Big city skip tracer Maggie and Paul Grogan, a drunk living in seclusion, inadvertently unleash a top secret government genetics weapon while looking for a missing couple. Now an unsuspecting riverside resort and a summer camp for children find themselves smack dab in the middle of a ferocious, bloodthirsty school of killer Piranha as they make their way from their freshwater surroundings to the ocean! And is if that weren’t bad enough, the government agency responsible for the mutated fish aren’t interested in saving lives, they’re simply looking to destroy the aquatic eating-machines and cover the whole matter up before the information leaks to the press.
Now it’s up to Maggie and Paul to warn the resort and campers of the impending danger before the hungry school eat everything in the water. And with only one shot to destroy the fish before they escape into the ocean and breed uncontrollably, Lost River may become Paradise Lost if the pair don’t succeed.
Joe Dante’s Piranha is a delightfully dated, blackly comedic endeavor spilling over with floating bits of flesh and surprisingly stacked-in-the-back seventies beauties. The stunning locations, numerous cult cinema personalities and highly effective special effects lend this Corman exploitationer an air of originality most Jaws rip-off cinema lacks and, make no mistake folks, this is indeed Jaws rip-off cinema. It’s fairly obvious that Dante and crew embrace that fact and run with it when the arcade game ‘Shark Jaws’ and Melville’s Moby-Dick make appearances in the film.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Piranha is a classic horror film but it does deserve a place of admiration alongside the watery terrors of Jaws, Orca and Tentacles. Wow did I just mention Assonitis’ Tentacles in the same sentence as Spielberg’s Jaws? The cult cinema gods must be smiling down on me now, no?
Shout! Factory are scoring big this year with their Corman line, it shows that they were listening to fans and collectors worldwide. Releasing Piranha ’78 is a damn good business move, especially with Piranha 3D makes huge waves (pun intended) in theaters right now. True to the spirit of this film, Shout! Factory are exploiting that fact with a fabulous special edition overflowing with extras including a new widescreen transfer (still a bit rough though), commentary, behind-the-scenes footage, bloopers, trailer w/ commentary, a still gallery, additional scenes from the TV version and some TV/radio spots!
Piranha is occasionally incompetent but still flat-out entertaining and there’s more than enough goodies to keep you busy for multiple viewings.