Piranha (1978)

Posted: October 6, 2013 in Movie Review
Tags: , , , ,

Piranha

Directed By: Joe Dante

Starring: Bradford Dillman, Heather Menzies, Kevin McCarthy, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele, Bruce Gordon, Keenan Wynn, Belinda Balaski

Subgenre: Creature Feature

Synopsis: A massive school of killer piranha are accidentally released into the wild and threaten both a summer camp and a resort.

Thoughts: The success of Jaws created a tidal wave of “animal attack” movies in the late 70’s and early 80’s.  One of the best “rip-offs” has to be the Roger Corman produced and Joe Dante directed Pirnaha.  To be fair, nothing that imitated Jaws came anywhere close to capturing the terror of that giant shark, nor did any of them come close to the quality of Jaws, but at least a handful of them are pretty fun.

The acting in Piranha is a bit of a mixed bag, with some pretty over the top hammy performances along with some pretty awesome supporting roles.  Bradford Dillman plays Paul Grogan, a drunk hermit who ends up as the unlikely hero of the movie. In a lot of ways, he reminded me of Tom Atkins, probably because he was an older guy that didn’t give a shit and still bedded a younger leading lady.  His obvious pulls from his flask were often so ill-timed that it was hilarious!  I also loved seeing Dick Miller and the beautiful Barbara Steele in supporting roles.  Miller has a history of playing a sort of bungling character, and doesn’t deviate from that here either.

Joe Dante doesn’t seem to get enough respect when you talk about the “Masters of Horror.”  Guys like Wes Craven, George Romero and John Carpenter are often at the top of people’s list as far as horror director’s go, but Dante’s resume is pretty damn impressive and very diverse, which might be why he isn’t considered in the same light as some of the greats.  Piranha is one of his earliest works and his introduction to the horror genre. It’s pretty easy to see why Dante would go on to a successful career behind the camera as he does a great job here.  He keeps the action moving and the Piranha attacks were pretty inventive, even if you don’t really see much of them in the water.

As I mentioned before, Piranha is one of the better animal attack movies not named Jaws out there.  It’s close to the top of my list and one that I revisit often.  It’s like comfort food!  If you haven’t seen this one yet, make it a point to check it out.

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Comments
  1. I watched this on Netflix for the first time last night, based on your review. I enjoyed it a LOT more than I thought I would. I think the fact that the piranhas are mostly off-screen really helps out a lot. Makes the attack scenes intense. As far as Joe Dante’s filmography goes, I actually like this better than The Howling, but not as much as Gremlins.

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