Piranha is Joe Dante’s official solo directorial debut, he co-directed some of Hollywood Boulevard. Dante would later go on to make such films as Gremlin, Matinee, the Burbs, Small Soldiers and more recently The Hole and he also hosts the online youtube channel Trailers from Hell which him and other directors do commentary on old film trailers. He also was the creator behind one of my favourite tv shows Eerie Indiana. Joe Dante like too many great directors before him started in the Roger Corman (also a great director in his own right… just watch The Intruder) school of filmmaking.
Piranha isn’t one of Dante’s finest films at any stretch of the imagination but it’s a perfectly fine enjoyable rip-off of Steven Spielberg’s much more superior film Jaws. Roger Corman from the start would often do films that rip-off popular films of the time or what was popular in the youth market; for instance during the start of hippie era, he made The Trip which was all about taking LSD. The films Corman directed himself would usually be the superior films he made. The film literally opens with a Jaws video game and has numerous nods to the film throughout the film. Universal tried to sue the filmmakers for spoofing Jaws but Spielberg was so impressed with it’s rip-off he later hired Dante to make his best film to date Gremlins and Universal obviously dropped their lawsuit.
Piranha like most of Dante’s films have a very nice sense of humour of everything it’s doing but not in obnoxious way that certain films of this ilk do. The film is also noted for it being the screenwriting debut of John Sayles who would take his profits from the film (and other screenwriting jobs for hire) to make his own deeply personal films. Overall the film is a amusing rip-off of Jaws while it’s certainly not any of the filmmaker’s involved best work at all, it’s a perfectly decent 90 minutes. It also features great cameos from Corman regulars such as Paul Bartel and Dick Miller. Second Sight has done a very nice blu-ray package with lots of bonus material and also they have starting releasing some interesting cult films of late such as Southern Comfort and From Beyond (will be reviewed later on this site in the year).