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From Our Nightmares: The Shark, Jaws

[W]hat we are dealing with here is a perfect engine–an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks. And that’s all.

But does this colorful description–spoken by marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss)–really explain why Steven Spielberg’s monstrous Great White scared an entire generation of moviegoers straight out of the ocean?

Of course not! Bruce (as the special effects crew affectionately dubbed him) is far more than just an exceptionally large fish; he’s a relentless force of nature–and he could be anywhere under the crashing waves. Consider this: the shark is scariest in those early scenes, when Spielberg hides it with careful editing and P.O.V. shots. Thus, we fear not the predator itself, but the idea of the predator–the unseen terror lurking just beneath the surface of that deep, dark, watery abyss.

[Originally written October 12, 2012.]

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