Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Piranha part Two: The Spawning (1981, James Cameron)

How could I review the classic Piranha without also reviewing it's retarded little brother, Piranha part Two: The Spawning? I couldn't. I will start off with the film's most notable factoid, that it was future Titanic director James Cameron's directorial debut. Other than that, the only thing most people know about this film is that the piranha can now fly...and that it sucks. Now I'm not saying I agree with that last thing, but when this film comes up it's usually to bash it. I actually saw this film shortly after the first Piranha at least 10 years ago, mainly because it was a horror film directed by James Cameron and I liked the first Piranha. I remember thinking it was pretty crappy at the time.

Piranha part Two: The Spawning starts off very similarly to the first Piranha film...SKINNY DIPPING. As with the first, this horny couple succumb to the horror that are piranha. Soon after, at a nearby hotel resort, a diving student is found all munched up and his diving instructor Anne Kimbrough (Tricia O'Neil) goes searching for what may have caused it. One of her other students, Tyler (Steve Marachuk) accompanies her and Anne's ex-husband Steve (Lance Henriksen), the local sheriff, begins his own investigation too. It is soon discovered to be a mutant strain of flying piranha that are causing the deaths and they must convince the resort's owner Raoul (Ted Richert) that his guests are all in danger.

Piranha part Two is an interesting movie, to say the least. Let's start with the bad. Like the first one, the film makers try to add comedic touches to the film, including a stuttering chef, a gold digging lady vacationer and a horny old lady trying to seduce a life guard. Sounds pretty bad, huh? It is. But you know what, and here's the surprise...I LOVED the rest of the movie. Really loved it. It was silly of course (flying piranha? C'mon!), but in a really fun, b movie way. The piranha actually looked really cool and fuck me could they rip a person apart. The scenes of the piranha flying looked a little cheesy but the gory makeup effects (courtesy of Lucio Fulci's Zombie/City of the Living Dead/The Beyond FX mastermind Giannetto De Rossi) were stomach-churningly brilliant. Totally viscious and disgusting and awesome. People just get ripped apart and holes bitten out of them. It's great. One of my favorite Italian composers, Stelvio Cipriani, does the score for the film too (under the obviously Americanized pseudonym Steve Powder) building tension in all the right places. All of the lead actors are great and Cameron's direction is well done too. I actually read that Cameron filmed all of the scenes but was not allowed to edit or see any of the footage by producer Ovidio G. Assonitis (is it me or does his last name sound like a medical term for butt cancer?). I will always hold Cameron close to my heart for directing one of my favorite films (The Terminator of course) so I keep telling myself that some unnamed director shot all of the (un)funny parts and Cameron filmed the rest. Anyway, I really liked this movie and will definitely watch it again.



  1. Sounds like the angle they went for here is what was missing from the Critters series. Could have used more evisceration and some good gore effects. That's one aspect Critters 4 attempted but never went anywhere with except for the limited POV shot (of a feeding Critter) when Anders Hove (capt'n) gets one lodged down his throat.

    Is the tone of Piranha similar to Critters/Gremlins at all by adding in genuine humor or is most of the comedy unintentional?

  2. This is a perfect example of why sequels are always better than the originals. The level of ridiculousness here is off the charts -- making it far, far more enjoyable than the first one.

  3. I believe it was on the T2 special edition, Cameron speaks briefly about his time on this film. He says he worked for two weeks on PIRANHA 2 before being fired by Ovidio Assonitis (Oliver Hellman) who finished the film. Hellman did this a lot on his productions, firing the original director and taking over himself. Cameron was noticeably incensed during this part of the interview. The UK dvd is widescreen for PIRANHA 2.

    Although he's never honed up to it that I am aware, but Cameron was supposed to have directed the infamous giant maggot rape scene from GALAXY OF TERROR where he directed 2nd unit.

    Nice site, Starmummy!

  4. Great review on this one but I just cant get into this one. I love the beach massacre, but I cant excuse the terrible retread plotting and expected acting leading up to it. Glad it has its fanbase though! Cant wait for Piranha 3D!!