Film (1978). New World. Executive producers Roger Corman, Jeff Schechtman. Directed by Joe Dante. Written by John Sayles, based on a story by Sayles and Richard Robinson. Cast includes Paul Bartel, Bradford Dillman, Kevin McCarthy, Heather Menzies, Dick Miller, Barbara Steele and Keenan Wynn. 94 minutes. Colour.
The army has been creating cold-water-tolerant man-eating piranhas for use in Vietnam, and some escape into a Texas river. An attempt by the army to hush this up permits a piranha invasion of a holiday resort on a lake. Here one can see some of the notable talents of the 1980s (Dante, Sayles, even Bartel) honing their craft in a Monster Movie of considerable wit and pace, with a strong (and much-imitated) emphasis on social comedy; the subtext is that ghastly people create metaphorical Monsters that will devour them.
An unofficial sequel, Piranha II: Flying Killers (1981; vt Piranha II: The Spawning), was a Dutch film, nothing to do with New World. Set in the Caribbean and very inept, it features flying piranhas that look like wind-up toys and was a surprisingly poor directorial debut for the later-celebrated James Cameron. [PN]
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