Proto-Slashers #9: Jaws (1975)

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Proto-Slashers: Looking at the flicks that paved the way for Halloween and the heyday of slasher movies.

JAWS (1975)

That’s right… Jaws. The story of a killer who terrorizes a small community, leaving many of its inhabitants slashed to bits. Of course, the killer here is a shark and its weapon is its teeth, but underneath its watery surface is a slasher flick of the first order. Especially during its first 3/5′s, Jaws lives up to the traditional slasher formula a full three years before the release of Halloween.

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The impact of Jaws is impossible to ignore. After all, this is the film that’s widely considered the first of the summer blockbusters, hitting multiple screens at once and raking in a boat load of cash. Cover stories on all the major (and not so major) publications of the day, special edition shark frenzy magazines, news stories, paperbacks, t-shirts, puzzles, games, LP’s (record albums to the post-80′s crowd), pinball games, etc, etc, etc. Jaws was everywhere. But did it help cement the slasher movie template?

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Jaws takes place in a small community. While nerve-jangling theme music fills the soundtrack, the camera assumes the killer’s point of view as the maniac attacks its victims. After a few gory (for its day) deaths occur, those in authority prove to be ineffectual. It’s down to the, not final girl, but the final boy in this case, to stop the killer.

Perhaps it’s in part due to my affinity with slasher movies that I love the first 70 or so minutes of Jaws so much. That’s the part where the shark is hunting prey and the movie is filled with suspense and the kind of thrills I expect from an effective horror flick. I also like the end section of Jaws, but not as much. That part is a more straight forward sea adventure, though still with its fair share of suspense and terror; I love me the Quint-munching and shark cage scenes. But for my money, the real success of Jaws lies in its gill-breathing slasher thrills. It’s also why the first Alien movie will always be my favorite in that series. There’s an unstoppable killer who’s lurking, hunting and dispatching us in spectacular and bloody ways. Who cares if the maniac wears a hockey mask, a glove tricked out with knives, shark skin, or an exoskeleton?

Any other comparisons between Jaws and slasher flicks? Jot ‘em down in the comments section below.

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About the Author

A Writer/Project Manager at Graphcom Group (an advertising agency) by day, and a freelancer at night, I’ve written, mainly about movies, for Retro Slashers.net, The Buzz, Rue Morgue, and Cathay Pacific’s in-flight entertainment magazine Studio CX. I’m a grad of Humber College’s (Toronto) Film & TV Production program, and I’ve directed and co-written short films, one of which (Florid) won the Viewer’s Choice Award at the 2004 Reel Island Film Festival. I’ve been heard as a movie reviewer and pop culture commentator on CBC Radio, and I’ve edited and contributed scripts and ideas to television productions including My Messy Bedroom and Thrill on the Hill (CBC-TV’s Canada Day Celebration). My movie review cartoon strip And Yet I Blame Hollywood was adapted and animated as 26 two-minute television interstitials for CBC-TV’s late night program ZeD, and I wrote every single stinkin’ last episode.

5 Responses to “ Proto-Slashers #9: Jaws (1975) ”

  1. First thing that comes to mind is the use of music in Jaws. The music really adds to the tension and atmosphere. Many slashers especially Halloween would use music in a similar way

  2. Kids fooling around and getting drunk or high and then getting offed.

  3. I always considered Jaws 2 a total slasher. In fact I mentioned that movie in an article I did on non-slasher slashers. The first Jaws definitely applies, but I guess there are more teens for the picking in the sequel, which is where I began to identify its slasher-ness!

  4. And don’t forget the numerous killer (shark) POV shots.

  5. And don’t forget the practical joker…the boys with the cartonboard finn…it’s all there.
    Jaws II had the teenagers who’d been doing things they shouldn’t do, like camping out on a small island.
    Then ofcourse the Jaws series have atleast 4 movies, alot of rip offs like Shark attack, Deep blue sea and others that are somehow duplicates of Jaws 2, 3D and 4..( Sharks in amusement parks, huge sharks like Shark hunter and Shark attack III)
    I love all Jaws movies, they have a special charm and no computer effects

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