Horror Movie Review: Piranha II – The Spawning (1981)


The most amazing thing about Piranha II: The Spawning is that is was the directorial debut of James Cameron. You know, the same man who would later go on to direct Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Aliens, Titanic & Avatar. He did alright for himself in the end considering what an absolute mess this movie is.

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Before we get into the plot of the movie we have to talk about the messy production. The original director of Piranha II was Miller Drake. He was then replaced by James Cameron who was originally the special effects director. The movie’s low budget meant that the crew was composed essentially of Italians, none of whom spoke English.

Cameron was micro-managed by executive producer, Ovidio G. Assonitis who made most of the major decisions regarding the final product. According to Cameron himself, he was fired after a couple of weeks. The final cut has very little to do with him but contractually his name couldn’t be removed. He does not view this as his directorial debut.

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So with all the backstage rubbish did Piranha II: The Spawning actually turn out OK? No, no it did not. It’s absolutely terrible. A shame considering the entertainment value found in the 1978 original.

Piranha II: The Spawning continues on shortly after the events of the first movie. The surviving Piranha have made it into the ocean & taken refuge in a sunken wreck. In an absolutely stunning turn of events they’ve also gained the ability to fly & survive out of water. Yes, flying Piranha, I shit you not.

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The movie then follows a similar plot to the likes of Jaws. The piranha attack & kill random characters at a holiday resort. Diving instructor Anne Kimbrough (Tricia O’Neil) & her estranged husband police chief, Steve Kimbrough (Lance Henriksen) start to uncover the truth about the flying deadly fish.

Once they realise just what is going on they try to shut down the resort to no avail (with the token boss character who only sees a loss of money). This leads to a big party finale where the piranhas attack!

Sounds familiar, right?

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Lacking originality, Piranha II: The Spawning is a tiresome, boring, poorly acted & visual mess that has very few redeeming features. It’s clearly been cut to shreds with no coherence in plot. Low budget or not, the effects are absolutely horrific. The fish look incredibly fake & the gore is laughably bad. The movie employs so many close up shots in the dark that it’s often near impossible to actually see what is going on.

Not that you’ll actually care. While the body count is high, almost all who die are irrelevant & pointless characters with barely any screen time. There’s a good reason for this though as the supporting cast are hilariously bad. Most are unable to even deliver a simple line of dialogue convincingly.

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The movie takes itself far too seriously. It’s a horror about mutant flying piranha yet it doesn’t even attempt any humour. A sub-plot about the Kimbourgh’s marriage is pointless with an uninteresting ending. The usual ‘reunited’ thing, as if the life or death situation has fixed all the issues that they clearly had before. While both O’Neil & Henriksen are perfectly fine in their roles (as you would expect) neither has anything particular great to work with.

The first Piranha was hardly a classic but this sequel is so much worse it’s near offensive. Don’t waste your time. It’s a hour & a half of your life that is better spent watching paint dry.

Piranha II - The Spawning
  • 2/10
    The Final Score - 2/10
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