As someone who is vehemently opposed to humor in all forms, I tend to avoid horror-comedies. Sure, a little of one in the other is fine, but I like to keep the funny and the scary separate like a cinematic McDLT. That's my excuse, anyway, for being an animals run amok aficionado who had never seen Piranha (1978) before last night.
I can think of no other reason why I wouldn't have chomped this one down ages ago. Everything else point to it being made just for me. A 70s animal attack movie from Joe Dante, with a cast one only dares to dream of: Bradford Dillman, who famously fought the fire-farting cockroachs of Bug! Keenan Wynn of television's Dallas! Barbara Steele, star of this year's SHOCKtober! Dick Miller! Kevin McCarthy! Paul Bartel! Melody Thomas Scott of The Young and the Restless! It goes on and on. And just went you sit up on your fainting couch, you find out that John Sayles wrote this shit and you say "WHAT!" and you immediately come down with another case of the vapors.
All this to say, the three people who called Piranha a favorite horror movie in 2020 were really on to something, because it's a lot of fun. Yes, I say this even though it has some comedy in it!
A couple of horny young folk break into a disused military testing facility and decide that a giant murky pool is a great place for some skinny dipping. After something (spoiler: it's piranhas) in the water noms them a shitton of times, the horny young folk are dead.
Feisty skip tracer Maggie (Heather Menzies) searches for the horny young folk with the help of local reclusive drunkard me Paul (Dillman); they make their way to the testing facility and drain the murky pool, only to be scolded by local weirdo scientist Dr. Hoak (McCarthy). Hoak explains that the murky pool was not only full of the leftovers of the military's biowarfare experiments, dubbed Operation: Razorteeth...it drained right into a nearby river.
Two points of note: one, I never thought I'd get the chance to describe a character as a "feisty skip tracer," so Piranha has already proven to be a gift. Second, I loved the little stop-motion dude in Hoak's lab and was really hoping to see more of him!
Maggie, Paul, and Hoak set off down the river on a raft to warn as many folks as they can about the incoming piranha threat, making stops at the summer camp where Paul's daughter is staying and a new resort run by Dick Miller. The military is called in to help clean up the mess, and Barbara Steele is one of the military scientists. Yes, Piranha keeps giving and giving.
There is a lot of carnage in this movie: women, children, Paul Bartel...those piranha don't care who you are, they will swim in, make a gurgly woobwoobwoob noise (not to be confused with a Three Stooges woobwoobwoob noise), and nibble you to death, turning the river red with your blood. It's so great.
The characters were charming and weird (thank you, John Sayles), there was no skimping on the attack scenes (thank you, Joe Dante), and abrupt-as-hell ending aside, I enjoyed the heck out of this (thank you, three voters). Except, of course, for all the times something funny happened. Those parts were the worst. If anyone says I so much as cracked a smile during this movie, I'll say I was hacked!