Thanks to Steven Spielberg, Jaws changed horror movies forever due to the horrifying kills sprinkled throughout the runtime. Mixed with John Williams’ unforgettable score, a cast of iconic characters including Martin Brody as a perfect hero, and a still haunting atmosphere, Jaws is still the king of all shark movies.
It may be rated PG but Jaws still has quite a few gruesome deaths both on and off-screen. Most are committed by the shark, resulting in bloody death scenes that would warrant an R-rating today. However, some are more grisly than others, especially since some are never even shown directly.
In a benevolent choice from Steven Spielberg, audiences never see Pippet get eaten by the shark. Instead, all that is shown is the stick that he and his human were playing with floating in the ocean. Most audiences tend to react poorly when pets are killed on screen.
However, this death may not be visible but it’s a subtler way of establishing that the shark is roaming the waters of Amity Island. Somewhere this monster of the ocean is lurking to find its next human victim and the audience knows it but they just don’t know when it will strike.
The death itself is all off-screen but the aftermath of Ben Gardner’s death is shown. Matt Hooper, as played by Richard Dreyfuss, decides in the dead of night to go into the ocean to check out the wreckage of Ben Gardner’s boat. Everyone watching is expecting the shark to appear and attack Hooper but instead, one of the scariest moments doesn’t even have the shark.
As Hooper finds a shark tooth, the corpse of Ben Gardner floats into view for a jumpscare. It’s unclear what exactly the shark did to Ben considering his body is inside the boat but he is missing an eye and his corpse did seem mangled. It’s enough to make Hooper scramble and escape the scene out of fear.
Of all the human kills, this one has the least amount of brutality. After the shark bumps into the rowboat and Michael Brody’s sailboat, everyone is knocked into the water. Unfortunately, the kind man in the rowboat, who was only checking on Michael and his friends, is taken by the shark.
At first, all that is shown is the rowboater being pulled under the water until his severed leg is shown hitting the ocean floor. After that, blood rises and turns the surface red. It’s definitely scary, especially since this is the first time viewers see the shark.
Originally, Steven Spielberg intended the death of young Alex Kitner to be a big reveal of the shark with the animatronic visibly eating the boy. Instead, when the shark attacks, all that is shown is the thrashing of fins and the raft from a distance; almost as if it’s from Martin Brody’s perspective. This was due to the fact that the shark animatronic was always malfunctioning on set.
The fact that the audience never sees what happens to Alex and that there is nothing left of his body makes it scarier, forcing them to use their imagination. However, that brief shot of the shark attacking as the water fills with blood is enough to know that it was a brutal death.
Like with any slasher movie, the first opening kills is supposed to hook the viewer and Jaws did exactly that. In the opening five minutes, the viewers see Chrissie Watkins go for a nighttime swim for some fun only to be attacked from below. Even though no blood or gore is shown due to the darker lighting, what makes this kill so effective is the acting of Susan Backlinie as Chrissie.
Her screams of fear and agonizing pain sound so real as she’s thrashed and tossed about by an invisible force under the surface. The movements are so fast and violent that it genuinely looks like Susan Backlinie is being hurt but the actress herself confirmed that never once was she actually hurt (per The Daily Jaws).
Despite his antagonistic actions, Robert Shaw’s Quint was the only one who seemed to know how to take on this deadly shark but instead, found himself reliving the horrors he experienced after the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. Quint finds himself fighting just to stay out of the monster’s maw but sadly, the shark bites down, leading to another realistic scream.
The victim belches out blood as he’s being thrashed about the boat until the shock and blood loss causes him to die before the shark could finish eating him. It’s a disturbing death that showed that nobody was guaranteed to survive and is one of many reasons why Jaws still holds up today.
Think about what the shark goes through over the course of just 24 hours. Bruce, named by movie fans after Steven Spielberg’s lawyer, is stabbed repeatedly by harpoons and spears, he’s shot by Martin and Quint, is put through extreme strain by air barrels, and finally, he is blown up by a compressed oxygen tank.
Already, the massive explosion of blood and meat earns Bruce the most gruesome kill of Jaws. However, taking into account that it essentially took an entire solar cycle to kill this shark, that enhances it. It shows that even though Bruce is not a monster in the traditional sense, he was not a normal shark.
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