Much like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Steven Speilberg’s Jaws is a universally acclaimed masterpiece. Both films transcended the horror genre and made people all over the world terrified of showers and the ocean. Hell, when I was a kid I was actually afraid that a shark would kill me in my own shower, something that has probably been put to screen in some dumb Sharknado movie or something… but anyway — I digress. Both of these highly influential movies spawned an underrated second sequel that’s generally scoffed at by the mainstream moviegoer, even when they shouldn’t be.
With the July 4th festivities just behind us, and summer now in full swing, I revisited the sequel and contrary to the usual “THOSE SEQUELS SUCK!” mentality I hear a lot, Jeannot Szwarc’s Jaws 2 remains one of my favorite second offerings of any franchise. It may not have Hooper or Quint and it certainly isn’t as tension filled as the first film, but that never bothered me. I’ve always enjoyed myself while watching this crazy movie. Roy Scheider gets a round of applause from me; he didn’t even want to make this picture, and despite his reluctance, he pledged to make Brody as believable as possible and do the best job he could. It shows, as he fully completes Brody’s arch making the character one of the best unsung heroes of horror cinema that we’ve ever had.
A few years after the shark attacks that shook Amity Island to its core, Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) begins to suspect new trouble may be lurking out past the sandy white beaches of the town after the disappearance of two deep sea divers near the wreckage of the Orca. The only trace of them left behind is their camera. This is followed by a bizarre “boating accident” which leaves two more people unaccounted for. Meanwhile, America’s favorite anchor-suited Mayor (Murray Hamilton!) along with the Amity town council is hard at work trying to finally rid the beach town of its human dinner bell reputation with the opening of a shiny new hotel/resort. More summer tourists mean more summer dollars!
Brody’s suspicions soon turn to reality when the chewed up corpse of a killer whale washes ashore and the film is developed from the missing divers’ camera, revealing the what looks to be the eye and mouth of a Great White. Brody urges the town council to do something but his warnings fail. They think it’s post-traumatic stress and paranoia causing his “over reaction”. Things get even more personal for Brody when what was supposed to be a joyful, sail boating pleasure ride by a group of young teens (including his two kids, Michael and Sean) becomes a dangerous fight for survival against a Great White shark with a voracious appetite for blood.
Jaws 2 is pretty much a shark slasher flick that’s reminiscent of an early Friday the 13th sequels, as the young Amity inhabitants get stalked and picked off one by one by the massive (and possibly supernatural) shark. This was a staple on TV in my early years and I’ve probably watched it almost as many times as the first film. It was even one of the first VHS tapes I saved up money for as a kid. I usually always watch Jaws and Jaws 2 back to back, (as I do with Halloween and its original sequel) or sometimes I’ll pair it up with Friday the 13th II or Psycho II for some fun slasher double-bill madness.
Every once in a while I’ll get called out on loving this movie so much. Sometimes I think people worry about critically dissecting movies WAY too much that they lose appreciation for the spectacle that brought them to the theater in the first place – Enjoyment! Not whether or not the lighting featured in a 47-second scene is a “personal aesthetic”. Over-analyzation can sure be a mood killer! I don’t care what anyone says: a shark taking out a helicopter is awesome!
Besides, where else would I be able to see Chief Brody CYANIDE TIPPING HIS BULLETS and – in full Dr. Loomis mode a la Halloween II – violently waving his gun around on a crowded beach like a raving lunatic before firing a barrage of poisoned lead at a school of bluefish (and completely terrifying the beachgoers) that he thinks is the outline of a shark? JAWS 2 – THAT’S WHERE!
So is Jaws 2 worth your time? You bet your ass it is. Its early ’80s slasher vibe and stalwart performances are more than enough to keep this sequel afloat, and it’s another reminder why you should always look over your shoulder when you’re in the water. You never know what’s lurking around you.
This gets four shark fans out of five. Buy it.
This post was originally published on Medium.