Blu-ray review: Piranha (1978)


2010 saw Kelly Brook nakedly parade around and Ving Rhames literally legless in what was a lose remake of Joe Dante’s 1978 original. It’s taken a while, but that original has now found its way onto Blu-ray in what is a fairly pleasing transfer with some tasty behind-the-scenes footage of the production.

piranha 1978Pirahna is, above all else, an entertaining B-movie. Its elements of horror and satire may be more overt in the recent reimagining, but the fundamental notions and formulaic approach are evident in this film that came but a few years after Spielberg’s huge sea monster hit Jaws. And its influence couldn’t be clearer or more intentional either, because Pirahna is basically Jaws with smaller fish in larger quantities. However, it is perhaps a more throwaway, entertaining movie because of the whimsical tone it floats along at; preferring this opposed to the scarier, genuinely terrifying, threatening beast Spielberg created.

The story sets up well and develops as you’d expect, and is led well by Paul(Bradford Dillman) and Maggie (Heather Menzies). Even from the outset, one can tell its shameless cash in value, but pulls it off with a self awareness to the point of showing off. For example, very early on in the film Maggie plays on a Jaws arcade machine, as this sets the tone for the rest of the movie and reveals the kind of escapades the characters are about to embark on.

The special effects are anything but, yet work to a comical effect, adhering to a low budget exploitation movie. We’re not even privy to the swarms of piranha in times of peril other than a cheap visual of moving fish for a split second, which works in the context of an intentionally cheap B-movie rip off. As the film progresses, we do gradually see more and more of the nibbly nasties, but it’s the reccurence of the weird noises and samey visuals that signify impending attacks that become strangely hypnotic. Obviously this process, along with a bulk of its other content, is a device for the audience and again works on a trashy, parodying level.

Naturally, the further into the plot we delve, the more dangerous the spread of these deadly piranha become, as they spread into fresh water streams and rivers. We begin to see of the beasts themselves, little by little, gratuitous blood bath by blood bath, which feels at home in the unsubtle world of what is essentially a horror comedy.

Piranha is likeable fun and has a retro comedic aesthetic as it swipes at its counterparts, whilst maintaining audience interest. With a modest running time of just over the 90 minute mark, it is fluffy, amusing and entertaining. If you seek something a little more whimsy and tongue-in-cheek than the copious ¬†amount of straight-up horror, then here’s a gem to embrace at face value and to enjoy the way Joe Dante intended for it to be consumed. Apologies for any puns included in this review.