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