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This entry is for the original 1978 movie and its sequels. For the 2010 remake and its sequel see here: Piranha 3D
Two teens break into an abandoned facility to engage in a spot of skinnydipping in the reservior, and are promptly pulled under and torn to shreds. The next day, insurance investigator Maggie Mc Keown (Heather Menzies) is dispatched to find them. Teaming up with local hillbilly Paul Grogan (Bradford Dillman), the two enter the facility themselves and inadvertedly drain the critters engineered by resident mad scientist Dr. Robert Hoak (Kevin Mc Carthy) as part of the now-defunct operation Razorteeth (in which they would be unleashed into the riverways of North Vietnam) into the river; wherein they make themselves en route to a nearby summer camp where Grogan's daughter is staying, and ultimately the ocean...
In many respects a parody of Jaws, Universal Studios initially threatened to sue until Steven Spielberg saw it himself and loved it. In 1981 it got itself a sequel titled Piranha II: The Spawning in which the piranhas fly and which happens to be the directorial debut of none other than...... *drumroll* ...... JAMES CAMERON!!!!!!
Well, sort of. The sequel endured massive behind-the-scenes turmoil and repeated re-edits, and how much of the above individual's work actually made it into the final project is open to debate (rumor has it that said individual at one attempted to break into the studio either to salvage or destroy the film). Whoever is ultimately responsible, the sequel is jaw-droppingly, gut-bustingly, narm-tastically bad; Cameron at least has enough of a sense of humor to have said for the record that it's the finest "flying piranha" movie ever made.
Midway through the filming, the director (or at least the credited one) had a nightmare; the result of that nightmare was The Terminator. So at least something good came out of this.
A more notable 3D remake eventually arrived in summer 2010, directed by Alexandre Aja. Shifting the action to Lake Victoria and ditching the Government Conspiracy set-up in favour of an equally implausible plot involving prehistoric versions of the eponymous fish, it was Bloodier and Gorier, Hotter and Sexier and generally revelled in its own silliness. A sequel to the remake, Piranha 3DD, is set to be released in 2012.
The original films and TV remake provide examples of:
- Actor Allusion: A trailer for 3DD shows David Hasselhoff state that he's never been a lifeguard.
- Agony of the Feet: Jack bleeds to death when the piranha attack his feet.
- Animal Motifs: Lots of sealife motifs are present.
- Attack of the Killer Whatever
- Attack of the Town Festival: Actually an opening of the swim resort, but close enough.
- Cassandra Truth
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Lots.
- Dartboard of Hate
- Deep South
- Death by Sex: Promiscuous resort-goers.
- Diabolus Ex Machina: A female scientist (played by Barbara Steele) says that the piranhas won't survive in salt water. Cue a beautiful dusk shot of the sea... and the piranhas' distinctive growling.
- Distracted by the Sexy
- Drowning My Sorrows
- Every Car Is a Pinto: Two boats crash in the original film explodingly.
- Executive Meddling: The reason why the second movie is as it is.
- Eye Open
- Film At Eleven: Said by the reporter at the end.
Reporter: "Terror, horror, death. Film at eleven."
- Flying Seafood Special
- Follow the Leader: Was quickly followed by Killerfish and Barracuda. The latter even ripped off the government conspiracy plot!
- Gilligan Cut: Maggie is told to go to a dam to find missing teenagers:
Maggie: Well come on, let's go.
Paul: Go where?
Maggie: You're taking me up there.
Paul: Oh, no, I'm not.
[Cut to him accompanying her to the dam]
- Government Conspiracy: Operation Razorteeth.
- Hazardous Water
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Dick Miller.
- Young Mila Kunis as Paul's daughter in the TV remake.
- Hotter and Sexier: Piranha 3DD
- Infant Immortality: Averted hard.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero / Create Your Own Villain: Nice job releasing the piranha from their completely isolated pool, hero. Jeez.
- Old Shame: Piranha II for a certain "king of the world".
- Yet Mr. Cameron calls it the finest "Flying Killer Fish" movie ever made.
- Piranha Problem
- Prop Recycling: The "flying piranha" mechanics were later reused in Aliens as the moving facehuggers.
- Pyrrhic Victory: In the original movie Paul and Maggie manage to get rid of the piranha, but the river ends being polluted.
- Stock Footage: The TV remake shamelessly re-uses the underwater shots from the original.
- There's No B in Movie: In the original movie some guard watches The Monster That Challenged the World from 1957.
- Totally Radical
- Weird Moon
- What the Hell, Hero?