Piranha (1978) – Joe Dante

The next title from the What Else to Watch list as featured in DK Canada’s The Movie Book following the recommendation of Jaws is one of the first films to cash in on the dangerous aquatic animals films.

Roger Corman produces a script by John Sayles and cult favorite Joe Dante directs this b-movie schlock that boasts horrible dialogue, some terrible acting choices, and a couple of Dante regulars in the form of Kevin McCarthy and Dick Miller.

When a pair of young teenagers go missing (after going swimming in a fenced off area posted with warnings they promptly ignore) a young investigator, Maggie (Heather Menzies-Urich) tries to track them down.

Enlisting the help of one of the locals, much against his will, Maggie and Paul (Bradford Dillman), who is more interested in working his way through his next bottle than anything else, the pair discover a secret military base overseen by Dr. Robert Hoak (McCarthy) and a secret project known as Razor Teeth.

Maggie inadvertently (and doesn’t blame herself for it for the rest of the film) one of the tanks, which releases a school of specially modified piranha into the local lake water, and so trouble ensues.

As they race down the river (in a makeshift raft – because driving and warning people would have been to easy), the duo follow a trail of bloodshed that may lead to Paul’s daughter, Suzie’s (Shannon Collins) summer camp.

piranha-1978-bloody

This is a goofy, slightly bloody film that tries to make the best of its shoestring budget, and tries to be a lot of fun while doing it.

Plot holes, bad acting, and some strange lab creations make this one a hoot to watch, and from a cinematic standpoint it’s interesting to see how everyone was trying to cash in on the beach/summer attack stories.

As fun as it is to see Dick Miller in this film, he seems criminally underused, riffing slightly on the mayoral character from Jaws as his little lake front community seems to be in dire straits.

I do like the fact that Dante makes it clear that no one is safe in the water, but I don’t quite understand how some attacks can kill people in moments, and other attacks, like the one in the climax of the film while Paul and Maggie are trying to put their plan into action can take a lot longer, and leave characters bitten and bleeding, but very much alive, and able to recover.

Still, it’s a fun film. A goofy film and this is the one that should be seen instead of the reimagined sequels/reboots that came along in the early 21st.

Take a look at this and other ‘classics’ in DK Books The Movie Book, and find something entertaining to watch tonight!

piranha

 

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