Jon Davison, Roger Corman (executive), Jeff Schechtman (executive) for New World
directed by Joe Dante
starring Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Keenan Wynn, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Belinda Balaski, Melody Thomas Scott, Bruce Gordon, Barry Brown, Paul Bartel, Shannon Collins, Shawn Nelson, Richard Deacon, Janie Squire, Roger Richman, Bill Smillie, Guich Koock, Jack Pauleson, Eric Henshaw, Robert Vinson, Virginia Dunnam, Hill Farnsworth, Bruce Paul Barbour, Robyn Ray, Mike Sullivan, Jack Cardwell
story by Richard Robinson, John Sayles, screenplay by John Sayles, music by Pino Donaggio, special effects by Jon Berg, mechanical effects by Dave Morton, Douglas Barnett, special makeup by Rob Bottin
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Private investigator Maggie (Heather Menzies) comes to the mountains to
track down a couple of teenagers (Janie Squire, Roger Richman), and with
the help of local Grogan (Bradford Dillman) she trails them down to a
seemingly abandoned secret army testing facility that for some reason
houses big water tanks. There, the trail of the teenagers disappears
What neither Maggie nor Grogan knows is that the tanks contain
piranhas, and that our two teenagers were eaten by the piranhas. Maggie,
not knowing that she releases the piranhas by doing so, drains the tanks,
and not even a maddened scientist, Professor Hope (Kevin McCarthy), who
has been caretaker of the facility, is able to stop her in time.
Hope explains that he has been breeding piranhas that are able to
survive in even a cold climate or the sea, and by releasing the fish the
world as such might be in danger. So now it's a race against time to save
the world from being overrun by piranhas, and the first stop is the dam
just before Lost River Lake where the fish might be stopped.
Of course all this leads to a massacre in a summer camp, Professor Hope
redeeming himself by giving his life to save a boy (Jack Pauleson), the
army and their resident maritime scientist (Barbara Steele) gloriously
messing everything up, and Grogan and Maggie being arrested and having to
break out of jail. But the real desaster strikes when the piranhas arrive
just in time for the grand opening of the Lost River Lake resort and start
eating up the guests.
Now it's up to Grogan to save the world by releasing the waste from a
local refinery into the river to kill all the piranhas - and everything
else that's in the river, actually ...
Veteran genre actor Dick Miller is by the way great as slimey
politician, and director Paul Bartel as the head of the summer camp.
By today, Piranha is by and large described as a full-fledged
parody of Steven Spielberg's Jaws, that big budgeted animal horror
trash that was a box office sensation in the mid-1970's - but this is not
quite correct. While Jaws was unreflected and unreflecting animal horror
streamlined to satisfy the masses, Piranha, basically built on the
same formula as the earlier film (which was tried and true even in the mid
1970's), uses this formula to carry political satire as well as genre
(in-)jokes, and gives several genre actors the possibility to make fun of
typical horror characters. That said, Piranha is not the
laugh-a-minute film the word parody makes it appear to be, it still
works as a regular shocker as well, it's just the more intelligent and
funnier alternative to boring old Jaws and an entertaining and
enjoyable low budget horror film that fortunately doesn't take itself too
seriously, and shouldn't be taken too seriously by its audience either.