Piranha Part Two: The Spawning

Piranha Part Two: The Spawning


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, along comes a second wave of deadly fish - only this time you won't be safe out of the water, either, because this time they can fly. Silliness of the Deep Blue Sea variety combined with a low budget approach that would have made Ed Wood hesitate contribute to what is undoubtedly one of the worst horror movies out there - but one that you'd have to be inhuman not to enjoy.

Calling it horror is stretching things, really - Piranha II is set up more along the lines of a disaster movie, and it's hard to see why the BBFC gave it a 15 certificate. Since, pre-CGI, nobody had any idea how to film a scene of people being attacked by fish underwater (at least, without doing it for real) all we get are shots of fish, shots of people screaming, and red dye welling up in front of the camera. When they attack out of the water, we see rubber fish hurled at people's throats and lots of ketchup splashing around. Early Doctor Who did this stuff better.

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If you find this rather bizarre, consider next that it was directed by James Cameron, just three years before he made The Terminator. Although his underwater work is terrible (ironic considering that he's a pioneer in that area now), other scenes have a certain flair which hints at his developing talent. Also characteristic of a Cameron film is the strong heroine, played by Tricia O'Neil - a scuba diving instructor who, when nobody will heed her warnings, decides to take matters into her own hands. Although the script is weak throughout and the acting of dubious quality, her no-nonsense approach is refreshing in a film of this type and, in its time, was really quite daring. It also provides an interesting counterpoint to other characters who are exploited for comedy value.

In and around the monster fish scare, a fantastically camp web of character relationships is built. There's the heroine's son, taking a job on a boat with a clueless rich guy and flirting with his daughter; the elderly lady lusting after waiters in the beachfront hotel; the seedy hotel manager determined to keep to business as usual; and the lesbian couple who sail around naked on their boat and steal from the hotel kitchen. Then there are the heroine's hard-bitten coastguard ex-husband and her slimy new boyfriend, who may or may not be connected to a top secret government bioengineering project. We don't get much of an explanation for the mutant fish, who are played by bored looking black piranha, but that's not really the point. Not when there are soap operatics, screaming, and half-arsed social commentary to be getting on with.

As bad films go, Piranha II is one of the best.

Reviewed on: 17 Mar 2009
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The deadly piranha are back, and this time they can fly.
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Director: James Cameron

Writer: H A Milton

Starring: Tricia O'Neil, Steve Marachuk, Lance Henriksen, Ricky Paull Goldin, Ted Richert

Year: 1981

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US, Italy


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