Monday, October 27, 2008

Film Review: PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING (1981, James Cameron)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 94 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Lance Henriksen, Stelvio Cipriani
Tag-line: "The terror is back...but this time it FLIES," "It all just started as a vacation...," and "Guess who's coming to dinner?"
Best one-liner(s): "The air in the room was too conditioned."

If one were to take a superficial look at PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING, one could see that it has all the hallmarks of a terrible or great film, depending on your point of view: killer animals, T&A, Lance Henriksen, and a LOT of Italian names in the credits. I'm generally of the latter stance, and I think PIRANHA II starts of very well. A rip-off Ennio Morricone score, Lance Henriksen as a Roy Scheider-in-JAWS-clone with surprising pathos (well, not surprising if you're a devotee of Henriksen's prolific career), use of the excuse "the air in the room was too conditioned", and a Jamaican man running on the beach (the first image after the opening credits end) in the most extraordinarily girlish manner I have ever witnessed. The rest of the film should be a gold mine.

And when we get to the flying piranha (who are always accompanied by a sound effect that resembles a pigeon being tortured by street urchins), it's thoroughly entertaining. However, too many subplots, an unfunny stuttering chef, and a big bland denouement come to pass and take the wind from PIRANHA's sails. James Cameron unfortunately forgets that Joe Dante's cartoonish characters and sincere love for 50's creature features is what made the first PIRANHA work. As Cameron's first feature, however, it's an interesting time capsule and contains a great deal of the themes he would later thrive on: a horde of fang-toothed monsters (ALIENS), deep-sea diving (THE ABYSS), sunken shipwrecks (TITANIC, GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS, EXPEDITION: BISMARCK), a secret agent pretending to be a normal guy (TRUE LIES), and the inimitable Lance Henriksen (THE TERMINATOR, ALIENS, etc.).

-Sean Gill

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