The Halloween season is here and in the run up to the big day I decided to
examine what is considered “scary” in the world of horror movies.

Going with Rotten Tomatoes list of the 31 scariest movies, I decided to
compare each film with another horror film from the same year to determine which one I found scarier.

The two films in this showdown are adaptations of popular novels from the time, but are vastly different in every way. So is the physical terror of Jaws better than the psychological horror of The Stepford Wives?

Jaws

When a young woman is killed by a shark while skinny-dipping near the New England tourist town of Amity Island, police chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches, but mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) overrules him, fearing that the loss of tourist revenue will cripple the town. Ichthyologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and grizzled ship captain Quint (Robert Shaw) offer to help Brody capture the killer beast, and the trio engage in an epic battle of man vs. nature.

After seeing the reaction to the fish chumming scene with an audience, director Steven Spielberg decided to go and film another jump scare scene for the film because he says he “got greedy”.

Pros

A nearly perfect soundtrack from John Williams. The Jaws theme is iconic.

Spielberg doesn’t reveal the shark right away. The terror comes from point of view shots from the shark’s perspective a it stalks its victims.

The reality of a shark attack makes the terror more relatable.

Robert Shaw is perfect as Quint and is almost as scary as the shark.

Perfectly executed jump scares from the fish chumming scene to the shark cage attack.

An exciting, tension filled ending.

Cons

The shark is not particularly realistic.

The Stepford Wives

Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) moves to the quiet town of Stepford with her husband (Peter Masterson) and children. The town seems perfect — maybe a little too perfect. There’s something not quite right with the suburb’s women: they’re vapid, unfathomably devoted to housework and completely subservient to their husbands. Joanna teams up with another recent transplant, Bobby (Paula Prentiss), to investigate the mystery of Stepford’s wives and makes a horrific discovery.

Writer Ira Levin was originally going to make The Stepford Wives into a stage play, but the amount of characters he wanted to introduce prompted him to turn it into a novel instead.

Pros

Great tension throughout the film.

Joanna’s fear and paranoia are palpable.

Some great performances by Katherine Ross and Paula Prentiss.

Some truly disturbing moments including Joanna’s attempts to leave the area as well as her confrontation with Bobby after she’s been changed.

Cons

The film drags at multiple points.

There is little to no menace to any of the male characters, especially Dale Coba.

Even with the threat to Joanna, there is never a sense of danger. Things just happen with little to no explanation.

The ending is boring.

There’s really no competition here. Only one of these films was scary. Only one ushered in a new era of cinematic scares. Only one still scares audiences to this day. That film is……

Jaws

Do you agree or disagree? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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