Today’s movie has a somewhat funny memory attached to it that does not involve my seeing it, but rather knowing who had directed it. See, some of my friends and I used to go to a bar when they did “Movie Trivia”, which definitely seemed right up my alley. One week when we were there, a question came up about which famed director made his directorial debut with today’s movie. Many people, except for myself and another teammate that knew the answer, were surprised to learn that this was James Cameron’s first movie. So let’s see how good, or bad, of a job he did with today’s movie, Piranha II: The Spawning.
The plot: Off the coast of a Caribbean island, a couple decide to go for a late night scuba dive and make their way to a ship wreck on the ocean floor. The two decide to have sex inside the wreck but end up being killed by the mutant piranha that managed to survive the pollution in the first movie. The next day, Anne Kimbrough, the dive instructor for Club Elysium, and the other hotel staff are getting prepared for the annual fish fry that will be occurring the following day. Anne’s son Chris has taken a job of crewing on the ship of a rich man while Anne’s estranged husband Steve is the island police chief. Early that day, Steve chastises his friend Gabby for dynamite fishing then tows a dingy back to the club dock and asks Anne if she recognizes it, as it was near the wreck that Anne takes her dive class. Meanwhile, Jai and Loretta, two female bandits, sail into port and plan on raiding the club’s kitchen for some food supplies before taking off for another island. Jai starts grabbing some food but is caught by Mal, a chef at the club. Mal starts to get the manager but Jai starts flirting with him and convinces him to bring some food to the boat in exchange for sex with her and Loretta. However, when Mal shows up with the food, Jai and Loretta trick him into giving them the food and untying their boat, then leave him when he is unable to jump on board. Anne is talking to her class about the wreck and says they are not allowed to swim inside the wreck, which upsets one of the divers but Anne is defended by another student, Tyler Sherman. During the dive, the student sneaks away from the group and heads down into the wreck. When Anne notices he is missing, she has Tyler, who is an experienced diver, lead the rest of the group back to the surface while she goes looking for the missing student and finds his body partially eaten inside the wreck. When Steve hears about what happened, he questions Anne about what happened but when Anne wants to examine the body he refuses, saying it could be used as evidence in a case against her. Later that night, Anne and Tyler end up breaking into the morgue, where Anne takes some pictures of the body. The two are chased off by a nurse but as the nurse goes to put the body back in storage, a piranha that was trapped inside the body suddenly bursts out and attacks the nurse before flying out the window. Meanwhile, Jai and Loretta are out at sea and they are attacked and killed by the flying piranha as well. Anne and Tyler are examining the pictures and Anne doesn’t recognize what could have killed the diver but when Tyler mentions it could be a new species, Anne says that the Army had modified piranha to be used in Vietnam but they were freshwater fish. Gabby calls Steve to the Jai and Loretta’s boat, where they find the body of Jai, and later, Steve finds the nurse’s body at the morgue, along with Anne’s credit card that she used to break in. When Steve goes to talk to Anne, he finds her in bed with Tyler and gets upset and leaves and when Anne chases after him, he tells her about the nurse as well as the other body. Anne tries to tell Raoul, the club manager, about the fish but he ends up firing her. Anne decides to go down to the wreck to find a fish but when she sees them, she is pulled to safety by Tyler, who had also gone down for a sample. When they get back to the boat, Tyler explains that he was part of the team that worked on the mutated piranha and that some eggs had gone down in the wreck. Gabby shows Steve some nets and fish that were chewed up by the piranha, as well the wings off of one of the piranha, saying that they are eating themselves. Anne, Steve, and Gabby try to convince Raoul to cancel the fish fry but he refuses to do so. Steve goes out to the boat that Chris was crewing on and discovers that Chris and Allison had taken the dinghy and gone to one of the islands. Meanwhile, Gabby’s son is killed by the piranha and Gabby starts building bombs to blow up the wreck that serves as the piranha’s lair. As Steve continues to look for Chris, his deputy is patrolling the beach and ends up being killed by the piranha. Gabby brings his son’s body to the club to show Anne and tells her his plans. As the club guests head to the beach to gather grunion for the fish fry, the piranha start attacking them, killing several people, including Gabby, during the night. Anne heads out to the boat, where she finds Tyler waiting for Gabby, and the two tell Steve their plan and Anne tells him to find Chris but to be clear of the wreck area by 6:30 a.m. Anne and Tyler dive down into the wreck to place the bombs but when they start to leave, they see the piranha school heading toward them and are forced to make their way through the ships air ducts to escape. Meanwhile, Chris and Allison happen to have rowed right over the wreck and when Steve finds them, he jumps out of the helicopter, causing it to crash, and gets in the dive boat to pick them up. Anne and Tyler force their way out of the air ducts but Tyler’s suit gets stuck and the piranha kill him but Anne is able to escape. Meanwhile, Steve waits as long as he can but finally is forced to move away from the wreck so they can survive the explosion. Anne sees the boat moving and grabs onto the anchor, allowing herself to be dragged to safety as the bombs go off, destroying the ship and the piranhas. After the explosion, Steve hugs chris, thinking Anne was killed but he hears her yelling for him and sees her swimming towards the boat and when she reaches it, the three end up hugging each other.
Piranha II: The Spawning was heavily panned by the critics, earning a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, many of the critics’ complaints were about the poor special effects and the bad script. James Cameron was not the original director of the movie but was brought in after the original director, Miller Drake was removed from the picture. However, James Cameron only worked on the movie for about 2 1/2 weeks before he was also fired by producer Ovidio Assonitis, who would go on to finish the movie. Cameron generally doesn’t acknowledge this as his first movie, choosing The Terminator for that honor, but has acknowledged the film in interviews, calling it “the best flying piranha film ever made.”
For as good as the first movie was, this movie is just absolutely terrible. The acting was ok but there were sometimes where the people speaking were so emotionless that the seemed like robots. The story was ridiculous, taking the original concept of the Army modifying piranha to survive in colder water, as well as salt water, and then basically going “Oh, let’s splice them with flying fish so they can fly.” The editing for the movie was also terrible, as some of the scenes and cut-aways just seemed odd and didn’t make sense as far as the order they were in. The special effects were terrible, and I don’t know if it was just due to the low budget or if it was because the producers didn’t care. Several scenes with the piranhas were pretty obvious that the victims were holding puppets to themselves. A pretty lousy sequel for a good movie.
Rating: 1 1/2 out of 5