The most possessing stories often leak in after consciousness has left us. The pitch this
week was to find one of the darkest of those images and put it to paper.
I like scary movies. Here’s a really good one, one of the best. Straight out of the 70’s. I watched it on one of those old horror shows like they play after midnight, you know, where the guy rises from a “spooky” casket and says things like “Our movie tonight is a real boy-meets-ghoul story!” in a hokey Romanian accent. This particular show didn’t have all the props, but you get the idea.
I was pretty excited to see the beginning, too. A young couple in a room from the 70’s (I wasn’t kidding when I said it was straight out of the 70’s) going at it hot and heavy. I love the graininess of the footage, by the way, it just adds an air of authenticity to the whole thing. So they’re going at it hot and heavy, and they decide to go take a shower together. Next thing you know, they’re butt naked and piling into the shower. There’s a window, by the way, and you can tell the place is right beside a river and it’s the middle of the day, all sunshine and green leaves. Great set up for unexpected horror. And the gratuitous boobage is, of course, sign of a truly great movie to follow.
So they start making out in the shower, and the camera pans up and suddenly a little fish plops out of the faucet, and another one right behind it. Next thing you know, they jump on the guy and literally skeletonize him in like three seconds while the girl is shrieking her lungs out. Of course, she’s next, and just like that there’s blood and that old-time fake gore stuff everywhere and two skeletons lying in the shower with the water washing their bones clean. And then, get this, my favorite part of the whole movie, the two fish, which are clearly muppets or something, kind of chuckle at each other and give each other a high five, only with their fins. I love that. And the title comes up, Piranhas, writ large in the 70’s equivalent of CGI blood.
So that was great, and I’m thinking, this is going to be the best horror movie of all time. So the credits roll, and we get the typical set up of small town USA, apparently this place is pretty isolated, but I got the impression it was somewhere in the Midwest. Everyone’s typical, the sheriff will of course never believe anything, and you just know that eventually someone’s going into the water when they really ought to know better. And of course, they do.
That’s where it starts to get odd. I expected to see some more of our piranha friends doing the food processor thing, but the scriptwriters decided to go a different route. When the piranhas attack the first kid, it doesn’t just eat him, it jumps inside him. And it eats him from inside out. Fucked up. But very cool. Ultraviolent.
So anyways, Hero is running around with Girlfriend and trying to warn everyone and of course they don’t listen. And Big Town Festival Event is near! Good lord, what to do?!? Well, Sheriff takes them down to the river to see if they can find what all the fuss is about, along with Deputy and a couple Gratuitous Friends, or Body Count, as we in the know call them (aside: the best thing about Gratuitous Friends is that no matter how close you are to them, the second they're dead, you’re completely over it, even if you were dating and deeply in love a second before. 30 second mourning period, tops. It’s like even the other characters realize how two-dimensional their friends are.) Sure enough, we’re down by the river, when Sheriff starts talking about how the kids shouldn’t be meddling in things they don’t understand or some such garbage. Then he starts shaking and convulsing and blood is spraying from his mouth, and a piranha explodes out of him straight onto Gratuitous Friend #1, where it quickly eats its way inside.
Now here’s the bombshell, appropriately just after the page break: the piranha doesn’t eat its way out. Instead, it like takes control of him somehow, and he starts talking for the piranha, and he says something along the lines of “Now we’re in charge and humanity is doomed!” but not quite that ridiculous. And sure enough, the deputy is one of them too, and they start coming out of the river and invading Gratuitous Friends, and Hero, in a twist of irony, must jump into the river to escape them.
The next sequence is pretty long, and mostly involves Hero floundering around in the river while Big Town Fiesta gets pumped into full gear and Gratuitous Friends, now fully piranhated, walk ominously towards it. There’s a lot of thrashing involved in the water; whether current or piranha related, I’m unsure. It’s a strange sequence, but it gets to you on a visceral level. Hero is tangled up in vines on the far shore, and the water is suddenly very dark, and there are kids playing underneath a bridge on the other side. He yells for help and they just look at him with dull eyes—fish eyes, I suppose.
This is normally the part of the movie where we find out how the hero’s going to beat back the evil scourge, but this movie takes it in a new direction: hopelessness. The piranhas win. There, I spoiled it for you. They win, and the whole town is now just a breeding ground for more piranhas or a slaughteryard for them or something like that. Hero climbs finally gets out of the river and runs into Girlfriend, only she explodes into piranha gore when he tries to kiss her (which is odd because it’s usually the other way around, yuk-yuk). The thing in her jumps at him and he barely dodges. He hops on a motorcycle and takes off out of town. The piranhas, safely ensconced in their human bodies, give chase for awhile, but eventually give up. The movie exists with a scene of a van full of teenagers passing town limits to go “fishing.” Groan.
So that’s my review of Piranhas. I highly recommend it… truly a horror classic. The odd thing about this movie is that I can’t seem to find it anywhere—I’ve found a 70’s movie by the same title, but it’s not the same film. Even odder was the segment after the movie. After the credits rolled, the show I was watching had an interview with a guy who pretty much claimed to be Hero. He certainly looked the part of someone who climbed out of a river and never looked back, I’ll warrant that. This guy claims it’s all a true story, and mutant piranhas are slowly eating up America… we just don’t know because they’re taking their sweet time about it. I, of course, find this claim highly specious, but the guy was talking about the shutdown of Big Pines River in 1978 and the wall and everything and that does seem odd in context. What the hell, I have enough nightmares to deal with without worrying that my friends are actually inhabited by super-smart land piranhas.