town. But also creates an annoyance for the audience, due to the people not understanding the risks at the beginning of the film, but instead it drags out for an hour as they are naïve to think the shark is nothing and the tourist money is more important, whereas Spielberg purposely makes the audience know differently and more truthfully.
Overall, for a 1975 film it definitely wasn’t a bad one. It is no way near as scary as some horrors that are out now, but it is clever to still affect an audience in today’s world. It is quite a long film, two hours, but as I said before, it’s like the first half is completely separate from the second as it becomes less scary and more action. So why not give it a go? I hate sharks and I still watched it.