Michael Scott

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Piranha II: The Spawning


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Movie: :2stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :3stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :3stars:



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Movie

To wrap up this week of Scream Factory titles, we have a mostly forgotten "gem" from James Cameron to round it all out with. Much like John Carpenter's Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Cameron doesn’t really like having his name attached to Piranha II: The Spawning, but for a completely different reason. In Memoirs Carpenter was nothing but a hired gun to come in at the last minute and polish things up, but Piranha II is LITERALLY the start of Cameron’s career, and a rocky one at that. Cameron has been brought in to do the sequel to the 1978 Roger Corman film (directed by Joe Dante) Piranha, but had major issues with producer/writer Ovidio G. Assonitis who allowed Cameron to shoot the movie, but after the first week fired the man and did his own thing. Supposedly he was also rehired a short time later, but Ovidio had pretty much taken Cameron’s work and given it his own flair. According to rumors and interviews Ovidio was heavily involved and wanted to micro manage everything, asking the first time director to insert more nudity, more gore, and more cheesy scenarios that Cameron wasn’t comfortable doing. As a result this is another James Cameron film that’s almost NOT a James Cameron film.

Before I go one let me iterate that my 2.5/5 rating is not the ENJOYMENT rating of the movie, but an objective look at the film and blending in my subjective enjoyment with objectivity. The film is truly an AWFUL film in every way. Filled with cheesy lines, bad ADR, hilarious prosthetics and editing, and good old fashioned gratuitous gore and nudity. That being said, Piranha II: The Spawning is one of the most unintentionally awesome movies ever made. It’s soooooooooo bad that it’s actually good. I can’t help but giggle myself silly with the ineptness of the whole thing, as well as the early 80s/late 70s style over the top nudity and gore. Piranha II is nowhere NEAR a good movie, but it’s an insanely FUN movie that just works on an absurd level.

Anne Kimbrough (Tricia O’neil) is an ex marine biologist out on a scuba diving trip down in the Caribbean with her sone Chris (Ricky Paull Golden). Laying on the beach and making out with her new flame Tyler (Steve Marachuk) is interrupted when one of her students ends up dead, munched on by some under water creature. To make matters worse, the local chief of police happens to be her ex husband (played by a VERY young Lance Henricksen, whose voice hasn’t gotten that gravely tone we all recognize). Trying to investigate unveils a horrific secret. The giant ship wreck that they had been scuba diving at was home home to a cross breed of fish. A mixture of Piranha and flying fish created by the U.S. military (I always wonder why the military in these movies want to experiment with creating killer animals that are obviously uncontrollable), these creatures are attacking swimmers and fishermen at well, not only feasting upon them when the humans are stupid enough to get in their waters, but making their way onto land with their wings and munching to their hearts content.
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Piranha II is a HILARIOUSLY inept film, but it has everything that you’d ever want in a movie like this. Tons of random nudity that makes no sense, gore galore, and dying laughing as you watch rubber fish “fly” through the air and go straight for the jugular like an R.L. Stine mutant rabbit. The acting is hilariously low budget, with Lance and O’Neil taking the weight of the real “acting” in the film. Ovidio’s butting in gives it a much different vibe than most James Cameron movies. The famous director hadn’t really had any major experience here, but this feels much more like Lucio Fulci film (makes sense since Ovidio is Italian as well) and infuses the film with a very low budget “spaghetti horror” tone. If you didn’t know that James Cameron was attached to the project, one might never actually know that it IS his film.

Instead of being a slightly cheesy Jaws ripoff like the original, Piranha II: The Spawning is a trashy sequel that really is perfect for what it is. Bad acting, horrible dubbing, bad special effects, T&A galore, and ooey gooey gore to round it out. What’s not to love? Sure, it’s horrible and will be an embarrassment for James Cameron till the day he dies, but I actually love the movie to death love to watch it with a group of friends and a 12 pack of beer on a Friday night.




Rating:

Rated R by the MPAA




Video: :4stars:
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Scream Factory has reportedly gone back to the original camera negatives and created a 2K master for us today, and I believe them. This transfer looks leaps and bounds better than any other print or home video release of the 80s film that I have ever seen. It’s a bit soft (as most of these low budget 80s films are) at times, and the grain is a bit heavy, but I have never seen the film looks so sharp and clean. All the print damage and speckles that were present on my old 2003 DVD are gone, as well as a clean, natural look devoid of any filtering. Fine details are usually quite impressive, with the underwater diving shots looking really nice. Colors are a bit hot, and the facial tones are a bit on the ruddy and cream side, but this is very indicative of late 70s/early 80s color grading. The darker shots have some rather heavy grain to go with the film, but in daylight the grain cleans up very nicely and is a lot less obtrusive. It’s a heavily textured film, and the new scan for Scream Factory looks gorgeous.





Audio: :3stars:
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Piranha II: The Spawning features the original 2.0 Mono track in lossless DTS-HD MA, and is a bit of a trouble mix. I won’t say that it’s a horrible mix by any stretch of the imagination, but the film WAS shot on a shoe string budget back in 1981, so there’s some crackles, hisses, and dialog issues throughout the film. The track used ADR HEAVILY back when it was produced, so it’s almost like watching an old Kung-Fu movie at times, with the lip sync being a bit wonky and mouths moving when vocals aren’t, etc. The score is probably the best part of the track, as it’s fairly full and rich, stuck up there in the front of the room. There’s no real LFE to speak of, but vocals are intelligible, except for a few small dips in volume, and the overall track is more than serviceable for a cheap horror flick.






Extras: :2.5stars:
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• BRAND NEW 2K REMASTER OF THE FILM struck from the original camera negative
• FULLY UNCUT PRESENTATION of the film
• NEW interview with actor Ricky Paull Goldin
• NEW interview with special effects artist Brian Wade
• Theatrical Trailer









Final Score: :3stars:


I make no bones that Piranha II: The Spawning is an awful movie, but it’s a hilariously awful movie though. The perfect kind of late night trash that you’re guilty of watching after having a few beers, and hope that your significant other doesn’t catch you watching it. Scream Factory has made a solid Blu-ray for us today, FINALLY completing my collection of all 4 Piranha films on Blu-ray. We have good video with a new 2K master, and the original theatrical mono track as well. Extras are in the middle of the road for Scream/Shout Factory, and while I would have liked to have seen a James Cameron commentary, I can kind of understand that this is a bit beneath him at this point in his career. For those expecting a masterful monster movie, please look elsewhere. But for those of us who are looking for a “so bad it’s awesome” type of trashy film, then Piranha II: The Spawning is just the ticket. Recommended as a fun watch.



Technical Specifications:

Starring: Tricia O'Neil, Lance Henricksen, Steve Marachuk
Directed by: James Cameron, Ovidio G. Assonitis, Miller Drake
Written by: James Cameron, Ovidio G. Assonitis, Charles H. Eglee
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
Subtitles: English SDH
Studio: Scream Factory
Rated: R
Runtime: 94 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 31st, 2018






Recommendation: Awesome Horrible Watch

 
Last edited:

Asere

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Now your talking. WOW, I had forgotten about this one. Man this brings back childhood memories. Awesome Horrible Watch is right but I must revisit now that you mentioned it here. Thanks for the review!
 

tripplej

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Have to check this out. I do enjoy "so bad it is good" movies. lol. :)
 

JBrax

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I’ve never been able to get into these types of movies. Try as I might I never make it all the way to the end.
 
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