Piranha (1995)

Piranha (1995)

Lost River Lake was a thriving resort… Until they discovered…

A girl and her boyfriend go missing so a private investigator is hired to find them. So enlists the help of a local mountain man to help her search near to the old army test base where they believe the teenagers to have headed. Assuming them drawn in a large pool, they drain the water into the river, accidentally releasing a horde of flesh-eating piranhas which escape into the river system. The fish proceed to munch their way down stream, heading towards a kid’s holiday camp and a newly opened holiday resort.

 

In my view, remakes are generally pointless exercises in milking cash from an established film. I don’t buy the ‘we need to update it for a new audience’ rubbish because if a film is that good, it doesn’t need an update because it will stand the test of time (The Godfather, case in point). If it could use a remake, then is the film that good enough to deserve one in the first place? When you remake a film, what route do you take? Do you change everything, contemporising it for a new time period? What elements of the original do you save? What do you pay homage to? Or do you simply follow it almost shot-for-shot, word-for-word? We could ask ourselves these questions when we witness big budget remakes of classics like Psycho and Dawn of the Dead. But who in their right mind ever thought about remaking Piranha, a decent but forgettable parody of Jaws from the late 70s?

Roger Corman – that’s who! The legendary producer oversaw a handful of remakes of his old films for cable TV and Piranha was one of them. But somewhere along the line, the writers made substantial changes to tone and content of the original. The screenplay is still virtually the same, with minor alterations to characters and story, and the film runs exactly the same as it did in 1978. Where the problem lies is that they have substituted the wit and humour of the original with more emphasis on gore and violence. This serious tone doesn’t help because at its core, Piranha was a parody and needed this light-hearted tone to make it work. Without the humour, it turns into another generic monster flick with something on the loose in the water.

The pacing of the film isn’t too bad. There’s not a lot of waste in the running time and the piranhas don’t usually go too long between meals. It’s not just semi-naked blondes who the piranhas tend to feast on either because it’s open season here so kids and dogs are also on the menu. Footage of the piranhas from the 1978 version is re-used here despite the obvious improvements in technical advancement. Rather than shoot new footage, they’ve simply ‘recycled’ footage from the archive and it shows. There also seems to be a few more breasts thrown around here than there was in the original which is a good thing. The increased focus in these two elements would be taken to the extreme in Alexandre Aja’s infinitely superior remake Piranha 3-D.

William Katt and Alexandra Paul share little chemistry as the two leads but on their own, they’re more than capable of handling themselves. Katt, in particular, at least keeps things ticking over with a likeable character you can get behind. Monte Markham has his turn as the businessman who refuses to believe that there’s a problem and won’t close his resort for fear of losing business…….you know the score by now with this stereotype. Mila Kunis makes her debut in this but you’ll be hard pressed to recognise the sweet little girl here as the stunning young woman she’s is now. Cast-wise, the film is no better or worse off than the original, though Kevin McCarthy’s barmy scientist was sorely lacking from this one.

 

Piranha is an unneeded remake which hardly breaks any new ground but at least it doesn’t damage the original too much. It’s hard to really sum up: if you’ve seen the original, you’ll have already watched this. But out of curiosity, you’ll watch it anyway. If you haven’t seen it, you’re better off with the original. But then you’ll watch this as well out of curiosity. So yeah, just watch this as well. It’s pretty solid on its own two legs.

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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