This ICHF was written by Dinosaurana, who you can find at https://dinosaurana.tumblr.com/. I may have made a few touch ups and notes here and there, but the bulk of this entry is their work!
I feel I should add an additional editor’s note here. In the past, I’ve referenced the shark from Jaws as an example of a monster who is not written as a character, but rather as a force of conflict, and specifically as an example of how monsters-as-conflict can be done well. While I still hold that view, the whole point of having ICHFs written by other people is to show opinions and analyses that aren’t mine, as having different viewpoints on the horror genre is a good thing. So please give this counter-argument to my own the good faith it deserves.
A dark, moon lit beach, a few party goers, and a score of six basses, eight celli, four trombones and a tuba were all that it took to change the world of horror in a single film. And the star of the show was not a mutated creature, a supernatural horror, or something made directly by man. No, the creature for this was something natural, without any noticeable change: a great white shark.
There’s hardly a film that had such an impact on horror like Jaws did on the American minds. With Steven Speilburg’s touches and some innovative techniques, they were able to instill a sense of dread. For a large portion of the film, we don’t even see the shark itself swimming in the waves. We’re instead brought into it’s perspective from down below, watching people swim and frolic in the waves, and the sudden movement as something large strikes in.
And while there have been arguments made of how the shark of Jaws was not the villain, it’s sense of menace is nearly everywhere in the film. Even the scenes where we find the bodies, investigate the wrecks with Sheriff Brody, the air seems tense. You check the waves for the chance of the shark as they search the boat of Ben Gardner, and find him still in there. Even earlier, with each time the ocean is seen, you can’t help but search for a glimpse of the menace. With each death, a little more is shown. The fins turning in the water. The tooth, one of dozens. It starts to paint the dread in the mind that this thing out there, it’s a natural born killer.
These moments of suspense eventually build into a climactic battle, where the beast appears for a brief second, black eyes and open maw, nearly sinking his teeth into the arm of Brody. It circles around, tagged with a barrel, and then vanishes. It takes until the wee hours of the dawn and it returns, damaging the ship and starting the slow sinking of the ship.
From here, the battle begins. Harpooned with barrels, a tug of war, and the boat soon dies. And then it becomes a race against time, and the shark has the advantage. Those who enter the water in it, seemingly end up dead. The final climactic battle has it seemingly taking it’s victory lap, and go in for the kill.
Of course, it ends a bit more.. Explosive than the shark could’ve predicted.
But the impact it had, changed film entirely. Every other box office film, every other big budget film, looks back here. At a singular, killer shark, who haunted the minds and hearts of an entire generation that still reaches to this day as a masterful piece. And on a PG film* no less.
It is also worth noting that, with the success of Jaws, a new genre of horror was born. The concept that man had affected nature and it would lash back became a staple of horror films since then. From films taking the plot and placing it in other creatures, such as Grizzly and Orca, to taking more liberties with the base concepts like Lake Placid and Prophecy, it kicked off a subset of films known elsewhere as animal horror films. The reasons range from the beats of Atomic Horror, such as pollution, experimentation, and the such, to gothic roots in more supernatural happenings of creatures.
But all those since 1975 all look back to that one film, where a single shark took the lives of five people, and caused a world to feel fear at the apex predators that dwell off the shore. While film exists, we’ll always feel the echo of that haunting melody, and the feeling that something deep down, is watching us.