How does the “JAWS” trailer successfully
hook the viewer?
“JAWS” was released in June 1975 and was only Steven Spielberg second theatrical film. It was originally a bestselling novel written by Peter Benchley’s, the film cost $8m to produce but eventually grossed $260m.
There were many reasons for it becoming such a big success, but mainly because Spielberg knew what he wanted to do from the start. He used a combination of intelligent camera shots, clever editing, an effective soundtrack and some other clever tricks. This essay will be looking at all of the devices that he uses and how they are put together to successfully hook the audience of the trailer.
At the beginning of the trailer the audience is looking through the eyes of the shark; although we don’t know it’s a shark, in a point-of-view shot. The shark is swims through the coral at the bottom of the ocean, before stalking a woman who is treading water, from below. This camera shot creates a sense of unknown, mystery and tension and keeps the audience in suspense. This is because we do not know what is at the bottom of the sea.
Later on during the trailer you see a long shot of a man’s legs getting trapped by a rope. The rope wedges the man’s legs between it and the edge of a boat, the man screams in pain but the camera quickly flashes away. This reminds the audience of everything that could go wrong during the film, showing just how dangerous it is likely to be. It also shows the obstacles and problems that lie in their way and the challenges that they must face. But this only hooks the viewer if more problems occur during that part in the trailer, which they do. In the same trailer section, another man is hit by a water tank. The camera again quickly flashes away before you see what then happens to the man. The clip after this is of a boat keeling over, the boat’s edge touches the sea water and two men slide towards the edge. There are countless more examples of danger on the boat and when they are all joined together in quick succession the audience gets the full feeling of everything that can and will go wrong. The camera quickly flashing away from each clip gives the viewer the impression that the director is trying to hide them from the horrors of the film. For some people this heightens the want to watch it because they enjoy scary things and also want to find out what they are being kept from witnessing. Spielberg also does not want to spoil the film, he accomplishes this by cutting each clip in the correct place so that the audience does not know how each clip finishes but gets enough of an taster to be tempted into watching “JAWS”. The combination of these quick and short clips helps to get the adrenaline pumping inside the audience without giving away too much about the film.
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Furthermore, The Director uses “over the shoulder” shots frequently and sometimes combines them with “point of view” shots. The audience looks through the eyes of the main character Chief Brody. He is looking over the shoulder of someone who is talking to him and is watching what is happening in the water. The voice of the woman who is talking is muffled and the noise coming from the water is clear and can be heard above the woman. Looking through the eyes of Chief Brody implies to the audience that we are hearing what Brody is hearing. This gives the audience the impression that the character is not listening properly to the woman and all of his attention is on what is happening in the water.
The trailer then switches to a reaction shot, showing Chief Brody sitting in a chair by the beach. Brody is watching what is happening in the water and this is shown in a point of view shot. The trailer continuously flashes from this point of view shot to the reaction shot of chief Brody. This increases the sense of anxiety and mystery because they do not know what it happening in the water whilst the camera is focused on Brody. At first, the camera changes between each of the different shots slowly and less often, but increases in speed throughout the short film sequence. This increase in change in camera shot replicates the quickening heart beat of a person, creating further anxiety and tension.
In a later film sequence, the camera shots children running out of the water, from sea-level height. The camera is side on to the children running from the water. They run across the screen and we are only able to see from the waist down. This makes it seem like the children are running very fast and are panicking, which then creates the feeling of panic for the audience. The camera is also splashed with water, which blurs the picture. This creates confusion and the audience’s feeling of panic strengthens. Also, because the audience are not able to see any faces in this scene, it allows the audience to more easily imagine being in that situation. This again furthers the panic within the audience.
During the same film sequence, the camera spans across the sea from another side-on angle. This time, the camera is at head height and follows the panicking children out of the sea. This allows the audience to put themselves in the position of the camera man, being in the crowd of children. The camera then begins to slow and many children run past the camera, making the audience fell vulnerable because whatever is in the water is getting closer to them. This builds up the feeling of panic and strongly created fear within the audience.
The combination of these sequences builds panic and is an effective way of injecting a feeling into the audience.
The “JAWS” trailer relies heavily on sound to make it a successful trailer, which hooks the audience. It uses a combination of sound effects, music, a soundtrack and a narrator to help make the trailer what it is.
The trailer uses a two toned theme tune to mark the arrival of “JAWS”. Because the theme tune only has two notes, the tempo and volume at which it is played it vital.
When the theme tune is first used; in the opening sequence, it is faded in. It starts off very quietly and at a slow tempo, but gradually speeds up and gets louder. As the shark spots it’s prey and prepares to attack, the theme tune is at it’s loudest and quickest. The theme tune stops as soon as the shark attacks it’s prey. There is dead silence until the shark has attacked several times. Sound effect’s then start and the audience hears splashing and the attacked women’s screams. The sound of splashing and the women’s screams really scare the audience because they surprise the audience after the total silence. The theme tune is used in exactly the same manner the next time it is used. This means that the audience then associates the shark attacking with the simple theme tune.
The theme tune is meant to resemble a heartbeat, most probably the audience’s. As the sharks approaches it’s prey, it quickens and gets louder, just like the hearts of the audience when they are scared. This helps to link the theme tune with a sense of fear and anxiety. This is one of the most effective techniques ever used to inject a feeling into the audience.
The trailer uses a narrator to control the tone of the trailer and also to help create the feeling of fear and anxiety within the audience. The narrator uses quotes such as: 'It lives to kill', 'a mindless eating machine' and 'It's as if god created the devil and gave him... Jaws.' This creates images in the mind of audience and makes the trailer seem more realistic. It also furthers the feeling of fear within the audience.
The “JAWS” trailer was obviously a very good and effective trailer because of the massive success of the film. Spielberg uses many techniques to hook the audience without revealing the plot of the film. He combines all the techniques well to create one of the best trailers ever.