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Scary Movies: Jaws

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According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), unprovoked shark attacks have been growing steadily over the past century.

This statistic is good enough reason for me to never go into the ocean higher than waist-deep, ever again. Ironic, for a person who moved from chilly Boston to sunny L.A. in order to live the breezy, beach-y life.

But the kid in me that walked by the covers of Jaws 1-3 a few too many times in the video store, and who finally, God knows at whose negligent parents’ house, watched Jaws at age eight, has never really outgrown the inflicted terror.

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The Spielberg classic takes place in Amity, a small beach community. I’m sure I’m not the only kid who was scared shitless and completely away from the possibility of ever entering ocean water naked, let alone late at night, after viewing the opening scene. Unsuspecting Chrissie Watkins (Susan Blacklinie) goes for an innocent night-swim and gets yanked under the water, only to resurface in a pool of her own blood, then yanked down again to her death, screaming bloody murder the whole way.

The sleepy tourist town is thrown into an uproar following Chrissie’s death, and the shark attacks continue. Local Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) then leads Amity through the hunt for the real underwater killer, even after a wrongly identified suspect is murdered (tough break, tiger shark) and town support begins to wane.

The fear that Jaws instilled in me runs deep. As a kid, the mere sight of the cover of the movie was enough to send a chill down my spine. I knew how to do the crawl stroke! That unsuspecting person on the cover could be me! Later, when I went to overnight camp and we learned how to waterski, I did most of my laps around the lake in sheer terror (this time courtesy of the Jaws 2 cover), convinced that as my fellow campers looked on helplessly, I would meet my untimely demise as a great white launched out of the depths at me from behind.

In fact, no matter what body of water I was in, I was sure that as soon as I looked down, a gaping mouth would be hurtling up at me to envelop me in one swift bite and gulp. I swam in pools with my eyes wide open. I sat on the toilet with knots in my stomach, envisioning a sewer shark coming up through the plumbing and pulling me down ass-first. I came to prefer showers to baths for fear of what may be lurking in the transparent foot deep water.

My fear has now morphed into a kind of obsession, including planning my every waking hour around the Discovery Channel's Shark Week programming schedule each August. I also do a lot of useless research, which yields results like how to fend off a shark attack (punch it in the nose...yes, really), and many shark attacks there have been this century.

So, the Freddies and Jasons and Chuckies of the world can have their place in the bad side of Imaginationland. But Jaws? It's scary...cause it's true.