Three years after the release of Steven Spielberg’s mega-hit Jaws came its sequel, Jaws 2. Quite why studios felt that the story of a giant shark needed a second installment, other than the potential financial rewards, is anyone’s guess. But Roy Scheider returned as the lead character Chief Brody, although the majority of the other main cast did not and neither did Steven Spielberg who clearly felt he had told the whole story that he wanted to tell in the original. Jaws 2 was a good commercial blockbuster hit, taking over $200m from a budget of $30m.
Four years after a great white had terrorised the people of Amity Island, a series of unexplained attacks begin in the beach area of the island. Chief Brody (Scheider), from his previous experiences immediately suspects shark attacks, but once again nobody believes him. After he raises a false alarm over a school of blue fish, he is stripped of his title and sent home. Having been psychologically damaged from the previous shark attack Brody has forbidden his children from taking any boats out to see, but feeling rebellious, they go out anyway with a group of friends and suddenly find themselves at the mercy of another great white shark.
Where Spielberg’s Jaws took a more softly, softly approach to the reveal of the shark, Jaws 2 jumps straight in and begins mercilessly killing its two-dimensional side characters. It is to the films credit then that Roy Scheider returned as Brody, a man driven to extreme paranoia after the events of the first film. It is he who brings some realism to the increasingly ludicrous situation and even as everyone else continues to deny a shark attack for the exact same reasons as the original, he is Jaws 2‘s saviour. His need to overcome his fears to try and save the day once again gives Jaws 2 its much needed characterisation and depth.
If Jaws was a predominantly psychological slasher horror, Jaws 2 is an all-out slasher sequel. Similar in tone and quality to the sequels of Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street, it dispenses with Spielberg’s keen eye for human interaction and a slow-build of suspense and just has people massacred to get the body count up. This once again became the trend for all future slasher horrors, so even though its quality is way down on the original, it was influential in its own way.
Thank goodness for Scheider whose portrayal of a man slowly facing the possibility that he’s going mad and being paranoid, because it is this singular performance that saves Jaws 2 from being truly dreadful. Once again the studios should’ve stopped after Jaws 2, but there were 2 more sequels to follow, and this is where the franchise really goes downhill.