Jaws ★★★★

Though I certainly saw it in my youth, Spielberg's game-changer has conspicuously resided off the list of watched films I've maintained on IMDb since I started being seriously interested in cinema. Even despite ownership of a rather nice box set DVD, I never did get around to checking it out through my newly cinephilic eyes. A theatrical re-release in celebration of Universal's 100th birthday was the kind of opportunity I couldn't turn down though, and boy oh boy am I glad I waited to see it on the big screen. I found myself recalling surprisingly little, which really made the experience all the better I found. I always expected that I'd watch this and find it to be perfectly good but nothing special, the kind of film bizarrely and inaccurately included among best film lists for no great reason at all. An early scene featuring some of the finest film editing I've seen in months quickly convinced me otherwise. Spielberg might churn out some populist tosh, but damn does he know how to put a scene together. The cuts from Brody to the sea and back as he watches the swimmers shortly after his request to close the beach is denied is an absolute masterclass in tension, where the most banal of childhood gaiety becomes a recipe for impending disaster. Another, later scene features what I think must be the single most effective jump scare I've ever encountered. Normally I despise the technique, but the way Spielberg builds to it—having us expect a different type of horror and then throwing something totally unforeseen at us—is nothing short of genius. I don't remember ever jumping so high in a cinema. Modern horror filmmakers need to study this film in far greater depth.