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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Piranha

August 1st, 2010

Piranha - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

The first of three Roger Corman releases coming out this week, Piranha is making its Blu-ray debut on Tuesday, while the remake, Piranha 3D, comes out later this month. This film was clearly... uhhhh ... inspired by Jaws. Okay, it was a Jaws rip-off, even Joe Dante and Jon Davison admit that on the audio commentary track. However, there were countless other Jaws rip-offs that came out over the years, and some of them were actually pretty good. So how does this one compare in a crowded field?

The Movie

Usually I start this section of the review with the plot, but really, what plot? This is a movie about killer Piranhas. Genetically modified killer piranhas that were created by the United States military and that were accidentally released into a river that then kill everything in their path. That's the extent of the plot.

However, the lack of an in-depth plot is not really a weakness, as the filmmakers knew they weren't making high art, so instead focused all their attention on the film's strengths, namely, the number of kills in the movie. And there are a lot of kills. Bloody ones. Granted, we rarely see the actual piranhas and most of the kills are just people pretending to be attacked while a lot of red food coloring is put in the water. If they took it seriously, this movie would be insufferable. As it is, there's quite a bit of dark humor, while the climactic scenes do amp up the gore. There's still plenty of red food coloring in the water, but we see a lot of prosthetic limbs being chewed up too. There are some genuinely tense moments here and there, although these would have been more effective had more people survived. Once the piranhas are let loose, practically every time you see a character in or near the water, you know they are about to die. It's not if, but when.

I'm not going to say this is a good movie in the classical sense of the word. However, there's a reason why a sequel was made, as well as two remakes. It takes the simple formula of the "When animals attack!" genre and plays to its strengths. The end result is entertaining, in a B-movie kind of way.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD include several that are ported over from the previous DVD release starting with the previously mentioned audio commentary track with Joe Dante and Jon Davison. They keep a very lighthearted tone throughout and provide an equal share of information and entertainment. The pair stick around to narrate 10 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage. There is a 20-minute making-of / interview featurette, which is new for this release. There are also 7 minutes of outtakes and 12 minutes of alternative scenes from the TV version of the movie. Finally, there are ad galleries (radio, TV spots, trailers, posters), as well as stills and behind-the-scenes photos.

I only have the DVD to review, so I'm not 100% if there any exclusives on the Blu-ray, nor can I say for sure what the technical presentation is like. However, since the Blu-ray does cost just 10% more than the DVD, it is the better deal.

The Verdict

No one will mistake Piranha for an original cinematic offering, not Roger Corman, not the director, nor even the most diehard fan. That said, while it is a Jaws clone, it maintains a higher level of entertainment that most similar films. Hell, it's better than half the Jaws franchise. If you own the previously-released DVD, the latest DVD release is the first time the film's been available in widescreen. As for the Blu-ray, it only costs 10% more, so if you are interested in buying, it's the better deal. And for fans of the genre, it is worth buying.

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Filed under: Video Review