The other weekend, shark movie of the summer The Shallows opened to excited audiences. Some online even called it, ‘the best of its kind since Jaws’. And whether a Blake Lively fan or not, the trailers had many shark fans excited to see more, including myself. But the opening also had me nostalgic for a different movie; one where another famous shark made headlines with its ferocity. And while not its aforementioned original, Jaws 2, the second in the famous franchise, is actually an overlooked and underrated horror film. Though largely overshadowed by its predecessor, the sequel is comparable in many ways. Some might even dare to say it shines on its own. Fresh off of Shark Week, and with The Shallows still in the top movies out, sharks are hot right now. But this month, I urge you to instead take a trip back in time for a reminder that some sequels are actually underrated, and worth another look; especially this one. These are a few of the things that make the movie such a classic, horror film.
- The score. Everyone knows that infamous theme song. The one where we see things from Jaws point of view, watching legs unknowingly wade in the water. John Williams score in the original Jaws is just as famous as the movie itself. But he also scored the sequel, and in Jaws 2, the music is also one of the standouts.
- The setup is classic horror movie formula. In many subtle ways, the Jaws sequel is actually built like a typical horror movie. It starts out, like many horror movies do, with a group of horny teenagers about to have some harmless fun, unaware of what lies ahead of them. As the story continues, the teenagers begin to decrease in number, similar to a slasher film, though smaller in size. In the end, it comes down to the survival of the fittest, and a few lucky leftovers, plus one hero. The typical equation for a fun thriller.
- It’s fast paced. There is never a dull moment. While the original certainly has more artistry, and heartfelt scenes, Jaws 2 does succeed in delivering a fast paced film. It has build up, suspense, and, like all good horror movies, some great kill scenes. One, that you could even argue is one of the best in the series.
- The film still provides memorable images. Jaws might be the most famous and respected of the shark series, but the sequel provides images which are still memorable today. The most notable of those being an unsuspecting water skier out for a casual, summer day on the water.
- It provides teenage angst. It may be a little outdated, but much of the film still holds up as relevant even today. A teenager wants to defy his parents, and join a boat party filled with drinking and girls. Like many movies of the genre today, the group contains a variety of types that we can relate to, from the ‘it girl’, to the flirt, the quiet one, the nerdy one, and the underdog. We’ll them on an adventure where we know what danger lies ahead, even if they do not. But it will certainly be fun once they do.
- Much like in the original, the shark stays hidden for awhile. One of the most famous ironies of Jaws is the story Steven Spielberg would tell about all the mechanical problems they were faced with on set. Issues with “Bruce” the shark would make his role in the film smaller than intended, but it would also help establish its success and place in history. Jaws 2, rather than try to change suit, instead stayed true to the original’s accidental home-run. The movie hides our antagonist for awhile, but still gives us clues to their existence, and motives.
- We get Chief Brody as our everyman hero again. Although this time, we’re missing Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), we’re still invested in our favorite island couple, The Brodys. Chief Brody, the tan, smoking, hesitant hero is back, and this time, he has to save not just beach dwellers, but his own sons. No one believes him until its too late again. And once again, that same, almost unwilling heroic nature allows him to be both charming and able to save the day.
- It’s your classic revenge theme. In reality we know that sharks don’t murder people, nor do they likely seek retribution for others. But, if you’re willing to suspend a little disbelief, then Jaws 2 illustrates some classic revenge themes that actually work pretty well. In fact, an early novelization of the film by Hank Searls implies that the shark is indeed the mate of the original, who of course, was blown up by Chief Brody several years earlier. In the film too, there are subtle implications of this, even from Brody himself, who we suspect thinks the very same thing. It won’t be the last time the Jaws franchise uses the theme of revenge, but it the most effective.
- There are a few, fun twists. Even in a shark film, where the kills may be a bit more predictable to see coming, not every scene is obvious. The ability to create suspense, especially following the original, is near impossible. However, there are a few moments in Jaws 2 where you don’t see it coming, and also a few where you think you do. Those scenes add to the effectiveness of the film, and are part of the reason why Jaws 2 should be considered one of the greats.
What do you think ? Whats your favorite underrated horror movie?