Running Out of Scream: I Went Into VR to Truly Experience Jaws 3-D

Last year, I saw Friday the 13th 3D in a theater in 3D, which fundamentally changed how I view the movie. I love that franchise and like that entry, but seeing it the way it was intended made me understand how good it actually is. Ever since that screening, I’ve wanted to find a way to see Jaws 3, originally Jaws 3-D, in, you guessed it, 3D. I thought it would be simple and fun to find a 3D copy of Jaws 3-D, watch it, then report back about how fun it is or how much the gimmick doesn’t help. If I’d known back then what this journey was going to take out of me, I would have written about Friday the 13th Part 3, and I’d be done already.

Let’s get this out of the way. This article will barely be about Jaws 3-D. The movie? Good! Believe me, I am pissed to report this, but it was way more fun to watch than I anticipated. It’s an absolute mess but I genuinely can’t imagine someone having a bad time watching it. The shark attacks people in bumper boats, it’s set in (not legally) Seaworld, and at one point when everyone runs out of the water, an extra’s shorts fall too low and you can see his whole ass as he runs. That’s more realistic than anything in another Jaws film. I’m positive if I was ever involved in a massive murderous shark incident multiple people would see my ass and then make a calculated decision to not bring it up.

So, what’s this about, then? This is about the lengths I went to have a really bad time. Immediately, I couldn’t find Jaws 3 streaming. Even more so, there’s no legal or humane way to stream it in 3D. So I found that you can buy a 3D blu-ray, but I don’t have a 3D TV. What I do have, is a VR headset. I made the decision right then that I would watch Jaws 3-D in VR. 

I had an objective and a bias when I decided on this. I had already come up with the catchy headline “I went to the metaverse to prove Jaws 3D still sucks.” Then I learned you can’t rent the movie in 3D through any of the typical streaming services. I know this because after trying and failing to find it, I paid to rent it hoping after the fact I could choose my version, and I could not. So now a Reddit commenter I found that posted in 2018 saying I could do that owes me exactly four dollars. 

Since I had paid to watch the movie legally, I felt okay about my next step. Finding a 3D version somewhere else. This is a movie set on the open seas, after all. I’m going to skip a few steps that involve a frustrating amount of searching, asking discord weirdos for help, and side-loading Plex onto my Meta Quest 2. Long story short, I got a nice sweet version of the movie working… in French. Oh well, I’m way too committed at this point. 

Finally, I settled in to have myself a blockbuster motion picture experience. Here’s where I lost my gourd. I’ve never watched a movie in VR before. In fact, I’ve never watched anything in VR before. It is inherently creepy. I am alone in an uncanny value movie theater that goes on forever into the black void. Before I hit play I am feeling a little nervy. Oh well, movie time!

Did I mention at the top of this that I’m terrified of water? Seems important. The movie opens and I am drifting through the ocean as the famous theme plays. It’s cool. Then the title card shoots out of the screen right at me! It works! We did it! For one brief moment, I am pumped. Then the music keeps swelling, and I wish this wasn’t true, the very first time the movie showed a shark fin I got really scared. 

Not fun scared, like “uh oh shark time,” but like “maybe I write about something else” scared. My time sink won out and I powered through. Here is everything I experienced coming right up to my face in the black nothingness of the hell theater:

  • Severed arm – cool! I was into this
  • School of fish – Scary! I don’t like fish and they shouldn’t be in my living room
  • Shark – lots of times. Not scary. Try harder killer shark.
  • Needle syringe spraying fluid – this made me so uncomfortable
  • Severed head – see, “severed arm”
  • Wooden boards and blood floating underwater – I was shaking just a little. I wish I was embellishing for the piece
  • Fake robot tentacle in a museum – this one made me mad? It looked bad and wasn’t a good scene but I didn’t like it flapping right at me. The only one that I took personally for some reason. 
  • Fake barracuda that comes out of a wall – I wish I could convey to you how much this scared me. It cannot be expressed through the written word. 
  • Terrible CGI shark – this one ruled! Not scary and would SUCK outside of 3D. Highlight of the movie
  • Crowd of people trampling me – this effect for some weird reason extended a little too far around me and wasn’t scary but was disorienting as hell. I thought for a second I was actually trampled.
  • Fake Barracuda again – it doesn’t come back, but I wanted to reiterate. This shitty plaster barracuda is what Lovecraft was writing about all those times he said “indescribable horror.”
  • Underwater sequence where the shark attacks scuba divers – good scene, very scary, really felt like a climax. I do not like being underwater. 
  • Shark exploding covering me in blood – I cheered! I hadn’t breathed during the whole underwater fight and when they blew it up I was begging to be covered in all that shark’s nastiest little chunks. 

That’s it. I went more out of my way to do this than I have ever gone for a movie, and then felt sick and scared for 80 of the 89 minutes. All of these scenes combined are like 7 minutes, and you can watch them on youtube if you want to see how lame they look when you aren’t inside a computer, but watching the movie this way, it was difficult to tell when we were shifting from normal scene to 3D scene and it put me on edge the whole time. During every conversation, I felt like I was waiting for a jumpscare that would never come. 

I’m glad I did it and I do weirdly enough have a newfound respect for Jaws 3-D, even if I understand the circumstances will never align for anyone else to understand why. I also know that I will be a little extra scared of the water the next time I am at the beach. Because I will know that even though the chances are slim if I go too far out in the water before I even realize it’s happened, my VR headset could get wet and shock me to death.

Walt Braley is an editor for Robot Butt. He took up comedy after being unmasked and forced to retire comically early in his luchador wrestling career.

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