Piranha (1978)

Piranha (1978) — This movie is a hard-boiled crime saga about the ruthless mobsters Doug and Dinsdale Piranha… nah, just fucking with ya. It’s about killer fish (geek props if you got the Monty Python reference). Conceived as a blatant Jaws rip-off the film forgoes the suspense and atmosphere of Spielberg’s film for the delightfully cheesy camp of a Roger Corman flick. Corman hired John Sayles (who went on to do the indie films Lone Star and Sunshine State) to write the flick and Joe Dante (who went on to do The Howling and Gremlins 1 & 2)to direct. The film is about mutant piranhas who attack people alongside a river. The attack scenes are remarkably tame and done mostly with sound effects. That may fly with an artier film, but this is schlocky exploitation and schlocky exploitation demands gore. Some bloody aftermath is shown but it never quite makes up for the fact that you never get a good look at the piranhas. There’s also some weird stop motion lizard-thing that never really amounts to anything. There are a couple of gratuitous tit shots, again as demanded by the exploitation genre. I can’t really defend this slow-paced and profoundly stupid film cinematically but if you enjoy trashy flicks and like doing a MST3000-type movie night with friends this flick definitely works for that. It apparently was successful enough to spawn a sequel called (appropriately enough) Piranha 2: The Spawning, directed by future Academy Award winner James Cameron. Also there’s the forthcoming Piranha 3-D (I’m unsure if this is a remake or a sequel as the “3” in “3-D” could potentially imply). Coming from gorehound Alexandre Aja I expect I might enjoy the new one more than the original although I’m sure it’s just as, if not more, stupid.

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