Piranha (1978)

Genre: Horror

Cast: Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy

Synopsis: Idiots release a bunch of mutant piranhas into the waters of a mountain community. The piranhas then wreak havoc on vacationers content on swimming in what must be one of the dirtiest rivers known to man.

It’s hard to believe that this movie was released about 3 years after Jaws. Whereas Jaws is a classic that absolutely transcends time, Piranha drips with 1970s campiness. It’s hard to take this film seriously as a horror movie, but it does work quite well if you interpret it as a low-budget parody of Jaws…a VERY low-budget parody. After yesterday’s review of Jaws 2, readers might have cottoned on to the fact that I have a hard-on for Jaws. Now, if Jaws is the champagne of creature features, then Piranha must be the Natty Light. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; it’s a beer that will do the job, but the pounding in your head and the seriously bad case of booze shits the morning after might tell you otherwise. Piranha works in the same way. It won’t give you a headache or diarrhea but it’s a cheap alternative that will definitely satisfy.

We’ll start with the actors. Jaws contained a stellar cast with convincing performances across the board. Piranha contains an albino girl that has a really hard time evoking sadness, a Paul Bunyan reject, and shit Emily Blunt. The woman isn’t actually Emily Blunt but seems to be some kind of evil twin from a parallel universe. Plus she pronounces ‘piranha’ like ‘piran-ya’ which is the most irritating thing ever. The majority of the characters are so wooden, stupid, and two-dimensional that you end up cheering for the piranhas instead of the people. I couldn’t believe that anyone with half a brain would entertain swimming in a discarded water tank on some abandoned military site. The situation didn’t evoke a lot of sympathy. It’s a movie that contains performances which lack any real substance or depth but that makes it enjoyable in a surreal kind of way.

After I watched this movie, I realized that there are actually two remakes of this film: the recent one and an earlier remake in 1995 which stars a young Mila Kunis, who is probably eager to forget it. I think I saw the 1995 remake a long time ago when I was a kid (my mom wasn’t very good at censorship) and a lot of the way through watching the original I started noticing all the differences but didn’t attribute it to a different film. For instance, I started asking questions like: ‘wasn’t that kid black?’; ‘wasn’t the scientist a woman?’; and ‘was the river always this dirty?’ It was quite confusing but hopefully you’ll manage to avoid that. If you want to watch one of the Piranha movies I’d definitely recommend this one. The 1995 remake takes itself too seriously and the recent remake contains a lot of the campiness of the original but the high-budget effects don’t really mesh too well with it. If it’s cheesy, unadulterated comedy-horror you’re looking for then you can’t really go wrong with the original.

High-lights:

  • The low budget gore. There’s a scene where a guy gets his legs eaten and I was screaming “TAKE THEM OUT THE BLOODY WATER!!!” I think he may actually have been in a wheelchair now that I think of it.
  • The wooden acting and hackneyed dialogue makes for some great comedy.

Downers:

  • A mutant walking fish makes a brief appearance but then you never see it or hear of it again which is kind of annoying because it could have made for an excellent plot development.
  • Lacks genuine scares.

Summary:

A solid choice for the Halloween season, although if you’re looking for a movie that actually scares you then this might not be the right choice. Piranha provides a few laughs but lacks in the convincing terror department. Don’t let that put you off though: as I said earlier, Natty Light might not be the best booze on the market, but it gets the job done and the same reasoning could be applied to this film. Piranha is best watched with friends and is an enjoyable option regardless of the strain you favor. I can’t give it too high a rating because the film does have a lot of flaws but it still commands a respectable score.

7/10

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5 Comments

Filed under Good, Horror

5 responses to “Piranha (1978)

  1. I prefer the 2nd one. It’s so much loonier. Also, the one made for TV with Alexandra Paul. Damn, that’s a funny piece of poo!

  2. If you want to see a movie with a walking mutant fish, i suggest you see THE HOST (gwoemul). I would really like to read what you have to say about that one

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