As is well documented I love Joe Dante. Dante is something of a cinematic anarchist, someone whose films often play as a loving Mad Magazine parody of themselves. Someone who makes horror movies with a style that suggests that he’d like nothing more then to have a bunch of monsters running around terrorizing the populace (or given the last couple of compromised movies he’s had to make, perhaps he’d rather have them terrorizing the studio system). Piranha is Joe Dante’s first movie as a solo director (he had previously co directed Hollywood Blvd with Rock N’ Roll Highschool’s Alan Arkush) and aside from Matinee and Gremlins 2 (We’ll talk about why that one’s genius some other time) probably his purist. You can practically hear Dante giggling through the run time barely able to believe what he’s getting away with. Made for Roger Corman during AIP’s heydey Piranha plays like one of the old William Castle cheapies that has gone completely nuts. Er... More so.
When a school of mutant Piranha’s designed by Uncle Sam to hunt Charlie are unceremoniously dumped in mountain river things get nasty quick. And before you know it tastelessness becomes an art form. Our intrepid heroes try to stop the nasty little beasties but without much success. Piranha is the type of movie where a gang of Mutant Piranhas and a children’s summer camp get VERY well acquainted with each other. The movie almost plays like a dare, with Dante uping the ante on how far he's going until you're SURE he won't go through with it. You keep expecting Joe Dante to pull his punches, and the glorious bastard never even seems tempted. By the time of the climatic feeding frenzy things have gone from bad to downright apocalyptic, with a solution to the problem that probably made The EPA feel like they were watching “Spingtime For Hitler.” This movie clucks “how dreadful” with a big ol’ smile on it’s face.