Wednesday, October 9, 2013

31 Days of Horror: Piranha (1978)

Directed by Joe Dante, Piranha follows Insurance investigator Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies) who is dispatched to find two teenagers who have gone missing near Lost River Lake. After hiring the surly drunkard Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman) to serve as her guide and help her search the area, they find a seemingly abandoned military facility. The two end up draining one of the facility's pools and accidentally releasing a particularly vicious swarm of piranha into the local waterways. Maggie and Paul race to warn the locals, but their pleas fall upon skeptical ears - until the piranha reach the swimmers.

Piranha is a spoof of "Nature Run Amok" films, with Jaws being the specific target. The movie is incredibly goofy at times, having characters act in ways that seem rather illogical and utilizing some cheesy special effects for the titular creatures. However, none of these elements actually hurt the film, but help make the film incredibly enjoyable to watch.

Piranha is a film that knows exactly what it is, a cheesy spoof of a popular film that doesn't take itself seriously in the slightest. If you can accept that, you will find a lot to like about the film. Dillman and Menzies actually give decent performances, presenting their somewhat eccentric characters in a believable and likable manner. While a good amount of the effects are rather cheesy, there are a few that I found pretty well executed, such as the stop-motion creatures lurking within abandoned military facility. The music is also not half bad and there are a few moments in the film that are actually rather scary and well-done (like the piranha attack at the summer camp)

Piranha is one of those films that can be pretty entertaining if you accept the inherent goofiness of the product. It's not a masterpiece of horror cinema, but its still an enjoyable film that I'd recommend to those who like goofy monster films and Joe Dante movies.

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