Tag Archives: Nick Cato

The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3

SWIMMING WITH SHARKS IN THE FIRST GRADE
by Nick Cato

In June, 1975, my grandfather took me (who at the time was seven years old and in the first grade), my brother (who was two years younger and hence not yet in school), and my cousin (who was two years older) to see Jaws. Gramps was a fisherman and used to pick us up early every Sunday morning to go see what was biting. We always had a great time, and for a few months before the film’s release we had asked him if he would take us to see it. In the glorious 70s, without an Internet to ruin things, gramps picked us up one Saturday morning for a 1:00 PM screening. He picked us up at 10:30, but any good fisherman knows to get places early.

The two hour wait in front of the theater would’ve been boring, but my late gramps was a funny guy. He cracked jokes the whole time and eventually had a small audience as the line grew. I believe the film had been out three weeks by then, and we took our seats not knowing what to expect. I vaguely remember reviews from TV saying the film was causing people to stay out of the water, and as far as my parents were concerned, we were going to a movie with our fisherman grandfather to see a movie about a big fish.

Besides the initial sort-of shock this first grader had of seeing a naked woman run down the beach, it was quickly forgotten when an unseen creature gobbled her up within the film’s opening minutes. I had seen Night of the Living Dead on late night TV about a year before this, but Jaws was the very first time I saw a genuinely scary film in a theater. And by the time Hooper went scuba diving and found that decapitated head in the sunken boat, we were all glued to the screen, and the sight of that decapitated head caused my five year-old brother to hop onto my grandfather’s lap, where he remained for the rest of the film.

While, as kids, we loved seeing the shark attack sequences and were traumatized by them for years, it was the amazing performances by the main cast that made the film work so damn well. To this day, whenever I see Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, or Richard Dreyfuss in another film, I simply can’t accept them outside of their Jaws characters (although I kind-of came close to liking Dreyfuss’ role in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) almost as much). But he’ll always be the wise-cracking Hooper to me when push comes to shove. I actually went to see Blue Thunder in 1983, but seeing Scheider flying around in a helicopter without blowing a shark to pieces left me feeling cheated. Same for the several older films I afterwards saw with Robert Shaw. I still think they should’ve had him somehow kill a shark in Battle of the Bulge. Okay, that was ten years before Jaws, but work with me here…

I tend to think that my love for gory films came from this screening of Jaws at such an early age. Two sequences in particular (a shot of a man’s leg sinking to the ocean floor, and Quint’s nasty demise as shark chow during the film’s epic finale) really did something to my psyche. As I had been doing for about a year after my late night viewing of Night of the Living Dead, where I obsessively thought about the film, drew pictures of it, and desired nothing more in life than getting to see it again, so I did the same thing with Jaws. It consumed me. I couldn’t get those creepy images out of my mind no matter how hard I tried. And when I finally got to see the film two or three years later on my aunt’s Betamax (anyone remember those?), I enjoyed it as much as my initial screening.

I was fortunate enough to have my own Quint: my grandfather. No, he wasn’t a shark hunter and as far as I know didn’t survive a military sunken ship shark attack, but he was a life-long fisherman who took me, my brother, and my cousin to see one of the greatest films of the 70s, if not of all time. Seeing the film with him made it more special, especially when I caught him nodding in agreement every time Quint spoke about fishing or what they had to do to catch this shark. It almost made the whole experience “3-D.”

Jaws scared the crap out of everyone back then, regardless of age. But seeing it with my gramps made it a little less scary for this (then) first grader, and he made an unforgettable film even more memorable. I watch the film at least once a year to this day and can’t help thinking about him whenever Quint comes on the screen.

And I still find Quint’s demise incredibly hard to watch…

Nick Cato is the author of one novel, five novellas, and a forthcoming book on grindhouse cinema.

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Horrorfind Weekend

This coming Friday through Sunday, John, Sarah and I will be down in Gettysburg, PA, for this year’s Horrorfind convention. Shock Totem #3 authors Amanda C. Davis and S. Clayton Rhodes will be in attendance, as well as James Newman, who will also be reading from The Wicked Friday evening.

We had hoped to have a bigger presence this year, possibly seeing some of our authors on panels and the Horror Writers guest list. Unfortunately, despite for three months calling the number on the website, leaving voicemails, and e-mailing the people in charge of organizing the event, we were never able to make it happen.

I got one reply out of at least a dozen e-mails sent, and that came on August 20, seventeen days after I sent the e-mail it was in response to (and months after I first contacted them).

“Unfortunately, our author guest list & reading schedule has already been finalized and we are not taking any additional requests for readings at this year’s event.”

According to the website, there are ten authors on the guest list, eight of which are Samhain Publishing authors. With absolutely no disrespect meant to those authors or the publisher, I find that to be rather unprofessional. Of course, that should come as no surprise to anyone who reads Brian Keene’s blog.

If this sounds like complaining, it’s not. It’s disappointment. Not only were we ignored by the organizers, but our authors were as well, and I know that stings them more than it does me.

That said, I’m glad to see the fantastic Damien Walters Grintalis on the guest list. She’ll be selling pre-release copies of her debut novel, Ink. Yeah! And Ronald Malfi, who is quickly becoming my favorite small-press author, will be on hand, so I’m looking forward to meeting him if possible, and maybe picking up some of his work I don’t own. Nick Cato will be there. Mangos! David G. Blake and his lovely wife, Dawn, will hopefully be there. Plenty of other cool-cool cats will be on hand as well (I just can’t remember who at the moment).

And us! Yes, we will be present and available. And we will have limited copies of Shock Totem, The Wicked—which James will gladly sign—and a few other things our work is featured in. If you’d like to buy anything, let us know. Perhaps we’ll set up shop in the lobby or have a boot sale in the parking lot.

On Sunday we’re planning a pilgrimage up to York to visit the York Emporium, which according to John is the “coolest bookstore” he’s ever been to. Looking forward to it.

See you there?

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Double Dose of Horror: Two New Reviews

Two new reviews of issue #3 have appeared online recently. The first was done by Nick Cato and you can read it here on the Horror Fiction Review.

The other was done by Darkeva. You can find that review here on Horror World.

Thanks, guys!

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