Poster for the movie "Piranha"

Piranha (1978)

Not rated yet!


A hideous death lurked unseen in the river...

When mutant piranha are accidentally released into a river from their secret government pool, it's up to two peep's to stop them before they reach a resort and proceed to partake in an all you can eat buffet.
19781 h 34 min


In 1975, big daddy Steven Spielberg unleashed “Jaws” on the world and while Bruce the shark caused an economic disaster that summer due to vacationers avoiding the beaches like the fucking plague, he made insane bank for Universal. This did not go unnoticed by other studios. Dollar signs filled the greedy bastard’s eyes and soon a wave of “Killer monsters of the deep” flicks followed with such gems as “Orca the Killer Whale“, “Tentacles“, “Killer Fish“, “Alligator“, “Tintorera“, and many, many more. Enough to fill a garbage bin, where most of them def belong. None even came remotely close to “Jaws” (Not even “Jaws” sequels could do that.) and all tanked at the box office along with each studio’s dreams of cashing in on the phenomena Spielberg created.
All except one. A little film produced by Roger Corman…of all fucking people.
Corman, like other producers of the time, was looking to cash in on “Jaws” success and thought “Hey, ya know what would be interesting? Piranha!” and thus a rip-off was born.
He recruited first time director, Joe Dante to helm the project. If the name sounds familiar, it bloody damn well should! Joe is the director responsible for a little film called “Gremlins” as well as the sequel and many other classics. I’m convinced he’s a large part of why this flick works. He does a damn good job considering the budget. He managed to blend dark humor and horror perfectly, which is the secret of this film’s appeal. More on that in a minute.
Bradford Dillman and Heather Menzies-Urich are our leads and do a decent job. Much of the film is spent with them and had they underplayed or overplayed the roles, things could have fallen apart fast. Thespians they ain’t, but they deliver.
The rest of the cast? Well…it’s a Corman flick, be happy you got two decent fucking leads and a director with a clue! Besides, the rest of the cast is there to be piranha food, so do you really give a shit? Good! Moving right along.
These mutated fishies are hungry and chomp down on a lot of folks. It’s not the goriest flick ever made, but there’s plenty of red to go round. Shots of chewed up corpses and limbs gnawed to the bone are plentiful. It get’s messy.
Nudity? Ya know, for a Corman flick, which is usually ripe with boobies, this one is kinda tame. Oh, there’s a few shots here and there, and all quite nice if I do say so myself, but don’t expect a smorgasbord. 
The special effects are actually fairly decent for the time and for a Corman flick to boot. Dante wisely avoids showing us the fish too much. We get quick shots underwater as they attack and a few leaping out, but the camera never lingers. Most of the attacks consist of people screaming in agony and thrashing about as the water around them roils and turns red. Doesn’t sound like much, but it works. Sometimes less is more.
The chewed limbs and corpse effects are top notch with very few exceptions. I mean, remember, it was the 70’s, effects weren’t what they are now. Still, all in all, they hold up.
I don’t know what the hell that stop-motion thing in the lab was supposed to be or why it was there, so don’t ask. Looked cool though.
So how did this film defy the odds and become a success at the box office when all the other “Jaws” rip off’s failed? Probably because unlike the other rip-offs, “Piranha” doesn’t take itself seriously. It very much knows what it is. This is made clear at the beginning of the film when we see one of the leads playing a “Jaws” arcade game. Dante wasn’t interested in creating the next “Jaws”, because it couldn’t be done. “Jaws” is a one and done. The cat’s out of the bag baby and it ain’t going back in ever again. Instead, he created a film that was entertaining and gave audiences what they came to see…people getting chowed down on by killer fish. His blending of humor and horror is done just right. The laughs and the horror never feel at odds. One moment we’re chuckling, the next we’re gasping and flinching. It’s the same blend he’d use again to great effect in “Gremlins” (The first one.)
If you’re looking for a “Killer Fish” movie that isn’t “Jaws” this is the one you want. Hell, even Spielberg himself loved it! Legend has it he stopped Universal from suing Corman for infringement. (Universal was VERY protective of their “Jaws” franchise, Just ask the folk’s behind “The Last Shark“.)
Due to its success, a sequel, directed by a young James Cameron was made but you probably want to avoid that. Also, two remakes have since been made, one of them a hit at the box office. But those are reviews for another time.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to go feed my fish.