Monday, May 31, 2010

Piranha Part Two: The Spawning - 2/5

Piranha Part Two has the dubious reputation today of being academy award winning director James Cameron's feature film debut. He may want you to believe that The Terminator was his first film but Piranha Part Two beat The Terminator out by three years. I have to hand it to the Piranha series, it sure did give interesting debuts for some great directors. Despite having Cameron at the helm Piranha Part Two lacks the same B-movie magic of its predecessor despite it's ridiculous concept of, get this, flying piranha! I don't put the full blame on Cameron for not making this an "A" of a "B" movie as I believe, from my research, that a lot of the films failure is also due to producer interference. The original Piranha was produced by the American rip-off king Roger Corman who gave director Joe Dante complete creative control. This sequel however is produced by Italian rip-off king Ovidio G. Assonitis, the same man who gave us such "classics" as "Beyond the Door" and his own Jaws rip-off "Tentacles." From what I have read he was a hellacious producer to work for and took a lot of the creative control from Cameron. Having Roger Corman as the producer of a film can mean a schlocky good time but having Ovideo as a producer of film usually means a warning to potential viewers.

The film opens with two lovers diving near a ship wreckage and in the heat of passion they become fish food. We are then given nice little title sequence with cool 80's visual graphics and a catchy score. We are then introduced to our main character Anne Kimbrough, a diving instructor who has what is my opinion an awkwardly close relationship with her son. It seems the lovers who were killed in the beginning of the film were part of her diving class. In comes a potential love interest for her (and a jealous rage grows in her ex-husband Lance Henrickson, the local police chief) who is later revealed to be a government scientist who is investigating a lost canister of piranha eggs. In the mean time the film has a few flying piranha attacks to keep the audience from falling asleep. Interestingly enough there is a piranha sequence that is very reminiscent of the chesterburster in Alien that has a piranha leap out of a cadaver to bite a innocent bystander on the neck. A premonition of James Cameron to direct Aliens.... only the Cinema Gods know! Later a local resort owner, in good Jaws rip-off fashion, ignores the warnings and in turn many of his guest become flying piranha food.

James Cameron tries hard but he can't keep this ship-wreck of a sequel afloat. Knowing the audience can't take the plot of flying piranha seriously he tries to inject some humor into the film and sadly, for lack of a better word, the humor is just comes out stupid. He tries to counterbalance the bad script by making characters that actually seem human and even gets the audience to care for them a bit. By doing this he also gets some solid performances by our lead actors, especially Lance Henrickson. Overall though the film comes out as an awkward combination of seriousness and humor, no doubt trying to emulate the first Piranha film, but James Cameron is unable to pull this combination off successfully. The connection to the first Piranha film is also flimsy at best and the events of the first film are briefly mentioned in dialogue. Though the ending of the first film toyed with the fact the Piranha got to the ocean, the filmmakers here decide to make these piranha a completely different batch accidentally released.

On the plus side the film is pretty graphic and has some good gore effects thanks to Giannetto De Rossi, the man behind some of Italy's most gory films including Zombie, The Beyond, and City of the Living Dead. Though not near as bloody as those, his make-up effects are impressive. Sadly the rest of the effects are not and the flying piranha on string will not convince the audience that fish can fly. The awful miniature effects are also typical with Ovidio G. Assonitis productions.

Overall this is a sequel that misses the mark. It tries to emulate the first film with mixing humor and seriousness but Cameron proves he is uncomfortable handling this format and that it should be left to the master Joe Dante. Despite being a B-movie the plot about flying piranha is just too ridiculous for audiences to take seriously despite Cameron trying to counter balance it with good performances. Piranha Part Two is now resorted to only being a curiosity piece for fans of James Cameron to see how the director got his start. In the words of James Cameron, this is absolutely the best film about flying piranha ever made. I do have to say I would rather watch this B-movie drivel again any day over re-watching his overblown Avatar!

Written By Eric Reifschneider

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