Saturday, August 23, 2014

Film Review: Piranha (1978)

Piranha (Review)
United States/1978
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...just enough b-movie cheese, mild suspense, and practical effects to be moderately entertaining."

While searching for a pair of missing teens, insurance investigator Maggie (Heather Menzies) and local alcoholic Paul (Bradford Dillman) unwittingly unleash a vicious group of genetically-modified piranha.

Piranha continues to follow Maggie and Paul after accidentally releasing this set of piranhas. Basically, they find out more about the piranhas, then try to stop them from hitting two groups: a summer camp full of children and a resort on opening day. The buildup to the climax is slow and mildly effective, and the climax is surprising and well executed -- I often forget how old-school films had more freedom and were more daring -- anyone could be a target, no need to be politically or socially correct. The ending was good, too, but it ends with a cheesy line.

I suppose it should, though, considering Piranha is a b-movie at heart. And, as a horror b-movie, it's filled with bad dialogue, intentional and unintentional humor, and some decent and outdated special effects. Sure, it's somewhat ineffective and uneventful during its first hour, but it has some much appreciated charm. In fact, it has enough charm and wit, as well as good enough direction, to be an enjoyed as more than just another b-movie. I'll tell you this: it's not as "b-movie" as The Incredible Melting Man, that's for sure.

The acting is on par with most 70s horror and b-movies. In other words, it's occasionally decent but mostly bad. Our two leads, Heather Menzies and Bradford Dillman, are decent. The rest sound like robots -- I mean, there is no fluidity in their spoken word. The film looks and sounds decent, though. The special effects and makeup are decent -- I like watching these old-school films for the special effects, so I'm slightly biased. They look out of place at times, but they're interesting, to say the least. Director Joe Dante is good; the film shares many similarities to Jaws, but has a distinct charm and wit thanks to Joe Dante.

Overall, Piranha is a good film. It's a little slow and uneventful at times, and it undoubtedly treads familiar territory, but it offers just enough b-movie cheese, mild suspense, and practical effects to be moderately entertaining. If you're a fan of these types of films, Piranha is satisfactory.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some nudity.

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