Saturday, July 13, 2019

Return to Amity Island: Jaws 2 (1978)

Jaws 2 (1978)
Rating: ****
Starring: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton

Long ago in the distant past of 1975, soon-to-be filmmaker maestro Steven Spielberg released a Summer blockbuster called Jaws, forever changing how films are made and creating a horror thriller masterpiece that will remain unchallenged, even to be selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as a culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant piece of art.

This being said, who didn't see the possibility of sequels coming? Frankly, I never saw the need for one but, here we are, three sequels in existence and two of them are utter laughable trash that gave the franchise a bad name. Thank the horror gods Jaws 2 (1978) isn't one of them.

Set four years after the events of the original, Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) has settled quite nicely into the cozy island life while his wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary) works with a local businessman lining in more vacationers and build resorts into Amity, and their sons Mike and Sean want nothing more than to enjoy their summer holidays. This is, unfortunately, the calm before the storm as another gigantic shark appears to have swum into Amity waters, seen early into the movie chowing down on a pair of rich divers who just want a picture next to a wreck. The animal will soon resurface for another victim, devouring a water skier and soon causing a freak accident with a fire, killing a boater and giving our new shark a monstrous new-look.

This sets Brody into a spiraling case of paranoia and panic (paranoic?) as he cannot help but feel uneasy with the chance of history repeating itself, that the deaths were caused by yet another monstrous fish. But since he wasn't personally present during the accidents, he really does not have a leg to stand on with his claims and this made it easy for the local high figures to quickly dismiss his ramblings about another shark on a possible munching spree. They proceed to step stand their ground further, too, after Brody unknowingly panics beach goers during an investors' visit, ruining the island's chance of getting back on their feet, economically-wise.

All of this, of course, will lead to a climactic showdown as Brody is left with no other choice but to take matters on his own hands, especially when the shark eventually returns to start feeding on a group of teenage boaters marooned near a light house, two of whom happen to be his own kids...

Just as the original Jaws (1975) can be seen as a form of proto-slasher with its use of POV shots and dramatic build-ups around its first half before shifting gears to an ocean adventure about three men hunting a monster of a shark, Jaws 2 (1978), on the other hand, comes pretty close to being a bonafide slasher as not only does it kicked up the bodycount and violence but a share of the plot's focus and murders centers on mostly teenage victims, with the killer shark even getting a slasher villain makeover ala nasty burn wounds on its face for that more gruesome and intimidating trait and behaving a lot more "capable" than the prior film's animalistic shark. Ramming boats and chasing water skiers are a few things we can expect from a common sea carnivore, but overpowering a moving rescue helicopter enough to drag it under the waters just to munch dead its pilot? That's post-Friday The 13th: A New Beginning (1985) Jason Voorhees-level of absurd villain strength right there! But, of course, the film is far from being that paint-by-number dead teenager shlock we all know and love, though I will admit we could have still gotten a interesting killer animal flick to watch if Jaws 2 (1978) gone down that route.

To be precise, the shark slasher shenanigans occur at the first twenty something minutes and last third of the movie, leaving us with a middle act that is more or less echoing too much off the first movie, with Sheriff Brody trying his darnest again to convince the town's officials (including Mayor Larry Vaughn who should have known better by now) about the possibility of an active shark attack to prevent any further deaths from happening. The key difference here is that Brody is facing this mostly on his own, a conflict that's probably the best reason to watch this sequel albeit its predictability and pacing that may understandably put some viewers off. While not altogether perfect, a returning Roy Scheider did give his all to make his character and his trials work (Despite, on Scheider's behalf, originally not wanting to do this movie and frequently clashing with the film's director Jeannot Szwarc during the movie's filming), making a good chunk of the drama centering on him and his reasonable post-trauma stress from tackling another Great White feeding frenzy worthwhile a watch.

It isn't long then that the man ends up taking the matter head on when the attacks go too obvious, leading to a fondue-feisty yet satisfying last act in spite of being filled with a cast of teens that're hardly standing up save for the cheese they reek. In fact, plenty of these teen characters basically got introduced with a name only to devolve into shark chum by the last third of the movie with a 30 percent chance of possible survival and 70 percent chance of uttering a line matching the stereotype they're representing. It does dull down some of the suspense as we hardly care whether these characters would make it alive or not, but thankfully the shark's stalk-and-kill sequences were fun and intense enough to proudly carry this movie, packing mean shark attack actions, a welcome amount of ham and still sporting some nice photography and effect shots, not withstanding the more robotic looking shark effects whenever the animal rears up its ugly head.

Yes, Jaws 2 (1978) barely surpassed its predecessors as a narrative and the movie's troubled production could have a say or two in that matter, but it still manages to be this entertaining wetlands animal horror/thriller piece. Basically, it's a retread of the original with Brody getting uncomfortable in his double role as both the movie's doomsayer and heroic final man, but with the saving grace of Scheider's presence and the last 30 plus minutes of teens/shark action, this movie could have been way worse than a rotting beached whale. No means a classic but watchable at its best, recommended for good late night monster movie viewings.

1 male eaten by a shark
1 male eaten by a shark
1 female eaten by a shark
1 female immolated in a boat explosion
1 male eaten by a shark
1 male had his helicopter pulled into the water by a shark, drowned (or eaten based on a deleted scene)
1 female eaten by a shark
1 shark tricked into biting a live cable, electrocuted until head bursts aflame
Total: 8

((Also, no. I won't be bother covering these two stinky fishes. Not only are Jaws 3-D (1983) and Jaws The Revenge (1987) hardly slasher-esque movies, but they're... just horrible mind-numbingly dumb sequels. And this is coming from a guy who enjoyed The Redeemer: Son of Satan (1978)!))

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