Saturday, October 27, 2012

Horror Thoughts ‘12—Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981) *

R, 84 min.
Director: James Cameron
Writer: H.A. Milton
Starring: Tricia O’Neil, Steve Marachuk, Lance Henriksen, Ricky G. Paull, Ted Richert, Leslie Graves, Carole Davis, Connie Lynn Hadden, Arnie Ross

I had intended to watch the original 1978 version of “Piranha” for this year’s Horrorfest. A task easier said than done. I remember the campiness of that one from seeing it as a kid. Of the four official franchise “Piranha” movies, it seems to be regarded as the best. I doubt it stands the test of time, but I may never know, since DVD copies seem to be out of print and I didn’t find a streamable version on any of my platforms.

So instead I got to take in the second installments of the reboot and the original. The second in the original two film series was infamously directed by now mega director James Cameron. It pretty amazing to think that someone could go from this to “Titanic”. The story goes that producer George A. Romero brought on Cameron after several writers and directors were fired. Production was already underway and many of the scenes had been filmed. Cameron put it together on the fly. Of course, I don’t really know if this is true because Romero’s name is nowhere to be found in the credits of this film and Cameron’s is. Cameron often thanks Romero for his start, but it really looks to me like he was left for fish bait on this one.

Anyway, the movie is awful. It’s not awful because of the direction; but the poor acting, a terrible script and a predilection to actually take itself seriously makes it really quite dull. The movie starts off with the same exploitational charm as the others in its franchise, but eventually it just becomes a bad rip-off of “Jaws”, with a sheriff trying to save the day on the ocean and in a helicopter. Brody would be ashamed.

Yet the sheriff here is one of the best parts of the movie. Lance Henriksen got his start as the sheriff in this film, and he’s about the only member of the cast with any acting talent whatsoever. The film started a long relationship between Cameron and Henriksen. Cameron wrote the role of the Terminator with Henriksen in mind to play the cybernetic assassin from the future, but the film’s backers needed a bigger name to hang their money on. Henriksen played a detective investigating the Terminator’s murders instead. Cameron eventually got an android role for Henriksen when he wrote the role of Bishop for his friend in “Aliens”.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with “Piranha Part Two: The Spawning”. It’s just much more interesting.

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