The Horror Honeys: SHARK WEEK ~ JAWS: A Series Retrospective

SHARK WEEK ~ JAWS: A Series Retrospective

A Monster Honey Shark Week Retrospective Review by Jennica

"We've Got a Panic On Our Hands On the Fourth of July!"

Happy Fourth of July weekend, 'Murican monsters! And a very happy first day of Shark Week! During my first year after moving to Los Angeles, I thought going to hitting the beach on Independence Day was a perfect idea. As a lesson learned, I now avoid the beach like hot lava because every inch of sand is guaranteed to be littered with humans and they don't take too kindly to monsters. But before I began avoiding the sand on this holiday weekend, I began avoiding the water... on any day of the week. 
Imma eat you... dun dun dun dun
The last time I entered the water for a swim, I felt something grab me. To this day, I don't have the slightest clue what it was but I know it was something fishy, although far from being of shark-like proportions. And during that brief moment when most people's lives would flash before their eyes as they begin to panic, I had the first attack in Jaws playing on a loop in my mind. So, I may refuse to get back in the water, but you can still join me on a journey through the depths of the Jaws franchise...

Jaws (1975)

Welcome to the small summer town of Amity Island (no, not Amityville... but perhaps just as terrifying). The sky is blue, the sun is bright, the sand is soft, and the ocean is sparkling and congested with tourists. When a young woman is found dead on the shore, there is no doubt that she was the victim of a brutal shark attack. Despite the mayor's efforts to keep the incident under wraps and continue counting those summer dollars, when small child is devoured, the community is ready to take action. A drunken fisherman and an oceanographer are accompanied by the town's police chief on a voyage to locate and destroy the man-eating great white.

While on paper Jaws appears to be just simple tale about a killer shark, what makes it as endearing as it is horrifying are its subtle use of complex characters. The movie gives just enough information about each character's personal life to hook its viewers and anchor their interest. We know Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) avoids the water but we're never told exactly why. Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) is a college grad born into wealth, but we watch the dangers of the sea gradually transform into the wild-eyed fisherman that he initially taunted. Quint (Robert Shaw) is a foul-mouthed fisherman with a dark past, but will he ever reveal his moonshine recipe?

I'll never tell! 
If the characters in Jaws act as the heart of the film, the sound score is most definitely the backbone that holds the film together, and perhaps the teeth that strike fear within its viewers before any real sign of terror swims across the screen. Whether or not you have seen Jaws (seriously, has anyone NOT seen this movie?), John Williams's iconic soundtrack is unmistakable. As the violins grows louder and faster, it's as if we have all been classically conditioned so that our hearts begin to race upon hearing that first musical note. John Williams, who has worked closely with Steven Spielberg to conduct the soundtracks to some of my favorite adventures, has an undeniable talent for keeping the overall emotion in every scene alive. 

Jennica's Rating: 5 Bowlegged Women out of 5

Jaws 2 (1978)

Taking place a few years after the trauma endured in the first  film, the tourists return to Amity Island as yet another summer of peace and love begins. Chief Brody's wife has made a name for herself in the tightly knit community and his two boys embrace the ocean waves with their new islander friends. When a fishy boat accident occurs, Brody's paranoia kicks into overdrive as he suspects that another great white has gone rogue. And this time he doesn't have Quint or Hooper to help him keep the jaws of death at bay.  

Although Jaws 2 has its minor flaws, it's actually quite an intelligent follow-up the the first film in nearly every conceivable way. We get the return of John Williams's anxiety-inducing musical scores as well as an update on what our favorite seamen are-- or aren't-- doing now. Quint is long gone, but his beloved Orca is found in pieces at the bottom of the ocean along with evidence of the current problem shark. Hooper is on the aquatic excursion that he was so thrilled about in the previous film. Chief Brody is left alone to deal with the traumatic memories of nearly being eaten alive by one of nature's not-so-gentle giants.

What I never fully understood about this second installment is that for some reason Chief Brody's kids, Sean and Michael, appear to be completely unaffected by the horror that they endured not so long ago. Sean might have been too young to really process what he witnessed on ear the shore, but Michael was right there in the water with the shark as it swam right past him. If something could shock him so intensely that he temporarily loses consciousness, it's probably safe to assume that is an event that would stick in his mind for quite some time. I just can't fathom that he would be so eager to sail across the water three summers later. But who am I to judge? Teenagers can have some twisted priorities, I suppose.

"Come sailing, they said. It will be fun, they said!"
The salt-soaked beast might have exceeded at wreaking havoc on the summer youth of Amity Island in this sequel, but its physical appearance is lacking. Under Spielberg's direction, Bruce the Shark's close-up shots were kept to a minimum, adding to the overall suspense of the film and maintaining his credibility as a great white force of nature. In the direct sequel, the shark is seen in such great detail that it's mechanical structure and movement sometimes take away from the gut-wrenching moments of a given scene. 

Jennica's Rating: 3 Sinking Sailboats out of 5

Jaws 3-D (1983)

Leaving behind the unfortunate events that took place on Amity Island (because how many rogue sharks can one town have?), Jaws 3-D centers around the grand opening of SeaWorld, the largest marine theme park in America. As locals and tourists alike flock to the park to get an up-close look at underwater wildlife and their many talents,   dolphin trainer Kay (Bess Armstrong) has a stroke of genius... or so she thinks. After a fatal shark attack mysteriously occurs from within the park, she convinces park director Calvin Bouchard (Louis Gossett, Jr.) that SeaWorld should become the first theme park to have a live great white on display. What the SeaWorld crew don't realize, however, is that the shark that they captured is only a baby. And its mother will destroy everything in her way to get it back. 

Jaws 2 might have delved deeper into the post-Jaws psyche of Chief Brody, but Jaws 3-D is the follow-up film that Sean and Michael deserved. With the Chief assumed to still be residing on Amity Island (or in the nearest psychiatric facility), Sean and Michael are reunited at SeaWorld during Sean's summer away from college. While Michael is once again seemingly unaffected by his brush with death many years ago, Sean has inherited their father's fear of the ocean. That is, of course, until he meets Lea Thompson. In the 1980s, she could get a man to overcome a fear of castration just by smiling at him.

"The only shark in these waters is me."
I've spent my entire life in disagreement with the majority of Jaws fans, but I stand boldly by my belief that Jaws 3-D is superior to Jaws 2. You don't agree? Bite me. The third installment in the franchise holds a special place in my monstrous heart as the film that spawned my strong appreciation for ridiculous shark movies. From the Syfy Channel quality cheese, to the incredibly convenient explosive climax, to the corny after-school-special Free Willy style ending complete with twirling sea mammals, Jaws 3-D is the ideal gateway into the increasingly popular sharksploitation genre, where most of the films are really just Jaws rip-offs. And it is absolute bliss.

Most B-level shark movies aren't anything more than stupid witty fun, but this particular movie actually makes a big splash over an important issue: SeaWorld. Jaws 3 is essentially Blackfish before it was cool to get angry over sea creatures being held in captivity. Where Blackfish appeals to its viewers with tragic stories involving the sea animals that already have an adoring fanbase, Jaws 3-D shows that the big scary sea monsters deserve the same right to freedom and proper care. So, while laughing at the idiotic fictional SeaWorld employees in Jaws 3, it's also frightening to remember that their actions are not far from the truth behind what goes on at the real-life theme park.

Jennica's Rating: 4 Exploding Sharks out of 5

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

Backtracking to Amity Island in the dead of winter, after the now-widowed Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) loses Sean to a great white attack, she is convinced that somehow her family is being stalked by a vengeful shark on a watery war path. Concerned for his mother, Michael convinces her to come stay with his family in the Bahamas. Because what would calm her nerves more than a vacation on ANOTHER ISLAND? When a giant great white attempts to attack Ellen's granddaughter, she is certain that the one that killed Sean has followed her to the Bahamas to wipe out the rest of her kin. 

Being a huge fan of Jaws 3-D, the first thing that grinds my gears about Jaws: The Revenge from the start is its total disregard for the third installment and little regard for the two films before that. Michael is now married to a woman named Carla (Karen Young) and I have no idea what happened to Kay. And there isn't any mention of what happened when Michael and Kay supposedly swam off into the sunset in Venezuela. Maybe a shark ate Kay in Venezuela and that's when Michael met Carla? 

Despite his brief appearance, Sean is/was the new Chief of Police on Amity Island. In Jaws 3, it was said that he attended college in Colorado because the ocean terrified him. Why would he be any less terrified after Jaws 3-D? And Chief Martin Brody's assistant Polly-- the only person staying out of the water-- is apparently outliving everyone.

Nom nom nom nom!
Perhaps the most annoying part of The Revenge, however, is the desperate attempts to pay homage to the original film. Between the constant flashback sequences and a scene in which Michael and his daughter mirror the imitation behavior of he and his father at the dinner table, I can only assume the screenwriters and director Joseph Sargent wanted to prove their devotion to the franchise without putting forth any effort to draw logic from the film that instilled our fear of the ocean in the first place. 

Jennica's Rating: 2 Bahama Mamas out of 5

If you're looking for a way to beat the summer heat, stay indoors and dive into the Jaws series. Jaws, Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, and Jaws: The Revenge are available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

Have you survived all four Jaws films?