Piranha II: The Spawning
It started as a vacation...
Year of Release: 1981
Running Time: 94 minutes (1:34)
Director: James Cameron
Tricia O'Neil ... Anne Kimbrough
Steve Marachuk ... Tyler Sherman
Lance Henriksen ... Police Chief Steve Kimbrough
Ricky Paull Goldin ... Chris Kimbrough
Ted Richert ... Raoul, Hotel Manager
Leslie Graves ... Allison Dumont
Carole Davis ... Jai
Ancile Gloudon ... Gabby
Ward White ... Mr. Dumont
Club Elysium may seem like paradise, but just offshore a new breed of terror has been unleashed, and no one is safe from its savage, insatiable hunger.
While investigating the mysterious death of a diver, scuba instructor Anne Kimbrough makes a horrific discovery: Piranha-like fish, with wings that enable them to fly, are responsible. As the body count rises, Anne desperately tries to convince the resort's manager to call off the annual fish fry on the beach - but he's determined to give his guests the ultimate "feeding frenzy."
Piranha II, the movie that reminds us all good things must come to an end. By which I mean James Cameron's stint as a director of high quality movies. The guy was really off to a great start. After Piranha II he did Aliens, The Abyss, then the first two Terminator movies where Arnold the Barbarian kills a whole mess of scrubs that were really askin' for it. Everything was goin' fine, he'd achieved directorial ascension, nothing could stop him. But off in the distance loomed an iceberg and well, that was pretty much the end for James. His career sunk faster than that accursed ship. I can't see the guy goin' back to what got him where he is an I'm pretty sure we're gonna have to write him off permanently at this point, but here's hopin' he can put all this Avatar business behind 'im someday an get back to producing some real cinema. But James, just so we're clear, you've got a long way to go before you regain your cred, alright? Alright. Just thinkin' about this is almost as depressin' as that time my Tamagachi died on me. Lets talk about something else, like one of the flicks James did before he completely lost his mind an forgot you could make a movie without computers. I know what you're thinkin' too, who could possibly not love a movie about piranhas that kamikaze glom onto people when they're not lookin'? Pretty much nobody. But who loves it that little bit extra an stands out above the sea of rabid Piranha II fans? Assistants. But not just assistants. Supervisors, techs, an everybody else that works below a middle management tool. I defy you to find anyone under the direct supervision of a manager that can't identify with Ricky Goldin's character here. Watchin' Ricky interact with the yuppy that bought a boat so he'd have a reason to buy a captain's hat is like seein' everyday of their workin' lives up on the screen. Cause like middle management, what Captain Kangaroo here don't seem to realize is that he's dumber'n a sack of doorknobs an that without his underling he'd be utterly screwed four or five times a day. An you'd think after fifty, sixty demonstrations that your underling knows more about the operation than the management does, they'd take their egotism down a peg, but they generally just figure that this is peon stuff that somebody with their level of importance don't need to know anyhow. Like how it's a good idea to get out beyond the coral reef before you crank up the Evinrude an bend the blades up like balloon animals. That's the kinda thing they hire people smarter than them to handle so they can spend their time criticizin' people doin' work that'd probably kill 'em in five minutes if they tried it. Plus every now an then Lance Henriksen, who in this scenario would be like the company President, comes along, sees what they're doin' an gives 'em such a butt chewin' they can't enjoy their craftmatic adjustable office furniture for two weeks. An event which the Ricky Goldins of the world live for. So for those of you with the brains fightin' the good fight, Piranha II salutes you.
Alrighty well, in a moment of self awareness of his current state, James Cameron realized just where his career was goin' an while he was weepin' in the fetal position wrapped around the toilet in the men's room, he had some time to reflect on some of the high spots in his career, and had this to say about Piranha II: "I believe 'The Spawning' was the finest flying piranha movie ever made", an damned if he hadn't had an epiphany. Cause that's the honest to Jebus truth. So lets not take what may have been James' final moment of lucidity for granted, an take a good look at some of the more important lessons Piranha II has to teach us. First, playin' "hot potato" with a couple sticks of dynamite is a sign of friendship among certain groups of island fisherman. So lets do the culturally sensitive thing when one of 'em tosses us an IED an chuck that sucker as far as possible an have a good laugh with those rambunctious pranksters. Second, when Lance Henriksen tells you to keep your radio on. KEEP YOUR RADIO ON. The guy's not fuckin' around, okay? For that matter, if Lance Henriksen tells you to put on a Carnivale dancer's outfit an do the robot, PUT ON A CARNIVALE DANCER'S OUTFIT AN DO THE ROBOT. Seriously, you don't wanna rile Lance, he's been in a bad mood since 1976 an there's no sign any change comin' on. An third, always get your sex up front in advance, or you will be fleeced. But what I think Piranha II makes abundantly clear, in tragic fashion, are the effects of buying cheap. By now I think everyone knows that "whatever's cheapest" is pretty much the determining factor in every purchase. Economically speaking, we've pretty much done it to ourselves. We buy the cheapest, so anybody that makes something that might not break when you look at it too hard goes under, or moves their business to India so they can also make garbage that breaks when a slight breeze picks up. But that's on the less important spectrum of what I'm talkin' about. That cheap ass cowflop can cost LIVES. Take one of the pivotal scenes in Piranha II, where the night nurse at the morgue starts eyeballin' the corpse of the guy that looks like he thought if he jumped at just the right moment he could fit between the blades on one of them big industrial fans. While she's lookin', one of the piranhas jumps outta the corpse, gloms onto the nurse's Carotid artery an then gives her a cleft palate the size of Montana. Now, here's the important part, when the piranha's full, it makes its escape by bustin' through a piece of sugar glass an heads back out to sea. But if the hospital had bothered to buy a double paned window, the little bugger ends up gettin' concussed an floppin' around on the floor with permanent brain damage until Lance arrives in the mornin', finds it, an makes his case to the head greaseball like a boss. But that's not what happened, was it? No sir. That piece of sugar glass probably increased our body count by approximately five times. Which is great if you're a movie patron, but not so much if you're on the beach when the swallows come back to Capistrano. Think about THAT the next time you're in Wal Mart.
The movie begins with this horn dog of a woman tryin' everything she can to get her man to slip her the Jimmy Dean sausage log, only the guy ain't goin' for it cause all he wants to do is talk about their feelins. So she tells 'im they can just hop off their raft an go scuba divin' instead, which causes the dead look in the guy's eyes to vanish, at least temporarily. Only once they get down near this sunken Navy ship she takes off all her clothes an starts gyratin' like an off balance Maytag appliance in his lap an then starts cuttin' his clothes off. See, what she's done here, is she's taken 'im to where nobody can hear 'im scream so she can take what she wants, only by the time she realizes cold water an attempted rape cause shrinkage, they get swarmed by a school of man-eatin' mackerels an pretty quick the water starts lookin' like the Kool Aid Man tipped over an started havin' an aneurism. The next morning, this kid (Chris) wearin' a gay pride shirt wakes up his mom (Annie) by stickin' a fish in her face an everybody seems to think this is all real funny while the fish is slowly suffocatin'. Mom's late for work again, one of these days she's gonna have to realize she's not 40 anymore an she can't stay up til 3am watchin' USA Up All Night. So while they eat breakfast, the kid tells Mom he's got himself a job takin' abuse from some rich yuppy that thinks because he bought a pair of white slacks an a smokin' jacket he knows how to sail a boat. Mom don't like it, but lets face it, at least if he's gonna go for men he's picked a rich one. Elsewhere, some woman that looks like Rhea Perlman with Barbara Streisand's nose starts skeevin' on this nerdy lookin' guy cause he's a doctor an she wants to marry 'im for financial security an so she'll have somebody that can fix her face. At the same time on the beach, The Fabulous Moolah starts propositioning the life guard an... I swear, if all the skeevy women in this movie were men, Women's Lib would've gotten this sucker banned. Elsewhere, Lance Henriksen's out on patrol in the SS Bitter & Resentful when he comes across some Rastafied fisherman that apparently watched the movie Squirm an it scared 'em so bad they started usin' depth charges instead of night crawlers. Lance is P.O'd. So, to break the tension, Gabby (the father of the fishing crew) tosses Lance his next sizzlin' piece of chum bait an Lance has to huck that sombitch as hard as he can so the French won't hear the blast an call up the Italian president an surrender unconditionally. Then Lance gets this "I can't stay mad at you" look on his face an lets the guy go an drives off to make sure no teenagers're havin' beach parties. Back at the docks, Chris is standin' in attention cause the guy that hired 'im to make sure he don't get himself killed is tellin' 'im all about how he runs a tight ship an how he needs all hands on deck an the poop deck is a mess cause he didn't realize the term wasn't meant to be taken literally. So Chris makes sure Captain Kangaroo doesn't destroy his Evinrude before he can even get a chance to get lost at sea an then the captain's daughter starts flirtin' with 'im when she realizes her Dad thinks he's low class.
While this is goin' on, Rhea Streisand starts pretendin' to drown so the doctor'll run out an save her. He does his best to lug her back to the beach but the guy looks a lot like the retarded kid from I Spit on Your Grave so it's really quite a chore for 'im. She claims she needs a doctor so the guy starts callin' for one an she hops right up an gets pissy with the guy cause it's his fault she got some bad information 'til he tells her he's a dentist an she's all happy again cause she loves him for his personality. Meanwhile, the head honcho on the island is mid-filibuster talkin' about his plans for the big upcoming beach party an Annie looks like she's had about 22 Tequila shooters so you know this's been goin' on for awhile. Then we pan over to these two nekkid harlots that're out on their ship readin' pirate literature an pretendin' like one of 'em ain't Italian an that they can understand what each other are sayin'. Elsewhere, Lance pulls up alongside the yuppy an makes 'im pull over onto the shoulder of the ocean an then Lance has to explain to Captain Kangaroo that just cause he's got more money'n God don't mean he can drive around with his radio off. Then Lance takes Chris aboard his boat an it turns out Lance is Chris's Dad an so they drive around an bullshit for a minute while Captain Kangaroo craps his pants thinkin' Lance is gonna impound his dingy. Then Chris gets back on board an pretends like he saved the day an the captain has to go change his shorts. Meanwhile, the Italian harlot is back on land stealin' groceries as though she ain't hot enough to get any guy she wants to pay her just to kick 'em in the junk, only she gets caught by this stuttering weenie an tells 'im that if he looks the other way she an her pasty white first mate'll let 'im be the meat in their party sub. Strangely, he's dumb enough to buy the story, but smart enough to bring the food on his own. Cause the last 13 times this happened the girl just wanted the food. Elsewhere, Annie's goin' over the rules of her divin' class with these yuppies that that all got names like Edith an Armando who're only there so they can go home an tell all their friends about what a "freeing" experience it was to be down there while they sip sherry at their wine club. About that time she realizes this guy that looks like Scott Bakula has taken her class about 36 times an either she's a really lousy teacher, or he's hot for teacher. Once they get below the surface this jerk that thinks he's Michael Phelps swims off on his own an Annie an Tyler (Scott Bakula guy) have to split up an go find 'im cause Annie's insurance takes a huge increase every time one of these guys swims off an tries makin' love to a moray eel.
It's not long before Annie finds the guy, only he's missin' everything below his snorkel an Lance has to come out an tell Tyler to get off his turf an then question Annie. She tells Lance it wasn't a shark, it wasn't a barracuda an she's pretty sure it wasn't Mike Tyson either an she wants to see the body so she can figure out a good preexisting condition angle for her insurance company. Lance says no way. Later on, the wimp with the vocal limp shows up to meet his dates, only after he passes 'em the food an the rope to the boat it starts driftin' out to sea an they tell 'im to jump on. Well, suffice it to say, Mike Powell couldn't make this jump, an once the guy's in the water they ridicule 'im an leave 'im to shrink about it. That evening, Tyler starts stalkin' Annie an badgers her til she says he can hang out with her if he promises to quit bein' so pathetic. She's gonna break into the morgue, an since he would do anything for love, he goes with. She uses her Discover card to jimmy open the door, since that's about the only thing a Discover card's good for, an after they make as many thuds, creaks an bangs as possible while they pull the corpse outta the drawer, she goes all paparazzi on it til the night nurse shows up an threatens to whoop their cracker asses if they don't beat it. But while the nurse is readjusting the guy's sheet a gnarly little monster squirms outta the chest cavity an latches onto her face an gives her about 27 tracheotomies an then FLIES out the window. Back home, Annie reviews her pictures an explains to Tyler that the only thing that could do this kinda damage is the little face shredders from the first movie. Then she an Tyler make the sign of the double humped water buffalo on the sofa. While that's happening, the thievin' bitches are out on the SS Treachery laughin' it up. At least until one of the world's angriest fish sticks flies over an takes the pasty blonde into the water. Bad planning in my opinion, the blonde's got nothin' up top. We're talkin' mosquito bite boobs. The Italian's the one with the breast meat, but they get ahold of her before long too an get her just desserts. Then Annie gets up to look at the special effects designer's portfolio again but it's not long before Lance finds the SS Treachery an the night nurse over at the morgue, as well as Annie's credit card, which she laid down when it outlived its usefulness. Lance can relate, she dropped him quicker'n an insurance company drops a cancer patient. Lance is real P.O.'d this time an he goes over to Annie's house an tells her to stay the hell offa his case an while he's there he'd also like to know when the divin' school switched formats from scuba to muff. The next morning, it's wham bam thanks dude for Tyler, cause Annie's in a hurry to get things done. Unfortunately, when she tries to tell the island honcho about all this he fires her an tells her to get outta that room he's payin' for while she's at it so he can bring in a scientist that'll study his lower anatomy.
While Annie's out gettin' her pink slip, Tyler's on the phone with some military big wig tellin' 'im about how Annie knows about the piscean razorwire swimmin' around an that if they can get her to break the story they'll be able to throw up their hands an pretend they dunno anything about it. But Annie's so distraught about losin' her job she decides to go out to the sunken ship an drown herself, only she puts on all her divin' gear outta habit an by the time she figures out she can still breathe she finds a head so ugly even the piranhas don't want it. They do want her face, however, but Tyler shows up just in time to haul her butt outta there before they can get at her rump roast. Unfortunately for Tyler, she's sure now and she hates that smug Italian island superintendent so much she's gonna get proof an rub it all over his sweaty face even if it means gettin' every protuberance on her body gnawed off. Then Tyler admits to bein' a man in black an Annie tells 'im if he ever wants to get in her cutoffs again he'd better help her. Meanwhile, Lance's got his own problems. Seems Chris an the captain's daughter have gone for a three hour tour in the dinghy an he has to yell at Captain Kangaroo for awhile til he can cool down enough to formulate a plan. Then Annie gets the honcho in a meeting with Lance an Gabby who show 'im a big ole wing an tell 'im Gabby's nets're gettin' mangled like tourists during the runnin' of the bulls in Pamplona. We've all seen Jaws so we know this is goin' nowhere. Then Gabby's son gets mauled inside their shanty an turned into a pile of pork sausage links an when Gabby finds 'im he's got serious sad face. Then he gets mad face, cause them mugga fuggin' flyin' orders of fish 'n chips gone TOO far, an he starts buildin' bombs big enough to scare Paula Deen away from a trough full of butter. About that time, Chris an his upper class piece of ass wake up in their dinghy an by now they're so lost they just saw Tom Hanks go by screamin' at a volleyball. Back ashore, the big beach party's just about to kick off, an as long as Frankie Avalon don't show up, it's lookin' to be real entertaining. So the honcho has the natives start poundin' bongo drums in a totally not at all racist kinda demonstration while Gabby tells Annie about his son an what he's got in store for the frenzied fillet of fish sammiches. Then the stupid yuppy tourists head down to the beach to watch the grunion come ashore yellin' "we want fish", an I'll tell ya something, I wanna see them get fish too. I think we all do. An they get fish. There's enraged guppies on yuppies as far as the eye can see an pretty quick the sand's bloodier than downtown Baghdad. Annie escapes, but it's up to her to carry out the now mutilated Gabby's plan to blow up the sunken ship cause it's like piranha HQ or somethin'. Will she hit 'em where they live? Will Lance save the kids before they get run through the aquatic garbage disposal? Will Tyler ever get in Annie's cutoffs again? None of your goddamn business.
Alrighty, well, while Piranha II is genuinely better than Titanic, it may not even be the best underwater menace movie of 1981. It's still a lot of fun, and not too far off the overall quality of the original, but it's got some problems. I think its really big problem is the pacing. There's a lot of irrelevant subplot goin' on here, and that sort of thing flies alright in a Friday the 13th movie, but here, not so much. In fact, not at all, cause you know when you see characters pop in halfway through the movie that you've not seen before, that you're at least gonna get to watch 'em get a spear gun shot through their eardrum. Here, they've got a few sets of characters that exist solely for levity's sake. Alright, the lecherous older lady hitting on the lifeguard asking him if he's interested in a "casual encounter" is pretty goddamn funny, but the rest is just stupid. The IMDB lists the runtime at 84 minutes, and mentions that there's an "extended" edition that's 94 minutes. The DVD is this 94 minute version. So I'm thinking maybe the extra footage is all this irrelevant subplot an that the 84 minute version may very well totally negate that problem. That's just a theory though. Really, we paid for flyin' piranhas chewin' on people's butt cheeks, so in the future lets try to keep it simple, okay guys? Guy's makin' a killer fish movie an he tries to turn it into War an Peace, I swear. Oh an the subplot with Carole Davis is okay cause she pops her top an she's got some seriously impressive assets. Strangely, it seems that James Cameron actually isn't as responsible for the movie as the box may lead you to believe in an effort to get you buy it. You've all seen the "From the Director of The Lord of the Rings" line on the cover of Bad Taste, so you probably won't be real surprised to read "From the Director of Avatar and Titanic" on the cover of this. Cause, they're pretty much the same movie, right? I mean, if you liked Avatar you're gonna love Piranha II, and Titanic, well, two horrible menaces that emerge from the ocean to terrorize humans, right? If you've seen one you really don't even need to see the other. Which is just as well, cause Leonardo DiCaprio isn't anywhere near Lance Henriksen's league. Back to what I was sayin' though, the majority of the job was actually done by producer Ovidio Assonitis. Seems he wasn't satisfied with what Cameron was doin' with all his lira an pretty much took over. Cameron did the shooting, but when he tried to cut his own version the producer caught him and recut it. Suffice it to say, the guy was a serious pain in the Assonitis. Sounds like somethin' you'd catch in a Guatemalan whore house.
Okay, lets root around inside this beast an see what bites us. Anyone criticizing the plot is missing the point. Lets just get that out there right now. It's a B horror movie that features flying piranhas, so I'd suggest anybody doin' that quit tryin' to pick the only fruit they can reach an focus on its legitimate problems. The plot's silly, and it's supposed to be, although as I mentioned earlier, if some of that subplot was cut out it'd be a lot smoother. The acting on the part of the important characters, is fine. The subplot characters... not so much. Hildy Magnasun and Phil Colby reek like Al Bundy's sweat socks. Everybody else ranges from acceptable to good. The movie's nothing that acting students should watch an try to emulate, but it could be so much worse an I think by now you know why I say that. So, here's who matters and why. Kind of a short list this for this one: Tricia O'Neil (Brave New World 1980), Steve Marachuk (Eyes of Laura Mars), Ricky Paull Goldin (Mirror Mirror, The Blob 1988, Hyper Sapien: People from Another Star) Carole Davis (Ed Gein, Project: Metalbeast), Dorothy Cunningham (Ritual), Captain Kid Brewer Jr., (The Abyss), Carolyn De Fonseca (Big time Italian dubbing voice actress for a lot of B horror movies), Ted Rusoff (The Eighteenth Angel, Catacombs, Absurd, Nightmare City, Beyond the Darkness, Destroy All Monsters, Yongary Monster of the Deep). Lance Henriksen of course is the man, an shouldn't need an introduction. Sidebar here though real quick. Connie Lynn Hadden, the blonde with the mosquito bite boobs. She was a Penthouse Pet back in October 1981, right around the time this movie was released, actually. The idea of a centerfold with apricots where there aughta be melons boggles my mind, I thought for sure I'd clicked the wrong link and that it was Carole Davis that was in Penthouse. Apparently not. Can't imagine that was a real big seller, but I guess it's not too important.
The special effects, overall, are decent. Sure, there's a few instances where you can see the strings the fish are zip cording on, but generally speaking the fish don't look too bad. They tend to look worse head on than from the side, but I'd still say they're alright. Nothing special, just okay. Most of the viscera and chewed up faces look pretty good as well, with the exception of the severed head Tricia O'Neil finds down in the ship, cause it's probably the worst effect in the movie. Still, an overall positive. It's also got nicely scouted shooting locations, all of which were shot in Jamaica. They never say where they are in the movie, only that it's an island, although you do get some glimpses during the few city sequences that tell you it wasn't being shot in a first world country. Still, I like 'em, even though it's not very distinctive and has so much underwater footage you could get the same effect just about anywhere. And lastly, the soundtrack. The soundtrack is hit and miss. It could be best summarized thusly: if there are violins playing, it's a good track that's effectively providing tension. When there's no violins, it's a dull, droning, repetitive sloth that does nothing to help, and is rather obnoxious to listen to for such lengthy periods. So call that portion of the overall grade a wash. Bottom line, it's silly, it's hokey, and it's a lot of fun. Not quite as good as the original, but close. Check it out if you're into fish maulings.