Quantcast

Piranha II: The Spawning (Blu-ray Review)

Many acclaimed directors get their start in the horror genre. And of those many, some of them’s first big gigs were schlock. Enter James Cameron and Roger Corman’s Piranha II: The Spawning. Its fun bit of film history trivia to see a torch passed in a series like this from Joe Dante to James Cameron. Scream Factory had tried to release this one earlier this year (January, I believe), but hit some snags delaying it, but I can confirm that it DOES exist as I’m gonna review it haha. Not a Collector’s Edition but the film does carry some extras (No, James Cameron and Lance Henriksen are not involved with any of them). This is sure to become a collector’s item, though. So, pre-order yourself a copy to have on time for its release on July 31st!

Film 

While investigating the mysterious death of a diver, scuba instructor Anne Kimbrough makes a horrific discovery: Piranha-like fish, with wings that enable them to fly, are responsible for the death. As the body count rises, Anne desperately tries to convince the manager of the Club Elysium resort to call off the annual fish fry on the beach, but he’s determined to give his guests the ultimate feeding frenzy.

Piranha II: The Spawning’s (Or Piranha II: Flying Killers as the film’s title card states it) claim to fame is being the directorial debut of legendary director, Academy Award winner and helmer of the 2 highest grossing films worldwide of all time, James Cameron. However, as the story goes, its kinda sorta true and kinda sorta not. Ovividio G Assoitis, the producer of the film apparently was unhappy with Cameron after a week and decided to start heavily butting in on the process. Its claimed that Cameron shot the movie but wasn’t allowed to review footage or help in the editing room on the process. His shooting was heavily informed on what he was to do as well.

Still, James Cameron is credited as the director on the film and while compromised and not ideal circumstances, it was his job. Some of his traits are present here early on in the film, which sees him working with actor Lance Henriksen. Our story also focuses on a smart, independent and stronger female protagonist. There is also a lot of underwater exploration and a lot of scenes that take place during some deep water dives. This material is actually really impressive and well done, especially when you consider this is a cheap ass Roger Corman film. I’ll give Cameron every bit of credit for this.

If you weren’t told this film was directed by James Cameron and had to guess who did it, odds are his name would never come up. This film looks, feels and plays out more like an Lucio Fulci or Umberto Lenzi film than it would any Hollywood proteges’. Its look is that softer, glossy kind of picture. The fish effects and idea to begin with area out of that Italian schlock horror playbook. There are a lot of out of place nudity or sexual situations that feel hamfisted into the film. And the gore matches up quite well. This is why it feels that Ovividio G Assoitis likely asserted himself more than this behind the scenes story leads on.

The second Piranha film isn’t a kinda cheesy, but still pretty good Jaws knock off like the first one was. As its title and premise suggests, this is a pretty trashy film. It delivers on some T&A, gore and unintentional humor. This is the kind of movie best enjoyed with a group of friends and a few drinks in your system. If you’re into that you should absolutely seek out Piranha II: The Spawning.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: Piranha II: The Spawning comes to Blu-ray from Scream Factory with a new 2K scan of the original camera negative. This has that soft look of a Fulci film and carries plenty of textures and details to it. Colors are pretty strong and many of the underwater sequences in the film are very impressive in this image. I’m sure its never looked this good before and this image really does the movie some favors while also keeping it looking effective and campy.

Depth: Depth of field is pretty decent here. Foreground images feel good separation from the background and camera movements can help to display the spacing. Movements are cinematic and fluid with no real distortion issues to report.

Black Levels: This movie features some really dark moments and they are handled pretty well. Detail can be lost but can equally impress with some the stuff like hair follicles that still are plenty discernible.

Color Reproduction: Colors are pretty decent here. Green is a pretty strong one with leaves on trees and such. Red comes through on the blood quite well and there are some lights that really glow off the screen. Blues feature some really good saturation with many wonderful looking underwater moments.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from beginning to end of the film. Close ups give us good texture with stubble, make up, lip texture, sweat and the like with varying degrees of success in medium to far away shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics: This original mono mix is pretty decent. It primarily gets a decent job done. The score probably sounds best of anything in this mix. The effects and vocals can have some troubles from time to time. A lot of the dialogue features heavy ADR which, as mentioned, makes this feel like an Italian horror film of this era more than one directed by James Cameron. This mix isn’t terrible, but there’s a lot of places it could have improved and it features some noticeable weak spots.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are pretty solid for the most part. There is one scene when two characters are coming in from diving to a boat that has a bad echo to it.

Extras 

Piranha II: The Spawning comes reversible cover art featuring an alternate poster design for the film.

Interview With Actor Ricky Paull Goldin (HD, 15:55) – He was 16 years old when making the film and has a pretty solid recollection of his experience. Goldin mentions how calculated the “sweetheart” James Cameron was, really knowing what he wanted. The actor also discusses being able to relate to the character while talking different parts of the film to his personal life relationships.

Interview With Make-Up Effects Artist Brian Wade (HD, 14:09) – This guy also got to work on Terminator with Cameron, having originally worked with him on a film called Galaxy of Terror. He details hopping around projects with a studio and winding up leading to him sculpting the flying piranha. Wade lays out his experience and working with James Cameron very well here.

Theatrical Trailer (SD, 1:50)

Summary 

Piranha II: The Spawning makes for a goofy, silly bit of cheapo schlock horror to crack open a beer with as you take in flying fish mauling people. Scream Factory’s release has it looking really good to go along with a decent original theatrical mono mix. In an ideal world we get a sit down with James Cameron as well as a commentary, but the fact that we have SOME people coming back and discussing it on brand new interviews is a good win for the release. This is likely a release for the hardcore collector. Those interested in James Cameron’s more known works may want to rent before shelling out to own it.

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

  1. No Comments