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Joe Dante
Bradford Dillman
Heather Menzies
Kevin McCarthy
Keenan Wynn
Dick Miller
Bottom Line: 

Entertaining in a very daft way is how I'd describe this film. I couldn't decide whether it was worth 2.5 or 3 marks out of 5 but as it only cost 660,000 dollars, I've got to cut it some slack. John Sayles, who also wrote the classic Alligator, has another earlier tongue in cheek Jaws parody screenplay on offering for us here. The film is directed by Joe Dante with a score which is surprisingly provided by Pino Donaggio. It's fun but the film flags somewhat in the middle section and then becomes enjoyable once more.
I'm pretty baffled as to why so many folks describe this film as being especially bloody. It's not that violent! Although there are some cool make-up effects to be seen, it's mostly just folks thrashing around whilst red dye is released into the water. I think that perhaps many of them saw the film as children and retained that odd notion of it. And as for the guy that didn't realise that you were SUPPOSED to be laughing, bah!!
Anyway, it's a pretty basic yet completely insane monster movie plot. Kevin McCarthy appears as a mad scientist type who's been breeding piranha which can survive in both cold and salt water. Originally the army wanted to use these creatures to pollute the waters in the Vietnam war (!). Inevitably these hungry critters end up getting loose into the local river. The weirdest thing about this film is that when the two heroes visit McCarthy's place, there's a mad but cool stop-motion effect that looks like a small walking shark to be seen hanging around the place and a crazy looking hand puppet sea monster in a fish tank.
Moments like that kind of tell you how seriously you're supposed to be taking this film and its premise anyway. It gets even crazier in James Cameron's sequel where the piranha then fly around on wings.
Piranha's got some great moments but sadly some really crap ones too at certain times. John Sayle's excellent dialogue is as sharp as the piranha's teeth and some of the character's comedy lines or their arguments really make me laugh out loud. However sometimes the direction is severely lacking. The best example of this is when the heroes are driving a car over to the summer camp and resort to warn the swimmers. Dante speeds up the car driving sequences so much that it just looks damn stupid.
Apart from some crap moments like that, the director has done pretty well with what he's got. On the plus side (and this is where it really counts), the underwater piranha sequences are surprisingly all handled very well. As well as some piranha point of view shots which lampoon Jaws rather nicely, the actual shots of the frenzied fish nibblin' are damn cool! The final pay-off is when you get to watch the fish go ape-shit in the water with a LOAD of folks still in it. Worth picking up for that sequence alone if you ask me!
As Jaws imitators or lampoons go, this one is above par but it's still not a great film by any possible stretch of the imagination. Having said that, fans of silly monster movies who also have a healthy sense of humour should dig it. I'm not ashamed to say that I really enjoy it but I'm still convinced that 3 out of 5 is a more than fair mark.
This region 2 disc from MGM has 2.0 sound only and an anamorphic print which suffers in some scenes from print damage and graininess but is still generally impressive. Trouble is, we only get a trailer as an extra whereas I know that the region 1 version does contain rather more than that. Hmmm. But that's probably why the DVD only cost me seven quid in a sale so I don't feel too cheated here. Plus, to be honest, I don't really miss extras on this particular film although others may feel differently. In which case, obviously pick up the region 1 version instead.
Having seen this and Alligator, I'm guessing that John Sayles doesn't like small children.

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