"Part Snake! Part Fish! All Killer!"
A scientist discovers the eggs of a mythical snake whilst on an expedition to a remote part of Hawaii and steals one, incurring the wrath of the creature which sets off in pursuit. Meanwhile, a film crew shooting a low budget horror film on the island are captured by a bunch of gun-toting kidnappers who plan to ransom them off. When the scientist stumbles into their clutches as well, it isn't long before the piranhaconda begins to spoil their plans.
So another month, another ludicrously-titled, over-the-top creature feature comes along. Sharktopus not only set the ball rolling with these crossover named monsters but also set the benchmark - whilst it will never be remembered as a great film, it ran with its silly premise and was a lot of fun. But now they’re all the rage and seem determined to out-do the last one in terms of throwing away common sense, physics and reality. From the mind of infamous cult classic producer Roger Corman, the directing prowess of B-movie and exploitation maestro Jim Wynorski and with the Sy Fy Original tag of death comes Piranhaconda, the next of these films off the conveyor belt.
Part piranha, part anaconda (yeah I don't get it and the film doesn't bother explaining the cross breeding process either), the novelty value of the title and the monster alone won’t even manage to sustain your interest past the title credits let alone survive until the final reel. But these Sy Fy films rely on their titles to sell – the rest of the content is almost indistinguishable from the rest: tropical locations, similar sets, some of the same actors, repeated scenarios, etc. Piranhaconda falls into the same pitfalls as the likes of Dinoshark, Sharktopus and Dinocroc Vs Supergator in that when the title monsters aren’t snacking on humans, then the films blur into one with no identifiable differences between this one and the next. For all intents and purposes, you could swap the monsters around and it would make little difference to the outcome.
Piranhaconda is meant to be terrible because let’s face the blatant truth – it’s a film called Piranhaconda. There’s no beating around the bush as to what you’re going to get here. But the way in which it’s made is just shoddy and sloppy. Taking the easy way out, the film shows you the monster in all of its glory within the first fifteen minutes. No build-up. No gradual reveal. Just the money shot out of the way. So what’s left to get excited for? You see the monster so much throughout the film that you’re numbed to the sight of it by the time the finale comes. Though the title promises a unique creation, the eventual design looks more like an average snake with a weird head than any real hybrid of the two. Would it surprise you to find out that the CGI is awful? No, didn’t think it would. The same animations are used over and over again and it gets boring really quick. At least provide some variation in how the monster is going to kill its prey.
Corman's best days are long behind him and though its highly commendable that he's still giving many folks a chance to break into the business who may not get a proper shot in Hollywood, the film quality seems to have diminished greatly over the years. Compare these recent creature features to some of his earlier 80s sleaze and cheese fests like Forbidden World and Galaxy of Terror and the difference in quality is amazing. Back then, the films were still low budget and pandered to the lowest common denominators of blood and boobs but at least they were serious and treat the material with respect.
Nowadays, these films seem to be about goofing around too much and trying to be too clever with the silly ideas on display. Though quite why the script felt it necessary to throw in a load of kidnappers to act as human villains when there’s a big snake-thing slithering around the island eating people every five minutes is another matter. It increases the potential number of victims for the monster but the film features enough non-characters (characters who turn up in a film, maybe say a line or two and then get killed within the same scene) to feed an army of piranhacondas.
Another obstacle facing Corman, Wynorski and co. are the constraints within which they have to work for the TV audience - so that means no boobs. For men who have built careers on the exploitative market, these new films are stripped of the ingredients that pandered to the male demographic. Piranhaconda features a bevy of beautiful women yet a couple of them in bikinis is the raunchiest the film will get.
Michael Madsen pops up looking as bedraggled scientist and seems to be wearing a ridiculous toupee under his cowboy hat. As bad as he is slumming here, I still keep picturing Reservoir Dogs to remind myself not to go too hard on him. Rachel Hunter (more famous for her marriage to Rod Stewart than anything noteworthy in Hollywood) co-stars as one of the kidnappers but her character has no purpose whatsoever. I guess these two were cast for name value but both are easily upstaged by stunning co-star Shandi Finnessey who parades around in a yellow bikini.
On a random side note, I have the same scarecrow mask that the killer in the 'Head Chopper' film-within-a-film was wearing. Good choice whoever chose it!
I know this review has sounded more like a rant on this burgeoning sub-genre rather than any individual criticism of the film in question but Piranhaconda is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with this type of film. It had the potential to either be a complete joke or a right laugh and the eventual result in somewhere in the middle. It’s far from anyone's greatest work but neither does it plumb the murky depths of the bottom of the barrel. It just seems like another complete waste of a fairly entertaining premise.
Director(s): Jim Wynorski
Writer(s): J. Brad Wilke (concept), Mike MacLean
Actor(s): Rib Hillis, Michael Madsen, Terri Ivens, Shandi Finnessey, Chris De Christopher, Rachel Hunter
Duration: 86 mins