Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Piranha (1978) Review

Piranha 1978 poster
Director: Joe Dante
Stars: Bradford Dillman, Kevin McCarthy, Barbara Steele, Dick Miller
Genre: Horror, B-Movie

When it comes to Jaws rip-offs the general consensus seems to be that 1978's Piranha, directed by Joe Dante and produced by Roger Corman, is the best. Even Steven Spielberg himself has been quoted as calling it "the best of the Jaws ripoffs."

You can probably guess the entire plot and be entirely accurate but I'll give you a brief synopsis anyway. The  U.S. military designed and bred killer piranhas that are more deadly and can withstand more conditions than regular piranha can. Due to the stupidity of one person or another the piranhas are set loose into the river systems where people swim, children play, fisherman fish, etc. If not countered quickly the piranhas will make their way into the ocean where they will breed and, to say the least, cause even more trouble.

Standard plot, nothing special. It's a Jaws rip-off so the plot really just serves as an excuse for people in the water to get killed. It's very self-aware of its being a Jaws rip-off, too. The film starts out with a woman playing the Jaws arcade game. I guess in a way it's also a bit of a Jaws parody, especially being that it's obvious the film doesn't take itself completely serious.

There's humor present both in the form of jokes and cheesiness. Neither is greatly hilarious but it may get a few chuckles out of a lot of people. 

Joe Dante served as director. Dante later went on to direct films such as The Howling, Gremlins, and Small Soldiers. B-movie king Roger Corman produced. John Sayles was screenwriter, whom later went on to direct one of my underrated favorites The Brother from Another Planet.

One of the coolest parts of Jaws was the shark. So how cool are the piranhas in Piranha? Well, I dunno, I couldn't really get a good look at them. The piranhas looked just like basic piranhas, they weren't too convincing though. I will say that seeing them nip away at people's legs in such a quick and unnatural way was a bit unsettling. The deaths are standard, some of the gore looked pretty nice. 

Piranha 1978 hand

As one may suspect, the acting is very bad, as are the characters and writing. I honestly feel that this B-movie is overrated. It has a 72% on Rotten Tomatoes last I checked! I just found it to be a bit boring. It's just people splashing around in the water. The praised slaughter at the children's camp was decent enough but aside from that not much happened and what did happen was stuff that I've already seen elsewhere. 

Piranha 1978

It's not a terrible film as far as B-movies go, and it can be enjoyable, but there's much better, funnier, well-crafted B-movies out there. There was a sequel directed by James Cameron in 1981, a remake in 1995, another remake in 2010 and a 2012 sequel.

2/5 stars

Purchase Piranha on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - VHS
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