Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no one day is more loved by the UTG staff than Halloween. With the arrival of October, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a plethora of features and special announcements we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day, including the one you’re about to read.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring daily feature that will run throughout the month of October. The hope and goal of this column is to supply every UTG reader with a daily horror movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your Halloween festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you’ll follow along at home. If you have a suggestion, contact us and we may include your favorite scarefest in an upcoming column!
Day 18: Jaws (1975)
I had a nightmare about Jaws on Sunday night. In all seriousness. I was in a dilapidated room that looked a bit like the hovel from the end of Anaconda where the snake spits Jon Voigt back out, and I had abandoned a ladder and was attempting to hide in a bathtub. Let’s not dwell on how little sense that made. The nightmare was odd though, as Jaws is not something likely to spring to mind when people discuss ye olde horror films. Especially not me, as I grew up watching it – it’s something of a favourite for myself and my sister, and easily makes my all-time Top 10. Yet, its familiarity is exactly what has removed so much of the menace, because when viewed in context and an appropriate setting, Jaws is pretty fricking terrifying.
Don’t believe me? Consider the scene where Brody and Hooper (after whom my mp3 player is named, folks) go out onto the ocean at night to see if they can spot the shark. Brody naturally has to be inebriated to do so (“it’s only an island if you look at it from the water”), so he remains on the boat while Hooper swims below to investigate the wreckage of an Amity Island denizen’s boat. Little does he know, as he peers through the holes in the hull and discovers a shark’s tooth, that a decapitated head is about to float out of the blackness at him. It’s one of the stand-out heart-stopping scares in a film that relies hugely on the old-fashioned way of telling a scary story – atmosphere, anticipation, and subliminal dread. Much has been made of Spielberg’s decision to keep the shark hidden until comparatively late in the film (a decision which owed more to the disastrous schematic shark Bruce than to artistic vision), but it should not be underestimated as the reason why so much of Jaws is packed with ghoulish horror. It was rare in that era of filmmaking to keep the film’s antagonist completely out of sight – bar the fin, of course – and Jaws had the added bonus of its villain being sea-dwelling, as the depth and expanse and unknowns of the ocean add much in the way of mystery and suspense.
Allied to this cloak-and-dagger approach are some other chilling moments, notable for their simple yet abject horror. The best of all is Quint’s recounting of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, delivered in the gathering dusk in his laconically twisted tones to an increasingly horrified Brody and Hooper. Suffice to say, when the shark attacks shortly thereafter, the latter pair have had their fears whetted more than enough.
I know people so afraid of sharks they won’t even look at Jaws, which is unfortunate, because sharks are really rather magnificent works of nature and this film is really a rather magnificent work of art. If you have by some measure of insanity not seen it yet, there’s no better time than now.
Editorial by: Grace Duffy