Peter Benchley’s Influence on the Horror Genre

Peter Benchley’s Influence on the Horror Genre

American writer Peter Benchley is notable for his novel Jaws. Released in 1974, the book which tells the story of a great white shark that preyed on a resort, aimed to play on the fundamental fears of what lies beneath the ocean’s surface. It became a best-seller for up to 44 weeks in the New York Times, and recorded immense success in other forms of entertainment. Here, we’ve explored Benchley’s influence on the horror genre.

Adaptation into Games

Gaming studios have produced a variety of shark-themed games using similar ideas and storylines as provided in the Jaws movies. The level and nature of play in these games are different. Some games are about capturing the shark, while other titles allow the player to control the shark’s movements. In 1987, the first Jaws video game came out for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) where players had to catch a shark. Jaws: The Computer Game was released in 1989. A Jaws-themed minigame was incorporated into Universal Studios Theme Parks Adventure for the GameCube in 2001. 

Another, known as Jaws Unleashed, was released in 2006. This was a more engaging version of the game and it allowed players to control the shark for the first time. The Jaws concept has also been adapted into online games such as slots. Beware The Deep Megaways and Razor Shark are both shark-themed titles available at top online casinos in varying modes. There are also multiple game varieties at these operators that explore other themes. These include other movie-themed titles like classic James Bond novels and films, Egyptian-themed titles and classic fruit-themed games.

Source: Pixabay

Adaptation into Movies

Jaws was adapted into a movie the year after the book was released. The movie’s plot showed a murderous creature attacking civilians. Using a non-human force to scare people was a big step forward for the horror genre because it made it harder to tell the difference between human and animal danger. 

The movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, was a massive hit and hailed as one of the best films ever produced. Benchley and Carl Gottlieb wrote the script together, but the book was substantially changed. Since it was so popular, there were several follow-ups, including Jaws 2, Jaws 3-D, and Jaws: The Revenge. Even though Benchley didn’t work on these versions directly, they relied on the same concept as the original Jaws movie. The success of the first Jaws movie led to many more shark-themed scary films, solidifying its impact on the genre.


The multiple adaptations of the Jaws story may have had difficulty replicating the thrills and horrors of Benchley’s best-seller. Nevertheless, they emphasize his influence across today’s horror genre and establish how popular the Jaws series has become since its first release in 1974. 

The influence also extended to aquatic life enthusiasts and environmentalists. While some nature enthusiasts blamed the storyline for making sharks appear as horrific underwater beasts, Benchley’s work created awareness of sea life and the need to protect the ocean. 


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