Horror Sequel Marathon: Jaws 2 (1978)

Making a sequel to anything is just a cheap carny trick. At least that’s what Steven Spielberg said (page 257) when Universal Pictures announced it would make a sequel to his iconic monster flick, “Jaws.” The original was brilliant. Much of the horror came from scenes where viewers could see the shark rip through people’s flesh– without ever seeing the actual shark. And its narrative was elevated by characters who’re developed as human beings.

Of course, the success of the 1975 masterpiece led to three sequels and an entire genre of killer shark movies that span from dinosharks and three-headed sharks to ghost sharks and, yes, sharknados. But as fun as many of those shamelessly hallow, straight-to-video killer shark flicks are, “Jaws 2” had the expectations of the original to live up to.

In the sequel, some time has passed since Amity Island had experienced a series of brutal shark attacks. But as some locals go missing and an orca whale is found with massive bite marks, former Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) tries to convince the mayor that another great white shark is responsible.

Duuuunnn duuunnn. Duuunnn duuunnn. Duunn duunn. Duunn. Duunn duunn. Dun dun. Dun dun. Dun.

-Jaws theme

Though still considered the best of the “Jaws” sequels, “Jaws 2” didn’t live up to the original in any of the ways that made the Spielberg-directed gem so iconic. Spielberg applied his grandiose directing flair to the original. Even the graphic moments were somehow poetic. The bright red blood that would stain parts of the deep blue sea felt strangely pleasant when paired with the film’s lively music (scored by John Williams, who also won an Academy Award for Original Music Score for his work on the first film).

The “Alien” franchise made famous the tagline: “In space, no one can hear you scream.” The same sort of isolated terror also applies to scenes in the “Jaws” series that take place at sea– far away from shore. “Jaws 2” uses this thalassophobic setting to great effect, and the “Jaws 2” tagline “Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…” did eventually become one of the most famous in history.

Scene from "Jaws 2."
Scene from “Jaws 2.”

Despite the sequel’s budget ($20 million) more than doubling the first ($9 million), the shark also doesn’t seem quite as realistic in most scenes.

This might be due, in part, to Spielberg’s minimalistic approach to the shark’s appearances. Perhaps more than with any other horror villain/monster, sharks are scariest when they are underwater– biting at the legs of its victims before pulling them under.

“Jaws 2” benefits from another fine performance from Scheider. The 1978 film remains a mostly unnecessary sequel with the sole intent of high box office numbers (it was briefly the highest-grossing sequel in history until “The Empire Strikes Back” was released in 1980). While it’s bogged down with some generic teenage characters and less-than-inspired dialog, “Jaws 2” remains an underrated sequel for those who can’t get enough adrenaline-fueled shark attacks.

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“Jaws 2” is available on DVD and digital download here on Amazon; and the original is available on blu ray, DVD and digital download here. And be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!