There are two nightmarish jump scares in Jaws that I particularly like because they are a little smarter than your average “startle em with a loud noise” scare.
I’ve previously spoken about the first – Ben Gardner’s famous Jump Scare. Here the editing, sound mixing and score all come together to produce a scare that makes me jump no matter how many times I’ve seen it.
The other is the iconic scene, where the shark makes its first appearance while Brody is shovelling bloody chum into the water.
Here John Williams’ ominous score (or lack of), is once again used to great effect. By now we are conditioned to associate the appearance of the shark with the theme music. (Der Dum, Der Dum) means that the shark is nearby. There have also been a few “fake-out” moments, like the boy in the water with the cardboard fin, which have been scoreless. So at this stage, we are relaxing a little. There is no music and no music = no shark, right? Wrong!
The appearance of the shark, nosing out of the water right beside Brody with no musical introduction or warning of any kind totally catches the audience off guard. Creating one of the most iconic moments in the movie.
In the typical lead up to a jump scare, there is almost always a long period of tension followed by a jarring blast of sound. We’re jumping at the sound, rather than what we’re seeing. I like this particular scare because it is accomplished by using a lack of sound. Taking what the audience expects to happen and using that against them to misdirect and manipulate them into a scare.
The whole thing is made even cooler by Brody’s shocked expression, not even a scream. Backing up silently, with a cigarette dangling forgotten, he then says perhaps the most famous line in the entire movie “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”,
Fun fact – this line was was made up on the spot by Roy Schieder.