Executive produced by the tireless Roger Corman, Piranha ticks every box for a certain type of old school horror film. It’s derivative, full of surprises, titillating, much of the dialogue is completely nonsensical, and there’s blood everywhere… In short, I love this film.
Sure, the plot sounds like it was dreamt up by some Jaws fan in the
grip of a sushi-induced coma, but so what? It’s amazing!
How often do films open with a saucy young couple going skinny-dipping at an old abandoned
US army test site? Not. Often. Enough. That’s how often.
And the fact that this disaster is then attributed to an experiment called ‘Operation Razorteeth’, in which the US government intended to quash the North Vietnamese Army by unleashing a strain of mutant piranha upon them, but then didn’t bother, is clearly a big fat nugget of cinematic gold.
Suffice it to say that once Private Investigator Maggie and her new friend Paul, some backwoods drunkard she meets on a hill, inadvertently set the remaining killer fish free, all hell breaks loose.
Oh, and if flesh hungry fishies alone aren’t terrifying enough for you, prepare for some extreme edge-of-your-seat-sitting when you find out that they’re heading straight for the brand new Lost River Lake Resort! Where some kids are playing! And there are men with beards! And chesty ladies!
If by now you think that I’m just some moron who likes dreadful films, well, you’re only half right.
You see, the thing with these piranha is their pedigree. Roger Corman has been a one-man film school since the early fifties, making crazy movies and encouraging young talent wherever he can, and Piranha really reaps the benefits of this.
For one, the screenplay was written by filmmaker at large, and all- round ‘good egg’, John Sayles (director of 8 Men Out, Limbo, and Lone Star, to name but a few) whose dry sense of humour, and love of a good ‘issue’ (pollution in this case), is in strong evidence here. On top of this, the men credited with editing the film have shown themselves to have an impeccable sense of fun in their later work: Mark Goldblatt went on to edit Terminator 2, True Lies, The Last Boy Scout and, huzzah!, Showgirls; while Joe Dante directed such fantastic films as The ‘Burbs, Gremlins, and Innerspace.
So, while Piranha may not be the slickest piece of work you’ve ever seen, it’s tough to deny that it’s heart isn’t in the right place.
Let’s recap, shall we? Derivative? Heck yes – but this works both ways.
Piranha would never have been made if it wasn’t for Jaws, but surely none can deny the debt which Jaws 3D owes to Piranha: the end sequence of Jaws 3D, where the greatest of great whites wreaks havoc at a lakeside resort, is as much a homage to Piranha as Piranha is a rip-off of Jaws.
It’s just Jaws 3D’s tough luck that it doesn’t feature an appearance from Dick Millar, AKA Murray Futterman of Gremlins fame, which can only be considered a modern tragedy.
Piranha’s constant ‘surprises’ keep things moving along nicely, while the nonsensical dialogue, and occasional titillation, keep the whole movie entertaining, which is surely the point.
Piranha may be totally daft, but it’s damn good fun. And as for it being bloody? Well, we wouldn’t be talking about it otherwise would we?
Piranha is now out in High Definition on Blu Ray format!