As we got nearer to the end of October, and the movies with the most votes started being made clear to us, I admit I was pretty giddy. Now in case you don't know, my birthday is October 14th. Guess what movie came in at #14 on the SHOCKtober list? JAWS. That's right, my arch-nemesis. Coincidence? Doubt it. Sharks are trickier than you think. He probably planned it all along, the tricky bastard.
Somewhere in those comments, a reader brought up their surprise at how Jaws was so close to the top 10, when it isn't really a horror movie. This of course isn't the first time I've heard that. It all goes back to that annoying debate people get into about what is and what isn't a horror film. We all have different criteria and here is mine--if it scares the crap out of me, it's horror. Bam.
But then you see, I got thinking. Jaws should never be up for debate as a non-horror movie for one very simple reason. You may or may not have realized this yourself, but Jaws is actually in many ways set up like a Slasher film. Whaaaat? It's true, and I can prove it to you. I'm even going to risk another heart attack, by watching the movie again to get screen grabs. You can thank me later if I'm still alive.
The Opening Kill
As is customary with many opening scenes in Slasher films, our first victim gets well....killed. Oh and she takes her clothes off to do something sinful. In this case we have a young lass skinny dipping, skinny dipping with some stranger I might add!! Oh my oh my.
It is in these opening moments of terror that we get our first peek at our killer. We see the victim through its eyes, we see the victim brutally killed and as is customary with that very first death---(whether in the past or present I should add) it is responsible for putting the rest of the story in motion.
Introducing the Final Girl
Alright, so he's not a girl--but there is no denying that Martin Brody embodies many of the same characteristics that a final girl would. Brody is intelligent, drives the story forward with the part he plays in bringing the killings to an end and of course with his suspicions about the shark.
He is the last one standing (duh) and takes up a weapon to dispatch the killer at the film's conclusion.
Although Brody does like to indulge in the occasional massive glass of wine, we never see Brody indulging in what is perhaps the activity most commonly associated with the final girl--sex. His wife suggests it, "Wanna get drunk, fool around?" BUT it never happens. In our eyes Brody is almost virginal...
Point of View
One of the best hallmarks of a slasher film is the use of the killers point of view. It puts the audience in the role of a voyeur, which is of course the role of the killer. The classic shot of Jaws? Peoples little swimming legs shot of course, from the shark's perspective.
The Isolated Setting
Slasher movies often take place in settings of isolation. Islands, isolated houses, isolated farm houses, etc. Amity island is no exception and with Brody hailing from New York, Amity Island is the ultimate place of isolation for him.
Unfortunately for Brody, no one believes his own self discovery, that the killer may be a shark. In his attempt to do the right thing and close the beaches, he is met with an uproar in the community. A shark attack seems insane. As does a killer wielding a machete dispatching teenagers. People just don't want to believe it--and so, they go on with their lives. This of course always ends badly, as we find with poor little Alex, and Pippin--can't forget about Pippin.
The Wrong Man is Caught
You know how in slasher films when they think they catch the bad guy? They pin the crime on the escaped mental patient that conveniently escaped around the same time that the killings happened? The same sort of business happens in Jaws, only this time, the wrong shark is caught. Everyone rests easy even though we know the killer is still out there.
Help From Someone with Experience
Whether it be a police detective, a psychologist, or someone from the killer's past, our final girl often meets someone who can help them. Often times this person isn't around for long, but the help they provide is crucial. Matt Hooper is a marine biologist, specializing in sharks. With his help, Brody's fears get reaffirmed; the shark that the town caught has a much smaller jaw span than the shark that killed our victim. Dun Dun Dun. Hooper can also be viewed as a best friend prototype. Sure they haven't known each other as well but they become quite "chummy" (pun INTENDED) by the film's end.
Listen to the Old Kook
Quint in many ways resembles that crazy old man on a bicycle spouting off violent stories about the past. He's a crazy old shark catcher yes, but just like the crazy old man on the bicycle, he probably has experience. And experience he does. As we find out during his famous Indianapolis speech, Quint met a whole band of sharks in his past and knows exactly what they are up against. Heed his warnings, and listen--listen to that old kook who draws silly pictures of sharks!
The False Alarm
Those asshole boys in slasher movies--always pretending to be the killer like it's sooo funny. Or worse--they'll just creep up behind our final girl and scare her! The nerve. Final girls and Chief Brody do not find practical jokes funny at all. Especially because a false alarm is usually closely followed by the real deal AKA the salt pond incident!
The Killer Goes After a Family Member
In many ways, the killer knows how to press buttons. Perhaps one of the hottest buttons to push is going after the someone from the final girl's family. This isn't always a hallmark of Slasher films, but it is still an element I feel deserves recognition. Especially because the salt pond incident is really fucking scary.
The Killer's Theme
All great killers in slasher films have great themes. Jason, Freddy, Michael and of course---Jaws. When we hear the music, we know they are lurking and we know it is time to cover our eyes.
The Final Girl and the Killer Come Face to Face
I won't post this screen grab because it is too scary. But here is our moment when the final girl meets the killer for the very first time--and is met with instantaneous fear. Often times they merely escape their death, and other times they just get damn lucky. Brody here just gets a face full of terror and he instantly becomes a bit more skittish.
In those last crucial moments of a slasher film, things get craaazay. The killer is popping out of everywhere, and the final girl seems hopelessly trapped. The last few moments of Jaws are riddled with that same kind of chaos. The remaining characters start dropping like flies, and soon our final girl find herself very alone--and very, very pissed.
The Final Standoff
As last we arrive at the final showdown between our final girl and our killer. Things here start going from bad to worse, as our final girl barely clings on to life. Here, Brody is literally clinging on, as he hangs from the last remaining part of the Orca, waiting for his chance to shoot the pressurized air tank firmly lodged in the sharks giant mouth. Brody delivers the standard, final girl line, you know something HA in your face bioootch, or here, "Smile you son of a bitch", and our killer finally dies.
One Last Scare?
Most slasher films just love to keep you on your toes. Even here after we see the shark guts rain down upon the sea, we still get a little nervous. Suddenly out of the water crashes---HOOPER! That sly dog! Alright so it's a cop out final scare, but it still works alright?
Well there we have it. Sure it's not a straight shot, but I think it's pretty neat. Hopefully this satisfies all you "Jaws isn't a horror movie" people but if it doesn't.........dudes come on, Jaws is terrifying whether you are deathly afraid of sharks or not! It's got suspense! It's got blood! It's got laughs, thrills, chills, a man in some bad hat---it has got it ALL!