Posts Tagged ‘Jaws

01
Oct
12

Mutants, Monsters and Madmen-NOW AVAILABLE!

Last year, you guys may remember that I spent the entire month of October watching and talking about assorted scary movies, chronologically tracing the evolution of horror films from the 1920s up until the present day. I really enjoyed that little project and I think a lot of you did too. And now, as Halloween approaches again, I’m ready to launch the next stage of that project, my new eBook Reel to Reel: Mutants, Monsters and Madmen.

This eBook collects the 35 essays I wrote last year, plus five brand-new ones written just for this collection. Over the course of this book, I look at how the things that scare us have grown and evolved over the last century, dishing on some of the greatest, most influential and most memorable scary movies ever made. This eBook, available now for a mere $2.99, is hopefully going to be the first in a series, in which I’ll tackle different cinematic topics the same way.

If you read the essays last year, check this one out and enjoy the new ones. If you haven’t read any of them, dive in now for the first time. And tell all of your horror movie-loving friends about it as well! After all, the reason I decided to write this book in the first place is because I wanted to read a book like this one, but I just couldn’t find one. The market is out there, friends. Help us find each other.

(And lest I forget, thanks to Heather Petit Keller for the cover design!)

You can get the book now in the following online stores:

Amazon.com (for your Kindle or Kindle app)
Smashwords.com (for every other eBook reader)

And in case you’re wondering, the movies covered in this book include:

*The Golem (1920)
*Nosferatu (1922)
*The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
*Dracula (1931)
*Frankenstein (1931)
*The Mummy (1932)
*Freaks (1932)
*Cat People (1942)
*The Fly (1958)
*Peeping Tom (1960)
*Psycho (1960)
*Edgar Allen Poe’s Tales of Terror (1962-New in this edition!)
*Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
*The Haunting (1963)
*The Birds (1963-New in this edition!)
*Wait Until Dark (1967)
*Night of the Living Dead (1968)
*Last House on the Left (1972)
*The Exorcist (1973)
*The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
*Jaws (1975)
*Carrie (1976)
*Suspiria (1977)
*Halloween (1978)
*Alien (1979)
*The Shining (1980)
*Friday the 13th (1980)
*The Evil Dead (1981)
*Poltergeist (1982)
*The Thing (1982)
*A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
*Return of the Living Dead (1985)
*Hellraiser (1987-New to this edition!)
*Child’s Play (1988-New to this edition!)
*Misery (1990)
*Scream (1996)
*Ringu (1998)
*The Blair Witch Project (1999)
*Saw (2004)
*The Cabin in the Woods (2012-New to this edition!)

15
Oct
11

Story Structure Day 19: Jaws (1975)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Writer: Peter Benchly & Carl Gottlieb, based on the novel by Benchly

Cast: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gray, Murray Hamilton

Plot: On Amity Island, tourists come to spend relaxing summer months. There’s nothing relaxing this year, though. A young woman is drawn underwater and killed by some unseen creature, and police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) finds her mutilated remains a few days later. The coroner labels her death as the result of a shark attack, prompting Brody to order the beaches closed. The town Mayor (Murray Hamilton) overrules him, worried that shutting down the beaches will ruin the summer tourist season, the town’s main source of income for the year. Predictably, there’s another attack – this time a child, and in the middle of a busy afternoon on the water. The child’s parents offer a $3000 reward for the shark, and the town goes wild. As a debate rages about closing the beaches, a professional shark hunter named Quint (Robert Shaw) offers to kill the beast, but will only do so for $10,000.

Brody calls in a marine biologist named Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) to help, even as would-be hunters from all around converge on the island to try to find the shark. Hooper can tell from examining the first victim that not only was it most definitely a shark, but the one that’s much bigger than any ordinary shark. The mayor still refuses to close the beaches on the Fourth of July, and on the big day the beaches are more crowded than ever. Brody and Hooper assemble a small army to patrol the waters, but the beast  strikes again. The Mayor finally agrees to hire Quint to kill it, and Brody and Hooper join the old salt on the water. As the men share a drink, the creature strikes the boat, cracking the hull. The shark starts to pull the boat out to sea, flooding it in the process. Quint heads for the shallow water, hoping to suffocate the beast, but he burns out the boat’s flooded engine and it dies. Hooper enters a shark cage and gets into the water, hoping to shoot the shark in the mouth with a poisoned harpoon, but fails. The shark breaks the cage apart, coming after Hooper before surfacing and going for the boat. As the ship begins to sink under its weight, Quint is eaten. Brody manages to cram Hooper’s space scuba tank into the monster’s mouth, then shoots the tank, causing an explosion that kills the beast. With the shark dead, Hooper surfaces and the survivors begin to piece together a crude raft to paddle back to shore.

Thoughts: Some people will argue that this isn’t a horror film. I say they should tell that to anyone who was afraid to go to the beach in 1975. Although the film is only rated PG, this in the years before there was a PG-13, Spielberg managed to get in some pretty gruesome imagery, such as when the shark’s first victim is found. You don’t really see how mutilated her body actually is, because what’s left of it is swarming with crabs. Other films would use flies or maggots, but somehow this is just as disturbing, if not more. Spielberg also gives us a nice chill using the “less is more” philosophy. The truth is, we see very little of the shark because the mechanical beast built for the movie really wasn’t all that convincing. But because Spielberg had a crappy shark-bot, he avoids actually letting you see it for as long as possible, scaring you way more than he could have if he’d actually shown you a convincing shark. Like Hitchcock in Psycho, Spielberg avoids showing you the evil and allows your brain to fill in the blanks.

Atmosphere, of course, is all-important in these movies, and Spielberg achieves that perfectly with the help of his frequent collaborator, John Williams. Williams has scored (I believe) all but one of Spielberg’s directorial efforts, and he’s turned out some of the most memorable movie music of all time, starting here. The Jaws theme is still emblematic of fear, and the rest of the score lets you feel the danger all around you.

The film works on the level of the “townies versus the outsider” mindset as well. Brody is the outsider – he’s been sheriff and lived on the island for less than a year. When he wants to shut down the beach, not only does the mayor strongarm him out of it, but he gets the coroner to change his diagnosis from “shark attack” to “boating accident.” I’m no doctor, but I can’t imagine that any competent one couldn’t tell the difference between a body that’s been hacked up by a propeller and one that’s been chewed, if for no other reason than the pattern of damage to the bone would be different.

In some ways, you almost watch two different movies when you watch Jaws. For the first 70 minutes or so, you’re in the town, experiencing the fear of the townies as the truth about the shark becomes evident. The last 50 minutes is all about the three men at sea, hunting the creature, and taking on a somewhat different tone. There’s still fear, but it’s more immediate. In the first half of the movie, as long as you’re on the land you know you’re safe. Once they set out to sea, the danger is most definitely all around. It gets even worse in the climactic scene, when the engine kills and our heroes are stranded with no means of escape. There’s something terrifying about that, and that’s what makes this movie work so damn well. I don’t even care if the Mythbusters proved that the exploding scuba tank wouldn’t really work, that doesn’t make the finale of this movie any less exciting.

And let’s be fair here – this is one of the most eminently quotable scary movies of all time. Little quips like Brody’s “That’s some bad hat, Harry” or Hooper’s “They’re all gonna die” have pervaded the common lexicon. Quint’s speech about killing the beast or the injury-comparing scene have been quoted, copied, and parodied so often that younger people familiar with the tropes may not even be aware of where they originated. And who can forget, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”?

Jaws changed not only horror movies, but the movie business itself. It was the first film to use “wide release” as part of its campaign, opening everywhere instead of rolling out in a few cities at a time, which is now the common practice. It was also a gargantuan success financially, inventing the blockbuster motion picture and starting the practice of films distributing their major releases during the summer months. It was the first film to advertise heavily on television as well. Pretty much everything standard about the film industry today is true because of Jaws.

More specifically in terms of horror, the film spawned the inevitable rash of imitators: Piranha to Deep Blue Sea to this summer’s Shark Night. On land, we’ve had animal horror films like Anaconda and Lake Placid, and more and more of these imitators are drifting away from any real attempt to scare the audience  in favor of going for shock and laughter. Cinematically, Jaws has two thriving descendants today: the way you see any movie, regardless of genre, and the made-for-TV monster goofs SyFy shows on Saturday nights.

In the mid-70s, a name that would become synonymous with fear first made its mark, and tomorrow we’ll look at the first movie made from his first published novel: Stephen King’s Carrie.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com.

03
Feb
11

What I’m Watching in 2011

Okay, we’re over a month into the year, it’s time for me to begin my running tally of movies I’ve watched in 2011. Those of you who see this list when it’s first posted will notice a definite trend towards 2010 films. If you’ve read this post, that makes a lot more sense. At any rate, this is where I’m keeping my annual running tally of the movies I see this year, and my quick rating of them. And if I review a movie at any of the many websites where I turn out such content, I’ll throw up a link.

What I’m Watching in 2011

  1. How to Train Your Dragon (2010), B+
  2. Infestation (2009), B+
  3. Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), A
  4. True Grit (2010), A+
  5. Shutter Island (2010), B-
  6. Robin Hood (2010), C
  7. Easy A (2010), A-
  8. Splice (2009), D-
  9. Dinner For Schmucks (2010), B-
  10. Buried (2010), B+
  11. The Social Network (2010), A
  12. Repo Men (2010), C
  13. Logan’s Run (1976), B
  14. Exam (2008), A
  15. The Town (2010), A
  16. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (2010), B
  17. Fame (2009), B-
  18. Back to the Future (1985), A+
  19. Superman (1978), A+
  20. Cop Out (2010), D
  21. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010), C
  22. All-Star Superman (2011), A
  23. The Crucible (1996), A
  24. Unknown (2011), C+
  25. Legion (2010), C-
  26. The Book of Eli (2010), C+
  27. Mulholland Drive (2001), B
  28. A Bug’s Life (1998), B
  29. Battle: Los Angeles (2011), B
  30. RED (2010), B+
  31. Frozen (2010), B
  32. Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown (2011), B+
  33. A Beautiful Mind (2002), A
  34. Machete (2010), D
  35. Monsters (2010), C
  36. Let Me In (2010), B
  37. Limitless (2011), B+
  38. Devil (2010), C+
  39. 30 Days of Night: Dark Days (2010), C-
  40. Scream (1996), A
  41. Scream 2 (1997), B
  42. Scream 3 (2000), B-
  43. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), A+
  44. Love and Other Drugs (2010), B+
  45. Moon (2009), A
  46. Fight Club (1999), B
  47. Megamind (2010), B
  48. Scream 4 (2011), B+
  49. The Experiment (2010), B
  50. It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010), A-
  51. The King’s Speech (2010), A
  52. Lottery Ticket (2010), C
  53. Mary Poppins (1964), A
  54. Ghostbusters 2 (1989), B+
  55. Wall•E (2008), A
  56. The Other Guys (2010), D
  57. Akira (1988), B
  58. The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story (2009), A
  59. The Phantom Tollbooth (1970), A
  60. The Last Unicorn (1982), B+
  61. Chicken Little (2005), B
  62. The Fighter (2010), B
  63. Saw: The Final Chapter (2010), B-
  64. Memento (2000), A
  65. The Untouchables (1987), A
  66. Thor (2011), A
  67. Firebreather (2010), B-
  68. Bookwars (2000), B-
  69. Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy (2010), A
  70. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011), C
  71. Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy) (2010), B+
  72. Die Hard (1988), A
  73. The Adventures of Huck Finn (1993), B+
  74. The Princess Bride (1987), A+
  75. Holes (2003), B+
  76. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), B+
  77. Skyline (2010), D
  78. The Last Airbender (2010), C-
  79. The Last Starfighter (1984), A
  80. Duck Soup (1933), A+
  81. The Hangover Part II (2011), B
  82. Piranha (2010), C+
  83. UHF (1989), B
  84. Spaceballs (1987), B
  85. The Golem: How He Came Into the World (1920), B+
  86. Labyrinth (1986), A
  87. The Green Hornet (2011), D+
  88. Series 7: The Contenders (2001), B+
  89. 127 Hours (2010), B+
  90. Saludos Amigos (1942), B
  91. The Three Caballeros (1944), B+
  92. X-Men: First Class (2011), A-
  93. The Last Man on Earth (1964), B
  94. The Vampire’s Night Orgy (1973), F
  95. Chloe (2009), B
  96. Nosferatu (1922), A
  97. The Virginity Hit (2010), B
  98. The Color of Magic (2008), B
  99. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011), B+
  100. Vanishing on 7th Street (2010), C+
  101. Green Lantern: First Flight (2009), A-
  102. Rubber (2010), C+
  103. Walt and El Grupo (2008), B
  104. Super 8 (2011), A
  105. Big Fish (2003), A+
  106. Black Death (2010), B
  107. Battle Royale (2001), B+
  108. The Faculty (1998), B-
  109. Green Lantern (2011), B-
  110. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), B-
  111. Synecdoche, New York (2008), C
  112. The Phantom of the Opera (1925), A
  113. Fright Night (1985), B
  114. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), A
  115. The Fugitive (1993), A
  116. Cars (2006), B+
  117. Cars 2 (2011), B+
  118. After.Life (2009), C
  119. Zapped! (1982), D
  120. James and the Giant Peach (1996), B
  121. Young Frankenstein (1974), A
  122. The Addams Family (1991), B+
  123. The Great Muppet Caper (1981), B
  124. A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner (2011), D
  125. Dracula (1931), B
  126. Death Note (2006), B
  127. Tales From the Script (2009), B+
  128. Unthinkable (2010), B+
  129. The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007), A-
  130. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), B
  131. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), B-
  132. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), B+
  133. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), B+
  134. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2008), B-
  135. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), B+
  136. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010), A
  137. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011), A
  138. Frankenstein (1931), A
  139. The Mummy (1932), B
  140. Be Kind, Rewind (2008), B
  141. 25th Hour (2002), B
  142. The Incredibles (2004), A+
  143. Zodiac (2007), A
  144. Rec (2007), B+
  145. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), A
  146. Miller’s Tale (2011), B+
  147. Freaks (1932), B
  148. Red Riding Hood (2011), D
  149. Battle Royale II (2003), C
  150. Cowboys and Aliens (2011), C+
  151. Ernest Goes to Camp (1987), B
  152. Ernest Goes to Jail (1990), C+
  153. The Beginning of the End (1957), F; MST3K Riff, B
  154. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), F; MST3K Riff, B+
  155. Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension (2011), A-
  156. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993), A
  157. Cat People (1942), B
  158. Curse of the Cat People (1944), C-
  159. Sucker Punch (2011), D
  160. The Fly (1958), A
  161. Peeping Tom (1960), B
  162. Best Worst Movie (2009), A
  163. Troll 2 (1990), F
  164. Psycho (1960), A
  165. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), A
  166. Quarantine 2: Terminal (2011), B
  167. Super (2010), B+
  168. The Haunting (1963), B
  169. Night of the Living Dead (1968), A
  170. The Last House on the Left (1972), C-
  171. Suicide Girls Must Die (2011), C-
  172. Wait Until Dark (1967), A
  173. The Exorcist (1973), A
  174. Gamera (1965), C; MST3K Riff, A
  175. Gamera Vs. Barugon (1966), D; MST3K Riff, B+
  176. Gamera Vs. Gaos (1967), D; MST3K Riff, B
  177. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), C+
  178. Jaws (1975), A
  179. Carrie (1976), B+
  180. Suspiria (1977), D+
  181. Gamera Vs. Guiron (1969), D; MST3K Riff, B+
  182. Contagion (2011), C+
  183. Halloween (1978), A
  184. Alien (1979), A
  185. The Shining (1980), C+
  186. Friday the 13th (1980), B
  187. The Evil Dead (1981), B+
  188. The Thing (1982), A
  189. Poltergeist (1982), B+
  190. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), B
  191. Return of the Living Dead (1985), C-
  192. Misery (1990), A
  193. Ringu (1998), B+
  194. The Blair Witch Project (1999), B
  195. Saw (2004), A
  196. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), B+
  197. The Creeping Terror (1964), F; MST3K riff, B+
  198. Mad Monster Party (1967), B
  199. Zombiemania (2008), B
  200. Tower Heist (2011), B-
  201. Scream: The Inside Story (2011), B
  202. Still Screaming (2011), A
  203. Your Highness (2011), D
  204. Repo: The Genetic Opera (2008), B-
  205. The Cannonball Run (1981), B
  206. Batman: Year One (2011), A-
  207. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), A-
  208. Up (2009), A+
  209. The Muppets (2011), A
  210. Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas (2011), B
  211. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), F; Cinematic Titanic Riff, B
  212. Christmas and A Christmas Carol (2009), D
  213. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972), F; RiffTrax, A
  214. The Great Gatsby (1974), A
  215. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), B+
  216. Tom and Huck (1995), Bl
  217. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), A
  218. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999), B
  219. Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas) (2005), A
  220. Scrooged (1988), A-
  221. The Magic Christmas Tree (1964), F; RiffTrax B+
  222. It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002), B
  223. The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), B
  224. Miracle on 34th Street (1947), A+
  225. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), A+
  226. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989), A
  227. A Christmas Story (1983), A
  228. Love, Actually (2002), A
  229. Source Code, (2011), B+
  230. Paul, (2011), C+
  231. Tron: Legacy (2010), B+
  232. Attack the Block (2011), B+l
  233. The Captains (2011), A
  234. Gnomeo and Juliet (2011), B
  235. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2011), C

Last Updated on January 1, 2012.




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