Do you know how many entries there are in the Piranha series? You know, the series about hordes of mutant killer fish chewing people to bloody death?
And maybe except for the very first, none of them are what I’d consider to be collection-worthy, but, as the genre tends to go, one’s own sensibilities will determine the series’ mileage.
It may not surprise you to hear that the King of the World himself, James Cameron, has a pretty low opinion of his feature debut, Piranha 2: The Spawning (released in some territories as Piranha 2: Flying Killers), but then again, he seems to think Avatar was a pretty good movie, so who knows! The sequel follows the original Piranha, directed by Joe Dante and scripted by John Sayles, which contained a very subtle sense of humor and served primarily as a thinly-veiled parody of JAWS. The only sense of humor associated with Piranha 2 is the laughter coming from the audience watching it. A silly, absurd, and very cheaply made monster movie, Piranha 2 benefits/suffers (depending on what kind of experience you want) from being a co-Italian production, who tend to go for the throat in terms of badness.
Like the original, the titular beasts don’t get much screen time (I’d swear there’s even less piranha in this sequel than its predecessor). It’s to Cameron’s credit that the approach to Piranha 2 is laden with more sincerity than was probably required (or even asked for). After all, the piranha can fly this time, which one would thing would make for, at the very least, a whirlwind of a finale. But it would seem for every pair of plastic wings affixed to a plastic fish, said plastic fish would lose a minute of screen time.
Piranha 2 attempts to mine humor from the amorous elderly and the horniness of teenagers, but beyond that, it’s played mostly straight; normally I much prefer bad horror when it’s being serious, but I’m not sure a fully comedic angle would have worked in the favor of Piranha 2, anyway. It’s good for bursts of violence rendered by flying, carnivorous, warbling, shaking mutant piranha, but beyond that, it’s a struggle to watch.
If any good, non-ironic thing can be said about Piranha 2, it’s the (rare) lead performance from character actor and genre favorite Lance Henriksen (surname misspelled in the credits), whom I’ve spent years praising for being a dependable, talented, and severely underrated actor. Piranha 2 is dumb. It’s one of the most brainless horror movies you might ever see. But Henriksen’s typically serious approach to the character is the lone stabilizing presence the film has that helps to keep it grounded — or, at least, as grounded as a movie about flying, carnivorous, warbling, mutant piranha can be.