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Piranha is one of the earlier horror movies I was ever allowed to see. I remember wandering into the local video store with my father one night and seeing this badass looking VHS box. At first he was a bit hesitant, but I reminded him that I had already seen "JAWS" and made the argument that this was probably another movie just like that, so he let me rent it. The artwork had me convinced that this movie would be about mutant Piranhas that were larger than humans, and while that turned out to not be the case, it was still a damned entertaining movie. How could it not be when horror talents like Roger Corman, Joe Dante and John Sayles were behind it?

Great graphics!

While they weren't trying to be too over-the-top with the cheesiness of this horror flick, the creators weren't shy about hiding the fact that their movie was both a response and an homage to Jaws. To help drive this point home, the first scene after the title credits role has the leading actress (Heather Menzies) playing the Jaws video game for a solid minute.

So the basic plot of the movie is that Dr. Robert Hoak (Kevin McCarthy - aka: R.J. Fletcher from "UHF") was hired by the U.S. Army to create a special breed of piranha that not only breed at an incredibly fast rate, but can survive in cold water and saltwater. It was called Operation: Razorteeth. So, when two backpacking teens are missing (because they were eaten), a private investigator comes to the old army test site and drains the pool in hopes of finding their bodies. Little does she know that she just let these deadly piranha escape into the river which is connected to a a local resort. From here, it's just a feast for the fish.

Why did the piranha cross the road? TO EAT YOUR FACE! lol

One of the best things about this movie is of course the complete lack of CGI and the presence of awesome piranha models. While they move extremely fast in the movie, you can see from this test shot above just how evil they were made to look. Real piranha are scary enough, but these mutant piranha look like they were genetically spliced with one of the CHUD monsters. I really need to take this footage and have the two piranhas telling each other bad jokes sometime. Remember folks, you can't spell "Piranha" without the "HA"!

While the movie has plenty of memorable piranha attack scenes, including an attack on a bunch of kids at summer camp, the one scene that always stuck out in my mind more than any other was the one on Jack (Keenan Wynn).

Don't lose your head over some tail?

Jack is an old man who's just enjoying the golden years of his life by hanging out with his dog Brandy, having a drink and enjoying the river. "I've got the river. It wakes me up in the morning, gives me a bath, does my laundry, gives me dinner, puts me to sleep real gentle." He's just a nice old dude who you'd like to hear tell a story or two about the good ol' days. Unfortunately for him, the piranha that have just escaped to his river are coming right for him... and they're not interested in his stories.


He sits on the disheveled dock by his house with his feet in the water, trying to catch some fish as he tells his dog a story, when the piranha come right up to his feet for a bite. Jack screams while the dog barks its head off at the bubbling bloody water down below. Now, if any sane person got bit by a piranha, they'd instantly pull their feet out of the water, but not Jack. No, he just sits there screaming in agony as the piranha enjoy a mid-afternoon foot snack. I should mention that the piranha make an absolutely fantastic sound whenever they attack.

Somebody get that man some knee socks, stat!

A little later on, Jack's body is found a little closer to his house. Turns out that he dragged himself towards the house, but keeled over due to the blood loss. As you can see, his feet and ankles were gnawed right down to the bone. While it's a lil' sad to see the nice old guy go, especially since the lead character, Paul Grogan, is a drunken asshole who I always wanted to see get killed (along with the pushy camp counselor), it's a great death scene both for the gore and for the absurdity of it all. I mean really, piranha are fast eaters, but he still could've taken his feet out before they were stripped of all flesh. But that's one of the things that makes the film so much fun... it's cheesy, but not too cheesy to where the humor feels forced, and there's plenty of great kills for all you gorehounds out there.

All in all, Piranha is a great flick for fans of killer creatures in the water, and it's among the best tributes to JAWS you'll ever come across. The lengthy attack on the Lost River Lake Resort towards the end of the film is definitely not to be missed. I highly recommend picking up the 20th Anniversary "Special Edition" DVD of this flick because you'll get to see all sorts of great footage - including the piranha models being tested in the water as they tear the flesh right off the limbs of some prop dummies.

Besides, if this extra from the DVD doesn't make you want to see more of Piranha...

I may have no feet, but I can grow wings and fly away!

...then nothing will.

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a horrible night indeed! :o