• Piranha II: The Spawning (Shout! Factory) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Shout! Factory
    Released on: July 31st, 2018.
    Director: James Cameron
    Cast: Tricia O'Neil, Steve Marachuk, Lance Henriksen, Ricky G. Paull, Ted Richert, Leslie Graves, Carole Davis, Connie Lynn
    Year: 1981
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    The Movie:

    The feature length directorial debut of James Cameron, long before he directed massive blockbusters like Aliens, Terminator, Titanic and Avatar, was 1981’s Piranha II: The Spawning, made in conjunction with Greek trash movie maven Ovidio Assonitis.

    Shot on location in Jamaica, the film begins when a man and a woman take a small boat from the shoreline of St. Ann’s to a shipwreck located not too far off the coast. He’s a little nervous but she reassures him that everything will be fine. They put on their dive gear, head down to the wreck… and then get naked and start making out. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, they’re attacked and killed by a school of piranha – freshwater fish out in the ocean? What madness is this?

    From here we meet our main cast of characters – Steve Kimbrough (Lance Henriksen) is the no-nonsense cop who patrols the water in a motorboat and yells at guys who use dynamite to fish but then gets invited to their place later for dinner. Anne (Trivia O’Neil) is his attractive, Adrienne Barbeau looking wife – they don’t live together anymore, but it’s clear that there’s still… something there. She works at the Eylsium resort as a dive instructor. Together they have a kid named Chris (Ricky Paull Goldin) who does odd jobs for various rich guys with boats Mr. Dumont and his pretty daughter Allison (Leslie Graves). And then there’s Tyler Sherman (Steve Marachuk), the hunky guest at the resort who takes one of Anne’s dive classes, the very class where one of her students steers away from the main group to explore that same shipwreck from the opening scene… only to meet a similar fate.

    Anne knows something is up. She studied marine biology after all. She and Tyler work together to break into the morgue and examine the body and take some pictures. They’re caught by a nurse who kicks them out, after which, ‘Alien chestburster style’, a piranha jets out of the chest cavity of the corpse, flies across the room and tears the nurse’s throat out! Anne and Tyler don’t know this of course, they’re back at her place bumping uglies – but they find out when Steve finds the credit card left on the scene that Anne use to jimmy the lock and comes to her place to confront her about it! It turns out that Tyler is more than he seems – he once worked for the military and was involved in some genetic experiments meant to create the most dangerous organism imagined… which they succeeded in doing with flying piranhas! And just as the resort is all set to have their big midnight fish fry, those piranha’s have started spawning and are looking for something to eat…

    This movie is goofy, but man is it ever a lot of fun if you’re in the right mood for it. The flying piranha are pretty awesome, and while you kind of have to suspend your disbelief a little more than usual any time they’re on screen, there’s something great about seeing them fly across the frame and chow down on unsuspecting supporting characters – like the two lovely young ladies kind enough to take off their tops on their yacht (Connie Lynn Hadden and Carole Davis).

    The plot is fairly standard killer fish movie stuff, but it gets the job done. The love triangle angle doesn’t play off all that interestingly but it does afford Lance the chance to storm down the hallway of an apartment building looking all flustered. Cameron’s direction is… okay. There’s a nice momentum to the picture in its last half and you can see his appreciation for underwater photography coming into play even at this early stage in his career. It doesn’t ‘feel’ like his other blockbuster films but maybe that’s not a bad thing – there’s enough completely exploitative nudity, wonky gore and flying fish antics in the picture to hold our attention with ease.


    Piranha II: The Spawning arrives on Blu-ray from Shout! Factory on a 50GB disc framed at 1.85.1 in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer taken from a new 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. Generally speaking, this is a nice transfer. Some shots do look a little softer than others but that appears to stem back to the original photography. The picture quality here is nice and film-like, showing a natural amount of grain and plenty of good detail and texture to go with it (though of course once we go underwater things can look a bit murkier) . There isn’t any major print damage to not, just occasional small white specks now and then – the image is pretty clean in that regard. Color reproduction looks quite nice, the blues of the sea look great and the reds of the blood pop nicely without looking oversaturated. Skin tones appear lifelike and natural and there’s no evidence at all of any noise reduction or edge enhancement. The movie is also provided a pretty solid bit rate here, so there aren’t any compression problems.

    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. No problems here. The audio isn’t going to blow you away but it sounds true to source. Range is understandably limited by the by the source material but dialogue is clean and clear and the sound effects – especially the weird “gobble-wobble-gobble-wobble” noises that occur when the piranha attack – are fine. Levels are balanced properly and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion worth noting.

    Aside from a trailer for the feature, we also get two interviews, the first of which is actor Ricky Paull Goldin, clocking in at sixteen-minutes. He looks back on this fondly, the first feature he worked on at only sixteen years old after doing a bunch of TV work. He talks about getting along with the cast and crew, Cameron’s ‘methodical’ approach to directing the picture, how no one involved the shoot set out to make a ‘bad movie’ and his thoughts on the character that he played in the film. The second interview runs fourteen-minute and puts special effects artist Brian Wade in front of the camera to talk about working with Cameron prior on Galaxy Of Terror and then later on Terminator, how he wound up coming up with the original sculpt for the flying piranhas and what it was like working on the shoot.

    Menus and chapter selection are also included. It would have been great to hear from Cameron on this, but it’s probably not a surprise that it didn’t happen.

    The Final Word:

    Piranha II: The Spawning is a delightful ninety-five minutes of irredeemable trash and Shout! Factory are to be commended for finally getting it on Blu-ray not just in nice shape, but with some decent extras as well. Clearly James Cameron would go on to bigger things, but in terms of full on craziness, this one is tough to beat – highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      Ordering this and ROTLD II wednesday. I LOVE this one. It's so much fun and I actually prefer it to Dante's original.