Horror Ten Spot: Jaws Most Fatal Shark Attacks

Ah yeah, as summer approaches, with thoughts of strapping on the one-pieces and slathering on the sunscreen back on the brain...why not plunge headlong into the perilous, chum-filled waters where the mighty JAWS resides. After-all, if for no other reason, we need to show all these insipid new "killer shark" outings how things are done correct. Seriously, SHARK NIGHT, SWAMP SHARK, TWO-HEADED SHARK ATTACK, JERSEY SHORE SHARK ATTACK...and on and on...these are little more than pabulum filled mockbusters trying to capitalize on Spielberg's seminal horror-adventure. Obviously. Speaking of, the original JAWS finally gets an impeccable Blu-ray refashioning this August. As such, we thought now's as good a time as any to call attention to our favorite fatal shark-attacks as seen in the JAWS series. Beware, shite's gonna get bloody!


It's truly a coup that Spielberg was able to build his most memorable fatality around his most despicable character, but with Robert Shaw's T.S. Quint, that's precisely what he does. Ever the besotted lout, constantly butting heads with Hooper and at times Brody, Quint is a pretty deplorable fellow...a brusque, take-no-shit tough guy. Yet as unlikable as those qualities usually are, there's something undeniably magnetic about Quint...so when his ultimate, brutal and graphic demise finally strikes down, we're deeply affected. The way Quint screams, pleads and begs for his life...that last burble of blood bubbling from his mouth, the look on his face, the unrelenting aim of the shark, the rhythm, the editing, it's all so masterfully dreadful...especially since it's the first prolonged time we actually spend seeing the shark in great detail...shite holds nearly four decades later as not only the end all, be all JAWS kill...but one of the best all-time death scenes laid on film!


Listen, I'm fully aware of the monumental shit heap that's been bestowed on JAWS 4: THE REVENGE over the years, even being consigned to IMDB's bottom 100 at one point, but first of all, I much prefer it to abysmal JAWS 3D, and second of all, the opening death scene is actually quite harrowing. It really is. When Sean Brody is dispatched to unhook a snagged boat in the harbor on Christmas Eve, he has no idea of what awaits him. The night scene, shot with handheld and underwater POV angles, crosscut with the caroling townies, has an eerie quality on its own, regardless of the action. Then, when Sean suddenly gets his entire arm chomped the fuck off, he admirably sells a panicked disbelief, which quickly turns to frenzy, and in his attempt to get the hell out of there, he's savagely clipped and dragged underwater to meet his gory fate. It's a deft showing, unfortunately sullied by most of what succeeds it (Van Peebles' accent notwithstanding).


The first cut is the deepest, baby I know! When Spielberg allows us to lock eyes with the inaugural sense of impending mayhem in JAWS, he doesn't sell us short does he? The beautifully framed, now iconic low-angle underwater tracking shot from the POV of the shark is masterful on its own, so much dread and suspense layered within such a beautiful composition. Even more vexing perhaps, the dramatic emotional swing Chrissie must have endured in those few minutes. She starts off galloping on the sand with nothing but a big smile, her boyfriend trailing. Her bliss is savagely sullied when she flails in the water, when the shark hits, he rips and thrashes the poor girl around like a ragdoll in the surf. Most noticeable? We catch nary a glimpse of the actual shark in the opener...we just see its lethal attack. Our imagination fills the in the blanks, which can be scarier than you want to admit. It's ultimately that characteristic that makes JAWS such a timeless masterpiece.


The right-place, wrong-time death of young Alex Winter in the original JAWS is upsetting for many reasons. First off, he's child, all but a taboo of horror film victims. Secondly, the framing. Juxtaposed with the ruthless close-ups and rapid and relentless cutting we see earlier and later in the film, our POV rests from the shore, as we peer out toward the horizon to see this young boy enveloped by giant sea-carnivore. This spatial distance between us and Alex, or more appropriately, between Chief Brody and Alex, makes us feel as helpless and ineffectual as the kid must. He can't escape the clutches, we can't reach him in time for a rescue. The actual death scene is sufficiently graphic, a large geyser of the kid's blood jutting from the surface as he's pulled beneath. The capper though, the reason the scene is so memorable...the aftermath, where all parents safely coddle their children...except for Alex's mother, left alone in the surf to slowly realize her boy's fate.

#5. TERRI (JAWS 2)

Who can forget the jubilant Terri water-skiing the summer day away without a care in the world...only to be swam down and caught up to by gargantuan man-eating prehistoric fish? It's probably the most high-profile death in JAWS 2, as it was used heavily in the trailer and TV adverts for the movie. It also tries to recapture and even heighten the rhythm and tempo of the first film, where we cut rapidly between the shark's POV and the to-be victim's surface activity. Here the beast rips through the water like a homing dart to catch up with the skier, who of course has no chance. Jeannot Swarcz is no Spielberg, that's for sure. That said, JAWS 2 is stratified by multiple measures above parts 3 and 4, but I guess that goes without saying. Apparently there's an alternate take on the scene where 2 skiers are brutalized to death, not one. Have any of you clocked that footage before?


If sharks could fly, and roar like a bear, this might be one of the most frightening shark attacks seen in a movie, but given the logistics and the narrative context, when Margaret's mom gets picked off the banana - in slow motion - all we can really do is laugh at the absurdity. Remember, this is supposed by a vengeful shark who followed the Brody's from Amity to the Bahamas. So when he lunges out to kill Michael's daughter Thea, the mammoth beast whiffs completely and ends up chowing down on Margaret's bystander mother. Tough break. I will say that seeing this on HBO as a young child, it did scare me quite a bit. It's easily one of the most graphic and sensationalized death scenes in all of the 4 movies...not only do we get a good look at the shark, mouth agape, lurching out of the water, he snaps of the lady's leg, drags her off, then we get this ultra-bloody low-angle underwater shot as the shark continues to rip the bitch apart.


As cheesy as it must have been upon release in 1983, the outmoded 3D FX have only grown more gauche and cringe-worthy over the years. That said, there's one particular death scene in JAWS 3 that I've always appreciated. It's where Philip FitzRoyce scuba-dives underwater in an attempt to trap the shark and funnel him out of the park. But when he suddenly faces off with the sea-behemoth about a middle of the way through the movie, once gobbled the fuck up, to get a sense of size and scope, we actually get a reverse POV of the scuba diver from INSIDE the shark's mouth. Of course, he can't escape, so we end up cutting back and forth between outside close-ups of the shark's gnashing and gnawing teeth, a smear of blood exploding through the frame...and shots from inside the shark as the diver tries to evade....huge jagged teeth and a glint of surface sunlight in the distance. It's silly but a somewhat original touch as far as deaths in the series go.

#8. EDDIE (JAWS 2)

Poor Eddie. While sailing on the high seas with a broad he's trying to grease up, the young Casanova is suddenly interrupted when a giant great white slams into the boat. Considering the size of the boat in relation to the size of the shark, little Eddie goes flying overboard, essentially becoming chum in a hunter's domain. After the collision, Tina is left in the boat, with the closing shark on one side, Eddie on the other. Tina exhorts Eddie to swim fast, but he's no match for motherfucking Bruce. There are a couple of overhead shots that show the massive beast rapidly swim toward the boat that are quite unnerving. Such nerves are temporarily calmed through a false sense of safety when Eddie reaches the boat, almost climbing back aboard, out of harm's way. Not to be, for when he lunges to the reach the deck, JAWS pulls the kid's body back beneath a well of sloshing crimson.


One of the reasons JAWS 3D is the least entertaining of the series in my eyes is its paltry death toll, this despite the shark being the largest (35 feet) than any of the films. But the fist death in the fick is worth noting I suppose for a couple reasons. It's quite startling for one, the way the shark almost supernaturally bursts through the metal gate and quickly imbibes Shelby Overman, the underwater mechanic...leaving only his gruesomely masticated arm floating in the water as a souvenir. Second, this kill ultimately allows the shark to enter the water-park, of course spring-boarding the entire story. Speaking of, it's pretty shocking to think the great Richard Matheson wrote a draft of 3D, although to his credit, his version of the story was ultimately washed out by the addition of multiple writers and the resulting veer away from the initial premise. We'll forgive the final product if for no other reason than introducing us to Lea Thompson!

#10. JAKE (JAWS 4)

Apologies, but I must call attention to Mario Van Peebles' preposterous, slow-motion death in JAWS: THE REVENGE...for a couple reasons. First, just the sheer jaw-dropping logistics of it. After climbing out onto the boat's mast, Jake is snatched out of the air by a loud-roaring, high-jumping great white and snapped down underwater to meet his grisly demise. Thing is, he's able to insert an explosive device in the shark's mouth, which is meant to allow Michael to blow the fucker up. However, when I first saw JAWS 4 as a kid, I remember Jake surviving in the end, popping up after the shark dies, much like Dreyfuss in the original. Yet every subsequent time I saw the film, Jake's survival was omitted, and I was left for years to wonder if I'd merely imagined it. It's one of my first lessons in film manipulation, alternate endings and the like. It's a creepy feeling as a kid to put trust into one set of circumstances in a movie, only to have them subverted with each following viewing. I'm still scarred!
Tags: Hollywood

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