So years ago, when I was a teenager, I remember seeing Piranha listed on Showtime once and decided to watch it. When I started watching it, I realized that this was not the movie I remembered, but continued watching it anyways. More recently, after I bought the original movie, I remembered seeing this version and seeing if it was available on DVD. Luckily for me, it was so I immediately bought it, along with some other piranha themed movies, and that allows me to watch today’s movie, Piranha (1995).
The plot: Two teenagers, Barbara and David, are hiking through the woods when they come across an abandoned army facility. David wants to head back, fearing Barbara’s uncle, but Barbara convinces him to stay as she pushes him into a pool on the site, then proceeds to strip out of her clothes and join him. As the two start swimming, David complains about something biting him when he suddenly starts thrashing around before he disappears underwater. Barbara tries swimming back to the edge of the pool but she is also attacked and dragged under while in a nearby building, the lights suddenly come on. A week later, Barbara’s uncle, rich land developer J.R. Randolph, hires a detective agency to find his niece and the owner sends Maggie McNamara, his best agent, to look for them. When she gets to Lost Lake River, she ends up at the cabin of Paul Grogan and asks him if he has seen the missing kids or knows of any place they might be hiding. When Paul mentions the abandoned Army facility, Maggie has him take her there and after breaking in, the two wander around the site. When Maggie finds Barbara’s necklace at the bottom of the steps leading to the pool, she decides to find a way to drain it to see of the kids drowned. Heading inside the nearby building, Barbara finds the teens’ clothes and then begins to drain the pool. Suddenly, a crazed woman enters the room and asks what they are doing before suddenly attacking them, forcing Barbara to knock the woman unconscious. When the pool is drained, they don’t see any sign of the two teens but do find the skeleton of a dog. Meanwhile, the woman has regained consciousness and stolen their jeep but, still suffering from the blow to her head, she ends up crashing it. Taking the injured woman back to Paul’s cabin, the try to figure out how to get the woman some medical attention and Paul recommends going to the dam, as they have a ranger stationed there. When Maggie asks how they can get her there, Paul shows her a raft he built for his daughter but never used, as she is afraid of the water. As they make their way down the river, they hear a dog barking and pull up onto the dock of Paul’s friend Jack, who they find with his feet and lower legs stripped to the bone. Staying at Jack’s cabin for the night, the woman regains consciousness but seems to be in shock and doesn’t make much sense with what she is saying. The next day, they continue back down the river, taking Jack’s dog Brandy with them, and they start asking the woman questions. She says her name is Dr. Leticia Baines and that the river is full of genetically modified piranha since Maggie drained the pool. Paul doesn’t believe her at first but when Brandy starts barking and jumps into the water, the witness the piranha killing her. Continuing on, they come across a boy, whose father had been killed by the piranha, stranded on an overturned canoe. Seeing the canoe starting to sink, Baines jumps into the river and swims over to help save the boy but ends up being attacked and killed by the piranha. As the keep heading for the dam, the piranha are attracted to Baines’ blood, which is seeping into the river, and they start chewing up the lashings of the raft. Paul dumps Baines’ body off of the raft then they steer it to shore so they can jump to safety and Paul runs ahead and stops the ranger at the dam from releasing water down into the lake. The sheriff is called and after the boy is taken away, he speaks with Paul and Maggie about Baines but says the government denies any knowledge of what she was working on. When Maggie says that she is working for Randolph, they are taken to see him but Randolph doesn’t believe their story. Paul and Maggie warn him to evacuate the summer camp and the resort but Randolph says he will lose millions if the resort doesn’t open and convinces the sheriff to detain them. Maggie uses an escape plan from an old movie to knock out the deputy and they escape and head towards the summer camp that Paul’s daughter Suzie is at. At the camp, the campers are competing in a swimming marathon when the piranha start attacking them. Suzie, who had been hiding so she didn’t have to compete, sees her friend and favorite councilor Laura being attacked and gets in an inflatable raft to save them but Laura ends up falling out of the raft and is killed by the piranha. Paul and Maggie arrive and Paul tells Maggie to call the resort and warn them while he goes to save Suzie and the other kids. At the resort, Randolph’s assistant gets Maggie’s call and tells Randolph about it and Randolph decides to have all of the calls routed to his office while the phones at the resort are to be made out of service. Back at the camp, Paul and Maggie make sure the kids are all right and that help is coming, then head to the resort. At the resort, the piranha start attacking and killing people, including the sheriff. When Paul and Maggie get there, they quickly get in a boat and take off down river towards an old smelting plant. Paul realizes that the piranha are able to live in salt water and are heading towards the ocean, so he plans on releasing the waste from the smelting plant to pollute water along the piranha’s path in an effort to kill them. When the control booth is found to be underwater, Paul ties a tow rope around him, then dives in to open the valves while Maggie counts down. As Paul opens the valve, the piranha show up and start to attack him but Maggie reaches the end of the countdown and starts the boat, dragging Paul to safety. Later, a news reporter is at the resort filming a report and asks Randolph on if he knew about the piranha, but Randolph doesn’t answer and heads to his office, where he dismisses his assistant before killing himself. When the reporter speaks with the governor about what happened, and the governor says he is going to launch an investigation into what happened but says that there is no chance of the piranha surviving in the ocean. The report is played on a radio at a beach somewhere but as the people all go into the water, the sound of the piranha swarm can be heard.
You know how remakes can sometimes stray from the original, well this movie didn’t really do that and that led to some problems. Now this was a fairly decent movie all in all, not as good as the original but definitely better than the sequel. The acting was okay, with William Katt (Paul), Alexandra Paul (Maggie), and Monte Markham (Randolph) doing good jobs in their roles. It is also noteworthy that this is Mila Kunis’ debut film role (though she did appear on a few episodes of some TV shows before this), but she wasn’t really impressive with her performance. The plot was almost exactly like the original movie, with very few changes to it, such as Hoak’s character being changed to Baines. Even the dialogue seemed almost exactly the same, which was confusing and a little funny when Paul dumped Baines’ body in the water and the kid starts screaming out that it is his daddy (like what happened in the original movie). I know it was supposed to be passed off as the kid being in shock but it still sounded really odd. The special effects were mostly reused footage from the original movie, and having seen the movie recently, it was easy to notice them. That being said, it worked in the movies favor several times so it wasn’t a bad move. Like I said, it is a decent movie but I would still pick the original a lot better.
Rating: 3 out of 5