A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 525 – Piranha Part Two: The Spawning

Piranha Part Two: The Spawning – August 7th, 2011

We had originally purchased this in case we needed an extra Shark Week movie. Sure, it’s not about sharks, but from its description it seemed like it would fit right in. And then we ended up watching all the Jaws sequels and that filled our week, so we tacked it onto the end, finishing up with a little miniature killer fish movie like a wafer thin mint at the end of a huge meal. Of chum. We don’t own the first movie that this is a sequel to, nor am I about to go out and buy it. This one was more than enough for me, thank you very much. I’m perfectly fine with this being the one and only piranha movie in our collection. I’m not planning on starting a Piranha Week now.

I haven’t seen the movie this is supposedly a sequel to and I highly doubt that I ever will. Granted, I did enjoy watching this on a cheesetastic level, but unlike, say, Sharktopus I don’t see myself putting it in again for fun. But I will say this: This movie has a fantastic monster. I mean, who doesn’t love flying salt water piranhas that make squeaky styrofoam noises? Aside from my mother, who doesn’t understand how I can watch crap like this and come away amused. As with many of the shark movies, the whole point here is the monster and its attacks on people. There’s an attempt at plot, but really, who cares about plot? I can tell you, it’s going to be nice to get back to movies with actual stories and characters and things to care about.

The supposed plot of this movie revolves around a separated couple, their son, the lothario trying to get into the wife’s wetsuit and an island resort that would, of course, be ruined by actually caring about the safety of its guests. Anne Kimbrough and her son are living at the resort while Anne gives SCUBA lessons and guided dives to the guests. Her husband, Steve, is the local chief of police. He’s also kind of a jackass, but that’s par for the course in this movie where I think almost everyone but Anne and her son are at least a little loathsome. Anne and Steve are separated (probably because Steve’s a controlling ass) and Steve makes it clear he hates what Anne is doing, calling it “guided drowning” or something like that. And granted, in this movie yes, diving in the area is super dangerous what with the piranhas, but when he gets all assy about it the piranhas have only eaten two people, and they were going without SCUBA gear to have sex underwater at a sunken wreck, so I’d say they were well outside Anne’s safe diving guidelines.

Anyhow! It’s clear that the whole set-up of Anne and Steve and Steve’s insistence that Anne is risking people’s lives and all is there so that when people start showing up chewed on and dead he has an excuse to tell her to stick to dry land. Of course Anne doesn’t. Instead, after a diver on one of her dives gets chewed up she breaks into the morgue to take a look at the body and ends up getting a lecture from Steve implying that he thinks she did it. Or she’s responsible. Or something. One could read it as concern on his part, wanting to keep her out of the way so she doesn’t get blamed for something he knows isn’t her fault. And one could argue that given their estrangement he couldn’t really express said concern in any way other than yelling at her. But I don’t know if I want to give this movie that much credit for emotional nuance.

Complicating the whole thing is a guy who’s been taking Anne’s classes and trying to get her to go out with him. Turns out he’s mixed up in the whole piranha thing, which is, of course, due to some sort of secret government project that got loose. He’s trying to cover it up but he knows Anne is doing the Nancy Drew thing and investigating. And I guess I can almost forgive him the skeevy insistence that she have drinks with him since she ends up getting him to help her break into the morgue in return and he did have other reasons. Still, this is a crappy horror movie, so of course they end up in bed together. Come on, did you think they wouldn’t? Women love skeevy guys!

The entire thing comes to a climax with the resort’s big fish fry during a spawning night where the resort encourages the guests to go out to the beach and bash up the fish that congregate at the shore to spawn. And, like you haven’t already guessed, the fish who show up are the piranhas and they come buzzing out of the ocean on their little wings, zipping through the air to chow down on annoying resort guests left and right. I honestly don’t know if the resort owner got nibbled, but I hope he did. If he didn’t then I would count it among the movie’s failures (which are many), because so very many people get eaten and it seems silly to make this guy out to be such a money-grubbing jerk and then not have him at least lose an eye or something. The movie kills off friends and foes alike, from the two women who initially show up topless and get all their meals by scamming resort staff to the fisherman and his son who seem to be good folks on friendly terms with Anne and Steve. Even the annoying but ultimately innocent newlyweds at the resort for their honeymoon get attacked.

It’s really just a thoroughly ridiculous movie that’s mostly an excuse to show women in bathing suits (and out) and get people all covered in holes from the piranhas. There are some great moments with the piranhas, I admit. Such as when one camps out inside a corpse for hours and hours, then pops out to attack the morgue attendant. The noises they make are fantastic regardless of anything else in the movie. As monsters for a cheesy horror movie, they deliver. They deliver well. The trouble is that the rest of the movie is such a complete mess. There’s cheesy comedy, with the desperate older woman trying to hit on every young stud who walks within a 20 foot radius and the sterotypically nerdy couple who, I believe, manage to escape from the spawning unscathed. And then there’s the drama with Anne and Steve and Steve’s insistence that Anne is somehow at fault here. There’s the government cover-up. And there’s the young love subplot with Anne and Steve’s son and the daughter of the rich guy whose boat the son is helping out on. It’s very much a “toss some plot threads at the wall and see what sticks” sort of movie, with bonus gratuitous breasts and plenty of blood. Amusing enough, but nothing terribly special.

August 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Piranha Part Two: The Spawning

August 7, 2011

Piranha Part Two: The Spawning

I bought this movie as a companion piece to our Shark Week this year based on little bits of information I knew about it even though I had never seen it before tonight and had never seen the movie it is supposedly a sequel to. The DVD we purchased proudly bore a sticker on the cover claiming that it was “From the director of Titanic and Avatar,” which amused me since I knew it was a cheesy movie about rubber fish on strings attacking people. How could I pass such a thing up?

Now I had known that the original Piranha movie was produced by the inimitable Roger Corman and I had thought somehow that this movie was as well. It made sense in my head that James Cameron would have gotten his start directing under Corman in the same way that Ron Howard did. Sadly it appears that I was mistaken. This movie was produced by, co-written by, and co-directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis – which looks to me as though it has to be an anagram for something because no way is that a real name. (Okay – so it’s Italian and he’s a producer of schlocky Italian horror movies, although if he had one more ‘t’ in his name it would be an anagram for “A good vision is tits” which seems to be his motto.)

This movie shares more in common with seventies Italian “breastploitation” movies than with the cheesy gorefest I had been expecting. I guess after watching so many made-for-TV shark movies in a row I was unprepared for a film that starts right out with a couple getting naked in a submerged wreck for some scuba-sex before they are eaten (mostly off camera) by the creatures from the title. Not that I’m complaining. Before we get to the actual plot of the movie there’s a fair amount of gratuitous nudity and if I had owned this as a thirteen year old my right arm probably would have fallen off. Sadly, the breasts only temporarily distracted me from the fact that this is a pretty badly flawed film in general.

Flaw number one is the painful comic relief. The movie is set on a resort island and the local hotel (on the eve of their annual spawning festival, when they gorge themselves on migrating fish or something) is filled with a colorful array of caricatures. There’s a gold-digging young woman who wants to snare a doctor. There’s an annoying couple who make a lot of noise about how completely besotted they are with each other. There’s the pair of nudist women on their boat who decide to raid the resort’s kitchen to resupply their yacht. There’s the skeevy cougar who wants to have sex with one of the resort employees. There’s the dynamite-fishing hick and his mute son who add local color. It’s a nauseating group of characters, and frankly a lot of the fun of the movie is waiting for them to get eaten. (I have to admit that by the end of the movie I was somewhat disappointed that not all of the annoying characters died and that some of the more sympathetic ones did.)

Then there’s the lead characters. A marine biologist woman has a job at the resort working as a dive instructor, which nets her a free suite at the hotel which she shares with her son. Her ex-husband works for the local police. One of her scuba diving students is a sleazy stalker who spends most of the movie trying to get into her pants – and eventually succeeds. What’s never adequately explained is why Anne the dive instructor has broken up with Steve the police chief in the first place. Aside from his kind of manic episodes where he pretty much accuses her of killing a woman at the morgue he seems like a nice enough guy, and clearly they both dote on their son (who spends the entire movie working as a cabin boy for a foppish moron with an improbably well endowed daughter.) I guess he needs to be out of the picture so that Tyler can have his sleazy way with Anne.

Part of my confusion with this whole plot, and I’ll admit that I tuned out for vast sections of it, was that the only actor I really felt was worth watching at all was Lance Henriksen as police chief Steve. He feels sometimes like he’s playing two different roles since he has to be the skeptic who stands in the way of Anne’s investigation but he’s also the hero at the end of the movie who goes out to save their son when the fish start eating everybody on the island. It’s confusing to me, but – again – I wasn’t paying very close attention. Furthermore, their son Chris doesn’t seem to be in much danger of anything except being trapped in a boat with a scantily clad teenager who barely fits in her top – not a fate most teenagers would want to be rescued from.

Another odd thing in this movie is its score. I don’t know quite how to describe it. It has a vaguely classical feel to it with occasional bursts of electric guitar, and it never blends very well with the visuals. It also is poorly edited – cutting abruptly at the end of some scenes or fading in and out awkwardly. It almost feels like a temp track at times, but no, that’s the actual score.

What saves this movie is the piranhas themselves. Flying piranhas on strings. Piranhas that squeak like styrofoam when they’re above water and warble amusingly when under water. They’re always shown out of focus or in extreme close up (with a few exceptions) because they are not in any way articulated (except for their flapping wings in some shots.) I don’t think their jaws even move. When they attack people the actors have to hold the fake fish against their necks and smear themselves with fake blood to simulate being eaten. It would seem that the piranha of this movie have mastered the skill of leaping directly at a human’s jugular and that’s how they kill most of their victims. They remind me of nothing so much as the deadly rabbit from Monty Python’s Holy Grail – except that they’re less convincing.

I suppose that this is a fun enough movie. It’s stupid, badly dubbed at times, and filled with annoying characters, but many of them get killed by hilariously cheesy flying fish. That makes things alright in my book. Just don’t claim that this is a James Cameron film, because it has very little in it that feels like it bears his mark at all. Except maybe Lance Henricksen crashing a helicopter. That feels like the Cameron I know and love.

August 7, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 1 Comment