As a producer, Roger Corman has always loved to make low-budget rip-offs of hit movies, and Piranha is his typically cheeky take on Jaws--and, as so often with Corman, in many ways it's funnier and more entertaining than the original. Directed with gusto by schlock-horror specialist Joe Dante and sharply scripted by John Sayles, it replaces one huge underwater toothy monster with dozens of little ones and ups the body count by a factor of 10 or so. Two hapless teenagers, hiking in a remote mountain region, stumble on a secret US military research lab. They don't last... long, but their intrusion leads to the release into the local river system of a huge shoal of super-intelligent piranha, originally specially bred for use in Vietnam. Downstream from the virulent little munchers lie a kiddies' holiday camp and a tacky new waterfront theme park. Lunch time, fellas! Sayles, with his staunch left-wing credentials, slips in some mordant political satire at the expense of the military-industrial complex, and authority figures of any kind come off pretty badly, but the satire never gets in the way of the gleeful black humour. The two leads, Bradford Dillman and Heather Menzies, are fairly pallid, but there are ripe cameos from such cult horror-movie icons as Kevin McCarthy, Dick Miller and Barbara Steele. Pino Donaggio's score impudently borrows aspects of John Williams' famous Jaws theme while never quite infringing copyright. The movie was successful enough to spawn a much-inferior sequel, Piranha II: The Spawning (1982), which marked the inauspicious directing debut of one James Cameron. On the DVD: Piranha on disc comes with just the theatrical trailer as an extra. The transfer is a respectable job, reproducing the original's full-screen ratio. --Philip Kemp [show more]
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This lake-bound horror film, spawned in the wake of 'Jaws', is an early production by future 'The Howling' collaborators John Sayles and Joe Dante. Two teenagers going for a dip inadvertently stumble upon a government secret weapon: deadly piranha fish, planned for use in Vietnam. Accidentally released, the piranha make their way to the site of a children's summer camp resort, and the watery carnage begins. James Cameron cut his directorial teeth on the sequel in 1982.