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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Piranha (1978)



This is one of those movies that I can point to confidently and say that it made me the horror nerd that I am today. I remember seeing it not too long after it was released. While it was on television and sanitized there was enough there that I will never forget it! I’ll talk more about that later in the review. Let’s take a look at Piranha!

The movie starts off with a couple of backpackers sneaking into an isolated mountain research base. There they find a pool and figure why not go swimming. Given the name of the movie you can probably figure out it isn’t the greatest idea! Later we are introduced to Maggie who is hired to find the missing couple. She follows their trail to the mountain and there meets up with Paul. They find the same pool and while trying to drain it to look for bodies are attacked by an older man. He is the scientist responsible for the Piranha being able to live in cold water, but it is Maggie and Paul who unleash them into the local river. The rest of the movie is them trying to warn people and stop the fish from reaching the ocean where they will be unstoppable!

I consider this movie to be a classic so it is strange for me to write a review. I expect that most everyone has already seen Piranha, but if you haven’t please let me try and convince you to rectify that immediately. While I admit that this is a Jaws rip-off it is a very good one. The plot kicks off with a bang and spaces the action out nicely from opening to closing credits. The Piranhas feel like an actual threat and our characters who are put into quite a bit of danger. I’ve always thought the bit with the raft and having to push the body overboard to be eaten was a nice touch. There is some tension when it comes to what characters may live or die. They do this by killing off the most familiar face in the movie to set the tone that no one is safe. That makes for a great monster movie.

The cast is filled with some amazing actors. The Roger Corman regulars include Dick Miller and Paul Bartel. Both of these men are geniuses and create awesome characters for the movie. Miller is the creepy developer who tries to ignore the Piranhas so that he can still cash in on his new resort. Bartel is great as the head counselor at a summer camp that happens to be in the path of the Piranha. We also get two classic genre actors in Kevin McCarthy and Barbara Steele. They play the scientists involved with the project and are welcome additions to the cast. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the director Joe Dante. This is only his second directorial credit and you can already see his skill.

Mr. Dante you messed me up with this one! Thanks.
It’s a monster movie so we have to mention the special effects. The Piranha are brought to the screen with practical effects work. Puppets on sticks being shot underwater! Somehow on a low budget and tight schedule they pull it off and it looks great on screen. But it isn’t just the Piranha that look good. We get some gruesome looking wounds including one that traumatized me as a child. I remember watching Keenan Wynn in the old Disney movies but to see him with his feet chewed down to the bones scared the crap out of me! The feeling I had the first time I saw the movie and that scene in particular will stick with me forever. It freaked me out and made me love the horror genre at the same time.

Have I convinced you to watch Piranha yet? If not I don’t know what else I can do. There are so many things to love about the movie that I haven’t even mentioned yet. Like the clever dialogue and beautiful Texas shooting locations. Really you just need to sit down and watch it.



© Copyright 2017 John Shatzer

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