Thursday, October 28, 2010

Something Fishy

From what may be my last original post on the local horror-movie blog. I originally set it up in the hopes that the link through the local newspaper's website would allow some folks in my Obscure Midwestern Town to stumble across talk of strange films. Gotta find out these things exist from someone! But with egregious "updates" and other annoyances, I'm rethinking the whole project. Especially since it seems impossible for me to get my custom header reinstalled. Grrr ...

But here goes:

One good thing about Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (1981): if anyone asks what's the worst debut film by a future Academy Award-winning director I've ever seen, I'll have an answer that springs to mind. Poor James Cameron was far, far from being the King of the World when this mishmash of fake blood, family drama, and T & A was made, although a good portion of it does take place underwater -- a hint at the direction of Cameron's later career. The film also fortuitously brought him together with Lance Henriksen (very young, but still weird-looking), with whom he'd work on much, much better films, like The Terminator and Aliens. Henriksen is the best actor in the movie; no surprise, he's that kind of actor. But he really stands out here among the clumsy "comic relief" characters, and the languid topless chicks whose dialogue -- I can tell by looking at them! -- is being dubbed from Italian.

In fact, many commentators claim that Cameron only shot portions of the film, including the scuba-diving stuff, giving him a first-time director's credit, and the Italian producers an American name for marketing purposes. So he may not really be the one to blame for the movie's ineptness. However, I do want to know who to give credit to for the absolute insanity of the fish attacks, because it was worth sitting through just to get to them.
They're not piranhas, technically. They're mostly grunion, that have been genetically combined with other fish, including piranha and flying fish, in order to create killing-machine fish that can survive in any environment.

How those wacky government scientists thought they could control these beasties for military purposes is never explained. But they did breed a hardy species, one capable of living in the body of a corpse, inside a morgue freezer, no less, for at least a day. At which point it can fly out of a wound, attack someone else, then smash through a glass window and fly off to safety. Wow!

This scene was truly laugh-out-loud funny, as were most of the scenes of piranha carnage. Bathing the fish in red light, giving them a loud whirring noise, is clearly meant to build suspense about them. But when these big, rubber-looking things fly out of the water and latch on people's necks, nothing could have really prepared us for the sight.

I realize I haven't mentioned the plot, but it's hardly relevant. Various shenanigans take place at a Caribbean island resort, and then someone gets eaten during a dive class. Lance is the Sheriff Brody character, but it's his estranged wife, a handy marine biologist, in the Matt Hooper role. The resort guests plan to party hard the night of the grunion run, but the fish have other plans. Oddly, when the time comes, the two factions, one group in tropical shirts, with tiki torches, and the other whirring loudly and stirring up the surf, seem like they're marching head-on into battle.

I'd put this in that hallowed category of "I can't possibly recomment, but am glad I watched."

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