Jaws ★★★★½

The classic and quintessential shark movie; you can make the situation more harrowing (Deep Blue), more targeted (The Shallows), or just outright make the shark bigger (The Meg), but Jaws still reigns supreme above them all, even nearly fifty years later. It's a master class of tension and scares with its sense of minimalism, and truly must ne revered for its cultural impact. Even today, a LOT of people are afraid of the water because of this one movie.

Jaws doesn't want the audience to see the shark; it gradually unveils exactly what we're dealing with, opening up with a hapless promiscuous woman (they always gotta go first, it was the 70s) dragged underwater sightlessly, followed by the next kill featuring the shark's perspective, and from there on out we get more and more pieces until it's face to face with Roy Scheider's Chief Martin Brody, a man truly fighting something outside his capabilities. Realization plays thoroughly into this one, as the summer town is more thoroughly held hostage by this shark; there's something to be said about going after a threat versus having it arrive at one's doorstep.

It's a film of constant ramping tension, heightened by impressive camera-work and a score that is to die for, immediately identifiable by one note. It's rarely a film of jump scares, relying more on letting one know the shark is around, and hunting, but never a guarantee of where. Characters have distinct traits, and it's a relatively low body count horror film, giving some stakes to the loss of one particular character in the final act. Really, the last thirty minutes are a desperate fight not only for survival, but in taking this son of a bitch down. It's a film that's hard not to be mesmerized by with how well all its components tie together. I don't know that it has the beating heart of some of Spielberg's other films, but some things have to be built - even Spielberg wasn't "Spielberg" yet.

Jaws is just a great horror film to revisit throughout the year; its sense of tension holds up dramatically well, and it's still frightening, even knowing the story beats. Jaws is a classic in the wide berth of Spielberg masterpieces, and it might be the one that took the biggest chunk out of society.

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