When flesh-eating piranhas are accidentally released into a summer resort’s rivers, the guests become their next meal in this 1978 horror cheese fest. With the opening of Pirhana 3-D, we thought we’d take a look back in the archives at this camp/horror classic.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Good old Roger Corman. You could always count on him to cash in on a cinematic trend here and there.  When “Piranha,” an obvious spoof of Jaws, was released in 1978, the B grade campiness of the film did not deter it from finding a large audience. Moviegoers reveled in this cheesy, tongue-in-cheek fare. Suprisingly, this low budget film, directed strongly by Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins and Innerspace) actually works with a neat drive- in movie charm. It’s fun, scary and not gore-filled.

The stiff but appropriate Bradford Dillman plays Paul, a man of the woods type who hesitantly pairs up with Maggie, played by Heather Menzies to investigate the disappearance of some unwary hikers. The film, with it’s movie of the week plot, unfolds evenly into more of a comedy than a horror film as our duo uncover a secret military operation involving mutated killer fish with nasty results. Dante regular Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Innerspace) stars as a left-behind doctor who has been the protector of the piranha. His fevered performance is one of the highlights of the film.

The flesh-eating fish are let loose upon on unsuspecting swimmers with a dire, even more scarier proposition than Spielberg’s great white shark. There are MANY of these tiny, swimming killers with uber-razor sharp teeth and they are hungry! Now, I have seen enough National Geographic specials on Amazonian killer fish to know that this is a very unprobable premise but Dante pulls off the plausibility with such aplomb that one cannot help but enjoy it all. The mid section does drag a bit and the film does have a dated air about it, but I am definitely recommending it. Wish I owned a drive-in theater because I’d include this campy classic to the schedule!

2 responses to “Piranha

  1. and the sequel, Piranha 2: The Spawning, is directed by James Cameron! Both of them are fun, and, I always like it when I come across a schlocky movie like this that’s directed by a future superstar.

  2. I am reminded of how Jack Nicholson practically stole every scene he was in while starring in Roger Corman’s Schlocky Edgar Allen Poe horror Films. Good catch on the Cameron/P2 one, Erik. Thanks for reading!

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