Piranha II: The Spawning Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by James Cameron
Written by H.A. Milton
1981, 95 minutes, Rated R
Blu-ray released on July 31st, 2018
Tricia O’Neill as Anne Kimbrough
Steve Marachuk as Tyler Sherman
Lance Henriksen as Police Chief Steve Kimbrough
Ricky G. Paull as Chris Kimbrough
Leslie Graves as Allison Dumont
Carole Davis as Jai
Connie Lynn Hadden as Loretta
Ted Richert as Raoul
Anne Kimbrough is a diving instructor for Club Elysium’s more adventurous guests, offering guided tours of the local waters, including a sunken ship. Her estranged husband Steve is the chief of police and her son Chris is a hired hand for island visitors with their own boats. When one of her customers dies within the sunken ship, one look at the corpse proves that he was attacked and eaten by something vicious. Working closely with potential love interest Tyler Sherman, Anne discovers that flesh-eating piranha are responsible for a lot more than the one mysterious death. Several people have gone missing recently, but the resort owner can’t be bothered by such problems during the height of the summer season. What nobody suspects however, is that these fish are genetically modified killing machines cross-bred with several other species giving them the ability to fly and attack outside the water!
Having made his mark as a set designer and effects artist for Roger Corman on pictures like Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and Galaxy of Terror (1981), the legendary James Cameron (Aliens) makes his directorial debut here with Piranha II: The Spawning, a sequel to Joe Dante’s 1978 Jaws sendup, Piranha. The campy sense of humor is gone this time around, but the script is far more outlandish. I’m not sure who came up with the idea to give these fish giant wings, but God bless them. The screenplay is credited to the pseudonym H.A. Milton, but was actually penned by James Cameron, producer Ovidio G. Assonitis and Charles H. Eglee. There’s something for everyone here, including elements of comedy, gratuitous nudity and over-the-top graphic violence. Cameron throws in some beautiful underwater photography and keeps things interesting while playing the material straight. Creative differences led Assonitis to step into the director’s chair replacing Cameron before completion and just how much either man shot remains unclear.
Tricia O’Neill (The Gumball Rally) stars as Anne, the instructor desperate to save the community. The character is a strong leading woman, a longtime benchmark of Cameron films, determined to do the right thing without waiting for a man to save her. Steve Marachuk (Eyes of Laura Mars) co-stars as Tyler, the guy who carries secret knowledge of the piranha’s origins. The two actors have some fine moments together, but never really gel. Part of this may be because Anne is already married to Steve Kimbrough, played by the always-welcome Lance Henriksen (Pumpkinhead). These two feel like a couple, estranged or otherwise, and share great onscreen chemistry. Their son Chris, as played by Ricky G. Paull (The Blob), is quite the kid too. He handles his scenes well and never comes off as a jerk.
Scream Factory went through some trouble securing the rights to this movie and had at one point last year cancelled it entirely. The onscreen title on this release is Piranha Part II: Flying Killers and is indeed the uncut European version of the film, running roughly five minutes longer than the domestic counterpart. The differences are minimal, but the real standout is how much brighter everything is, making it easier to appreciate the numerous kills. Piranha II is a goofy-fun thrill ride that definitely exceeds expectations and is one that collectors will definitely want to pick up. To cull from the original Jaws tagline--see it before you go swimming.
Video and Audio:
Piranha II is presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio with an all-new 2K scan of the original film elements and has never looked better. Colors are bright and the underwater photography is clear and full of detail. Black levels are bottomless and flesh tones appear natural throughout. This is a real step up from all earlier releases that were non-anamorphic and murky.
A DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio is a bit limited at times, but remains true to the original source materials. Dialogue remains clear and free from distortion and is well-balanced with the music and effects tracks.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Actor Ricky Paull Goldin (aka Ricky G. Paull) sits down for the all-new interview One Moment in Time (16 minutes), in which he reflects on how he got the role and what it was like working with James Cameron. He was 16-years-old while filming and makes sure you know it many times over throughout this interview. He’s got a lot of great stories about the production and his fellow actors and this is a really fun segment well worth checking out.
In the featurette The Sky Has Teeth (14 minutes), special effects artist Brian Wade discusses his work on the film. He served as a piranha sculptor and here tells of the designs that went into their creation. He also shares his thoughts on the rest of the special make-up effects and the look and tone of the finished film.
The original theatrical trailer has been included.
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