There has always been a primal fear within humans of the water and what might be lurking within it. Many films have tried to convey this fear, many have failed, few have succeeded. Not say that this is one of them but it sure does have a good time trying.
Our story starts when two idiotic back-packers decide to trespass on what seems to be an abandon army research base, always a good thing to be doing especially at night. The two nitwits find what they think is an ideal swimming pool, just there to be used for all and sundry. Let the skinny dipping commence. The pair dive in and within little time at all, the two of them have become fish food for whatever beasties this pool had in wait for them.
With the two now died, the pair have now been reported missing by the girl’s parents and Maggie McKeown (Heather Menzies – The Sound of Music and SSSSnake), an investigator is hired to track them down. With details of where they were last seen, Maggie travels the mountain range and starts looking for more info on the whereabouts of the missing nitwits.
Maggie comes across the cabin or shack as she puts it of Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman – Guyana: Cult of the Damned and The Swarm), a ex-army veteran now living out his days up in the mountains with his young daughter, who is away at the local summer camp. With some badgering Maggie persuades Grogan to help her find the missing two and tells her of the abandoned army base further up the mountain.
Maggie, with Grogan in toe, break-in to the base and start snooping around. They find the pool as well as a piece of jewellery that belonged to the missing girl and come to the conclusion that the pair must have drowned and that they need to drain the pool to find the bodies. On further inspection of the bass they find a laboratory full of wired fish-like creatures along with the missing pair’s belongings. Maggie finds the switch to drain the pool. As she does they are confronted by a crazed scientist (Kevin McCarthy – Matinee and The Howling), who charges at her in a panic to stop what she has done. In the confusion and ruckus that follows he is knocked out.
With the pool now drained Maggie and Grogan go to inspect and discover the bare bones of the missing back-packers. As they are doing this the injured scientist comes too and steals the pair’s jeep, but promptly crashes on trying to escape and is now badly injured.
With the jeep out of action and the scientist injured their only way to get help is to travel down river. Maggie and Grogan still unaware of what has been released into the river system, the two of them load the scientist on to a raft and set off downstream. With questions to be answered, Maggie starts to get information out of the scientist. He explains who he is, Dr. Robert Hoak, and what the two have let loss into the river, a breed of mutant piranha that were developed for the Vietnam War and that everybody is in danger.
With the revelations of what has been done, the race is now on down the river to stop this meat eating machines. Even more so now for Grogan as his own daughter is at a summer camp further down the river.
We the piranha now heading off downstream, a schmogasboard of victims are building up as they go along, with a local hermit’s legs chewed of to knees and father while out canoeing with his son so becomes brunch. With each of these scenes done to great effect, with a tense build-up and good scares, you know you’re in for a treat with what’s to come further down the river, culminating in not one but two piranha massacres towards the end of the film.
Though a film that is seen by many as a knock-off of greater works and nobody can deny that it isn’t; this film plays to its strengths with a knowing script, likable characters, even the villains of the piece and a good monster. A film such as this always needs a good monster and these piranhas provide that, though not the large single beast the Bruce was from Jaws but as a ravenous pack of razor-sharp teeth able to cause just as much carnage if not more. With such a monster as this, Joe Dante (Joe Dante – Gremlins and The ‘burbs) doesn’t hold back on the carnage that unfolds throughout the film, with nobody safe from these creatures even little kids.
For me a film I found totally enjoyable and one that I will be returning to again in the near future and with Joe Dante (The Hole) and Piranhas (Piranha 3D) back at the cinema this year, nothing could be more apt than having another look at Piranha.
Bradford Dillman … Paul Grogan
Heather Menzies … Maggie McKeown
Kevin McCarthy … Dr. Robert Hoak
Keenan Wynn … Jack
Dick Miller … Buck Gardner
Barbara Steele … Dr. Mengers
Directed By … Joe Dante
The video game that Maggie is playing toward the beginning of the movie is “Jaws”.
Get The Film