Piranha II: The Spawning (1980) [REVIEW] | Flying Jaws

Ah, yes, the first and only killer piranha movie directed by James “James Cameron Presents James Cameron In Association With James Cameron” Cameron, here at his directorial debut , after years of working as a special effects artist under good ol Roger Corman (who else?), stars Tricia O’ Neill and Lance Henriksen, who would later appeared in the original Terminator film and Aliens, with the script by then also newbie Charles H. Eglee – credited as H. A. Milton- better know nowadays for his work on series like The Shield, Dexter and Dark Angel.

You gotta start somewhere, and in this case that happens to be the sequel to 1978’s Joe Dante directed Piranha, in what would become a full series, with a 1995 remake simply called “Piranha” and another, looser remake with Piranha 3D, which also had a sequel. Not bad for what was conceived as a Jaws knock-off with a degree of self-awareness.

That said, “sequel” doesn’t really mean (or meant, let’s be honest) much with B-movies, especially horror b-movies creature features, and your first instinct would be to just assume this isn’t really a sequel… and you would be right. It’s a sequel in the “we made another one” with the same basic premise of mutated piranha originally bred as secret weapons by the military that got lost (in this case in a sunken ship), they get out of control, eating everything made of flesh they encounter with incredibile ferocity. And now they fly because they were engineered to grow wings-fins.

And as costumary, a marine biologist has to determine the reason behind these gruesome incidents and eventually stop the killer animals with the help of love interest characters and others. Oh, and they reference (in dialogue) how previously someone created genetical enhanced piranhas as a weapon for the Vietnam war, and that they released from their tank in a river.

NOW we can claim it’s a sequel, despite no story connecting the two movies in any way, it doesn’t even have anyone from the cast of Piranha 1978, nor we have any of the new actors play any returning characters from that movie, but most alternate titles still keep the “II” in for marketing. Aside from the italian version, released under the very cheesy, almost goofy title of “Piranha Paura” (which could be translated as “Piranha Scare”), and this is pretty much another one of “those” type of co-productions, with the director and cast made of english speaking people, and then everything else manned by an italian crew, often not really speaking a lick of english.

And what do you know, production wasn’t smooth at all, since Ovidio G. Assonitis fired James Cameron two week into filming and directed the rest of the movie himself, but couldn’t remove his name from the credits for contractual reasons (as they couldn’t deliver it with an italian director’s name), so they didn’t. Despite all of this, you can see a glimpse of his penchant for strong, female lead characters, even in a movie like this, it’s a just a glimpse, but ….it’s something positive.

On the movie itself there’s really not much to say, it sounds like fairly typical, run-of-the-mill low budget B-movie fare from that era, and if you figured most of the self-awareness found in the original would be completely gone in this “sequel”… you’d be totally right.

It’s just another Jaws rip-off, complete with dickhead Amity Island major equivalent and all the accessories, including the usual collection of dumb characters that are mostly bound to feed the piranhas later, including the spinster ready to fake-drown to be rescued by a suitor, the random ass girls on daddy’s yatcht that have run out of money so they trick and steal from dopey idiots (like the stuttering cook) they lured in with promise of tits. And the usual divorced couple that’s divorced only for some bargain conflict and so they can reconcile (or something close to that).

Decent gore, cheap special effects for the piranhas, mediocre acting, but there is the novelty of flying piranhas and you just gotta love how helicopters explode on contact with water. Slighty below average, overall, even if direction isn’t that bad, and the underwater scenes are nicely shot.

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