Dennis Lim recently revisited a 1979 classic to see if it still has bite. Here’s an excerpt from his Los Angeles Times article:
Steven Spielberg’swhich opened 35 years ago this summer, is often credited — or blamed — for inventing the modern blockbuster: the art form, or rather economic model, that brought with it tentpole releases and long summers of big, expensive, aggressively hyped movies.
But in its immediate wake, the influence of “Jaws” could be felt on a more literal level. The late 1970s and early 1980s saw a string of shockers that were designed with varying degrees of shamelessness to exploit the fear of carnivorous aquatic life: among many others, ” Mako: The Jaws of Death” (1976), “Tentacles” (1977), “Orca” (1977), “Barracuda” (1978) and “Great White” (1981), not to mention the string of “Jaws” sequels that sputtered to an ignominious end with “Jaws: The Revenge” (1987).
Of all the killer-fish knockoffs, though, the wittiest was a deft little B-movie that rolled off the Roger Corman assembly line in summer 1978, directed by an enterprising genre-movie buff named Joe Dante. The film is being reissued on DVD by Shout! Factory this week in standard-definition and Blu-ray editions as part of its Roger Corman’s Cult Classics series (“Humanoids From the Deep,” a nastier “Jaws” rip-off from 1980, is also out this week, and other recent releases include “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” and “Death Race 2000“).
Like “Jaws,” “Piranha” opens by equating skinny-dipping with death. Two teenagers, ignoring a “No Trespassing” sign, jump into a suspiciously murky-looking pool — and promptly end up as fish food…
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– Dennis Lim
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