Joe Dante’s cult horror classic Piranha has finally received the bluray treatment. It tells the story of a group of people in a summer resort who encounter a group of mutant piranhas ready to nibble them to death. In true B-movie style, the film gets off to a great start with a teen couple exploring an abandoned area and stumbling across the ravenous fish. Piranha then progresses into a mishmash of events leading to more nibbling. The key to a film like this is fairly simple; it mainly consists of nudity followed by gore followed by nudity and more gore. It’s no wonder that the recent remakes of this film have gone overboard with such elements. Nevertheless this film is such a farce it can become nothing more than pure entertainment. Dante is playful and skilled in B-movie craft. It is clearly meant to be tongue in cheek and steals all its basic ideas from Jaws (the interviewees on the special features clearly state this as fact), think midget Jaws, multiplied, in a lake.
This is possibly the only film in existence which has found a way to make it acceptable to zoom continuously up to a child’s crotch; this is quite an achievement in itself. The underwater shots are then made ten times more ridiculous by what looks like a piranha-shaped glove controlled by the camera operator ferociously nibbling people. The physical reality to these creatures is great even if they do look completely unrealistic. Dante’s later film Gremlins also employed these techniques to a much higher quality and this example of his early work shows his ability to make use of props and animatronics. Gremlins is definitely a film of higher quality than this but it is equally absurd at times.
The script in Piranha is painfully bad but exceptionally fitting with the stupid characters. All the bad and stupid elements in this film just make it ten times funnier. My favourite line has to be “Look up in the sky, it’s Superman” said by a character trying to distract a guard. There’s also a laughable attempt at a back-story and the pacing of the film is all over the place and even the soundtrack is muddled and jarring. This, mixed with every cliché in the horror handbook, shapes Piranha into a hilarious muddle of a film great for horror fans.
In terms of the bluray itself, the transfer is more than acceptable with rich colour in many scenes, a definite upgrade. There are some really great special features on the disc for fans of the film, including a good twenty minute documentary and behind the scenes footage as well as some outtakes. This is worth purchasing if you’re already a fan of the film or are interested in tacky cult horror films.