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Piranha apes the plot and exploitable attrib­utes of Jaws closely but does so in a way that shows inven­tive­ness and genre smarts.  In Dante’s film, the unwit­ting heroes are Maggie (Heather Menzies), a skip-tracer who jour­neys to a rural area seek­ing a miss­ing young cou­ple, and Paul (Bradford Dillman), a reclu­sive cabin-dweller that she fast-talks into help­ing her.  They stum­ble onto the site of the dis­ap­pear­ance, a secret gov­ern­ment test­ing facil­ity with a large pool.  They drain it to look for the bod­ies and earn the ire of Dr. Hoak (Kevin McCarthy).  He informs them that said pool con­tained genetically-mutated piranha capa­ble of sur­viv­ing in both fresh and salt-water envi­rons — and the heroes have unknow­ingly released them into a large set of lakes.

From there, it’s a race against time to stop the piranha before they get to the heavily-inhabited lake­side areas.  It’s par­tic­u­larly impor­tant for Paul because his young daugh­ter is stay­ing at a camp near the lake — and there’s also a new lake­side resort open­ing fur­ther down the lake shore.  Maggie and Paul’s task is not easy but it gets even more dif­fi­cult when the mil­i­tary show up and try to silence them before they can warn any­one else.

The above syn­op­sis is a solid for­mula for aquatic may­hem — and Dante and crew deliver on every­thing it promises.  However, Piranha rises above the pack because it goes about its task in an intel­li­gent, lov­ingly crafted way.  The basis of its savvy approach is a smart script by first-time screen­writer (and future indie-film icon) John Sayles that lay­ers the sto­ry­line with quirky, well-drawn char­ac­ters that charm the viewer into car­ing about them.  Thus, when the monster-fish attacks kick in, it’s a pleas­ant sur­prise how dra­mat­i­cally involv­ing it is because the audi­ence is invested in these odd­ball heroes.

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Movies, Horror, Comedy, Horror Movie, Written By John Sayles, Directed By Joe Dante

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review by . January 19, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****    It takes a truly inspired filmmaker to channel tongue-in-cheek horror, in-jokes and references, comedic and plentiful blood-and-gore, and to top it all off; an idea that's just down-right cheesy and perhaps even completely unoriginal to begin with. I suppose to have a hold on a select few of those things indicates a passable and developing director; but to maintain a balance in spite of all these things? That's talent.    Whether it's a …
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