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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)

Anne: It wasn't a shark, and it wasn't a barracuda, and it wasn't a moray eel, and it wasn't a jealous lover.
Steve: Then what was it?
Anne: I don't know! That's the point.

- Tricia O'Neil, Lance Henriksen

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: January 29, 2003

Stars: Tricia O'Neil, Steve Marachuk, Lance Henriksen
Other Stars: Ricky G. Paull, Ted Richert, Leslie Graves
Director: James Cameron

MPAA Rating: R for (gore, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:34m:32s
Release Date: January 28, 2003
UPC: 043396103757
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D DC-C- D+

DVD Review

Here's a curious piece of forgettable 1981 crud that only merits a historical mention as being Titanic-sized director James Cameron's Italian-funded second film. The fact that it is a sequel to the arguably better 1978 Joe Dante film is pointless, and instead with Piranha 2: The Spawning we get to look back in time and giggle at yet another of the ineptly bad nature-against-man flicks that were so prevalent in the late 1970s and early 1980s, all the while knowing it was made by a guy who would one day be king of the world, so to speak. This was the film he made just a few years before he made a name for himself with The Terminator, and after that the floodgates opened with a string of big Cameron-directed Hollywood spectacles (The Abyss, Aliens, Terminator 2, True Lies and that one about the boat that sinks).

Piranha 2: The Spawning doesn't require any extensive knowledge of the Dante film, as there is enough handy exposition to explain the hows and whys. At Club Elysium, a posh resort somewhere in the Caribbean, a batch of gene-spliced piranhas, actually some kind of lab-designed "super fish" that can live in all types of environments, are ravenously feeding on tourists. That's pretty much the plot it in a nutshell, and most of the film is spent showing an array of stock characters getting gnawed on by hungry, winged fish. Oh yeah, they can fly, too.

Tricia O'Neil is Anne, a diving instructor at Club Elysium who finds herself heading up the search for what is killing her clients, and occasionally trading barbs with her estranged policeman husband Steve (a really young-looking Lance Henriksen, here dressed like a disheveled busboy). Anne starts wooing a visiting tourist named Tyler Sherman (Steve Marachuk), only to eventually find out that he is harboring a rather deep, dark secret concerning the toothy flesh-eaters.

Special effects are anything but special, with the piranhas being not much more than laughably bad rubber puppets on strings. There is, however, a great campy moment when a large school of them leap out of the surf to attack a huge party on the beach, and Cameron gets to supply some decent B-movie bloodletting and flesh-chewing. If you've seen one nature-gone-amuck film, you've seen 'em all, and there isn't really anything new in this one to make it any different from any of a 1000 other similarly lame outings. With Piranha 2: The Spawning, there is the requisite blood, nudity and bad, bad special effects, but no sense of serviceable tension or fear.

I'm a big fan of trashy B-grade horror films, but this one is a tough sell, even for me. Cameron's name doesn't magically turn this into anything closely resembling a good film, and the hokey piranha effects look incredibly dated and ineffectual. It's not bad enough to even elicit more than a few unintentional laughs, and it is not even remotely scary. It's just awful.

Rating for Style: D
Rating for Substance: D


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Well, the opening and closing credits are presented in widescreen, but that's about it; the rest of Piranha 2: The Spawning is in a badly cropped 1.33:1 full-screen transfer that has such poor image detail that I felt as if I were watching it through two semi-opaque fish scales. Most of this careless, apparent rush job is full of orange-ish fleshtones and ugly, muted early 1980s colors. The print itself is hardly pristine, with plenty of small blemishes to be found. Grain is evident more often than not, rendering the already poor image quality that much worse. Forget about deciphering the night scenes, those are a confusing, murky mess (and based on what I saw of the creature effects, I'm guessing we're not really missing that much).

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The English mono track (the only option to be found here) is a typically flat affair, mangling most of the dialogue into a shrill mess. Voices often sound just plain odd, and at times it appeared like the entire film had been hastily redubbed. It is fairly obvious that neither the image or audio transfers for Piranha 2: The Spawning were put through any special restoration process.

Audio Transfer Grade: C-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Anaconda, Creature Features, The Forsaken
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: An odd trio of trailers (Anaconda, Creature Features, The Forsaken) is the only content in the supplements column. The good news is that without any extras, I could get this future beer coaster out of my player that much sooner.

The disc is cut into 28 chapters, and features a wealth of subtitles in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

Flying piranhas are eating people in the Caribbean, and only a diving instructor can save them. This tired sequel to Joe Dante's 1978 original may have been directed by James Cameron, but that doesn't make it good.

If the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sees this one, they just might ask for Cameron's Oscar® back.


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