Sony // 1981 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 4th, 2003
A new breed of terror.
Welcome to Club Elysium! See the sights! Sample the cuisine! Be attacked by flying deformed seafood! Yes, it's all in a day's work (and death) for the unlucky folks in James (Titanic, True Lies) Cameron's directing debut Piranha II: The Spawning! Anne Kimbrough (Tricia O'Neil) is a diving instructor who is witnessing dead bodies piling up faster than you can say "airborne tuna." Along for the ride is her ex-hubby police officer Steve Kimbrough (Lance Henricksen, Aliens) and a lot of folks who will be utilized as Neanderthal chum. A la the plot of Spielberg's superior Jaws, Anne desperately tries to convince the manager of the resort to shut down the annual fish fry until they can get a handle on the situation. And just what is the situation, you ask? Oh, nothing of much importance...except a few governmentally enhanced giant flying mutant killer piranha!!! Ahhhhhh! Yes, nothing screams terror like Taiwan-made rubber fish gliding through the air with the greatest of ease (assisted, of course, by industrial rigs and pulleys). It's enough to get your blood soaring and your heart racing! Soon everyone at Club Elysium is running for their lives to avoid becoming a midnight snack for the evil that is "The Spawning."
I suspect that the guy who came up with the idea for Piranha II: The Spawning is sitting right next to the guy who dreamed up with the idea of Howard the Duck in a jail cell somewhere in South Peru. Incarceration was most likely the last resort for the dope after coming up with this chuckle-inducing schlock. His fate was sealed the minute he uttered the words "flying mutant fish" to the freaks who greenlit this project. But give the guy credit: he had to have a pretty big yam sack to actually do a pitch meeting for this movie. For unsuspecting mainstream filmgoers this mess is a calamity that even Jane would despise. For folks who like their B-movies with a heavy dose of Gouda, Piranha II: The Spawning is tons o' fun. I coddle movies whose opening scene features two divers making out naked inside an underwater shipwreck, then are attacked and eaten by fish the side of a slinky. At first I thought I was watching National Geographic porn ("tonight's feature: Debbie Does The Pacific"), but no! I was actually watching the start of one of the most hysterically goofy horror movies ever captured on celluloid. Thrill to people being eaten by fish no larger than your shoe! Scream as rubber tubes squirt blood at the camera! Hyperventilate as you laugh yourself silly asking "why can't these people pull animals off their bodies that don't have any arms or legs?" The centerpiece of this film is -- surprise! -- the special effects which, appear to have cost roughly $39 in pocket change. I am sure the filmmakers meant for the flying fish terrifying, but let's not kid ourselves: anything that comes from the ocean that's smaller than an angel fish just ain't scary. I'd comment on the performances, but the fact is they're all as rubber and fake as the fish attacking them. Lance Henricksen is the only guy who went on to bigger and better things, though even he doesn't come out of this bomb unscathed -- the guy's only acting ability this time around is gazing at the camera with a look of burning anger (possibly because he wasn't paid enough to be in this debacle?). If it's not clear to you yet, Piranha II: The Spawning is s sequel to director Joe Dante's 1978 flick Piranha (executive produced by B-movie king Roger Corman). James Cameron should thank his lucky stars that three years later, he'd be allowed to make the runaway action hit The Terminator. Any other director's career punishment should have been banishment in infomercial land. As a sequel Piranha II: The Spawning is pretty weak. On the laugh-per-minute scale, it rates a solid ten.
Piranha II: The Spawning is presented in a hack job 1.33:1 full frame transfer. Ugggh. This is a horrid transfer by Columbia, who should know much better. The film was originally shot in widescreen, so why not release it that way? Alas, the transfer suffers from multiple troubles, mainly lots of grain, image softness, and various imperfections that show up during almost the entire run of the feature. Fans of this film will be sorely disappointed at this lackluster transfer and shoddy treatment to a B-movie classic. The soundtrack is presented in a mediocre Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track in English. Blah. This audio mix is really no better than the video presentation. While the bulk of the track is audible, there are lots of spots where the dialogue and music are muddled and distorted. Needless to say, there aren't any directional effects or surround sounds to be found within this mix. Also included on this disc are English, Spanish, Thai, Chinese, and Portuguese subtitles.
Here's a nickel's worth of free advice: if you're only given a paltry transfer and a ho-hum sound mix, chances are the most you're getting in the way of extra features are a few theatrical trailers. Piranha II: The Spawning follows this rule accordingly.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailers