Why the time is right to restart the Piranha franchise


The Piranha franchise has been dormant for six years. Is it finally time to add another film to the popular horror-comedy killer fish film series?

The Piranha franchise is to B movies what Jaws is to blockbusters. Jaws (1975) is largely considered to be, not only one of the greatest films ever made, but the progenitor of the summer blockbuster. It certainly put Steven Spielberg on the map and paved the way for a new era of monster movies. The influences of Jaws are far-reaching, it inspired numerous copies, a plethora of shark attack films, and allowed Spielberg the opportunity to make films like E.T. and Jurassic Park. 

Of the many parodies, spoofs, and copycat films spawned from the Jaws franchise, none became quite as popular as the cult favorite B-movie, Piranha. Released in 1978, Piranha quickly proved itself a low-budget parody of Jaws and it endeared audiences with its copious amounts of bloodshed, nonsensical plotlines, and over-the-top amounts of sex, debauchery, and utter lunacy. Piranha was mindless popcorn entertainment at its best.

The killer-fish franchise went on to start a moderately lucrative franchise of its own, and while it was never as critically successful as its predecessor or many other horror films at the time, it still created its own cult following and legion of fans who were charmed by the camp.

Even James Cameron got in on the fun, although he’s not likely to admit it. He directed the much weaker sequel, Piranha II: The Spawning (1981), and has infamously tried to distance himself from his work on the film. Personally, even though the sequel wasn’t my favorite, I had to give the movie credit for trying to establish a continuity where piranha could fly.

A still from Piranha (1978) – Courtesy of New World Pictures, and United Artists

After the sequel failed to garner much attention, the franchise cooled off for a while until 1995 when Scott P. Levy directed a paint-by-numbers remake of the original for the Showtime channel.

The series didn’t get an official new story and entry into the franchise until 2010 when Alexandre Aja took over the reins and delivered one of the most delightfully gory films of the summer in the form of Piranha 3D.

Piranha 3D served as the perfect reboot of the Piranha franchise and was lauded by critics for its gleeful celebration of nudity and the bloodiest piranha kills yet. It was everything one could ever want in a film about hordes of fanged fish trying to eat everyone in sight.

In 2012, Piranha 3DD followed as a sequel to the rebooted film. It didn’t perform nearly as well despite trying to emulate the self-parody vibe and insanity. It had an underwhelming box office return and was mostly panned by critics and audiences alike.

Not to mention the production issues, including stalls due to weather, budget, and location. I actually enjoyed the film and thought it was at least as entertaining as 3D even if it lacked the ingenuity, but it seemed to mark the end of the Piranha franchise.

According to BloodyDisgusting the Piranha franchise was set to make a comeback with a new film titled, Summer of the Piranha, in Japan.

"As spotted over on the IXFILM Group website, it seems that Piranha franchise rights holder/producer Hisako Tsukaba is currently prepping a new series installment titled Summer of the Piranha (alternatively titled Piranha JPN) over in her home country of Japan, which is said to be in pre-production right now for a planned 2018 release."

The film was supposedly set to debut this year but given that we’re headed into the final months of the year and no further news has become available since that article was posted (two years ago), it’s hard to say whether or not this film will actually see the light of day.

I understand why a reboot of the Piranha franchise may not be high on anyone’s list of films to get made, but I think the time is ripe to give the series another chance. We’re on the cusp of cataclysmic climate change and with our current political environment and people’s continued awareness of global warming, it seems like the perfect opportunity for Hollywood to cash in on some of that hysteria.

The Piranha movies have always predicated themselves on tongue-in-cheek jests at creature features and taken a satirical stance on horror as a whole. While spring breaker type films have mostly died out over the past few years (at least outside of the straight-to-DVD bin at Walmart) so have monster movies, disappointingly. Surely if we can make room for Godzilla, King Kong, and copious amounts of badly made shark bait movies, we can make room for a creature feature that promises to bring some originality, spunk, and a real bloody bite back into the waters.

I was hoping this past summer’s shark movie, Meg, would be more akin to Piranha 3D, but it took itself much too seriously and fell somewhat flat for me.

In regards to Piranha 3D, in the end, we learn that the piranhas were actually just the babies. We witnessed a giant mother piranha kill Adam Scott’s character and then never heard from her again. Then, at the end of Piranha 3DD the piranhas were learning how to walk on land! I mean there is a goldmine of ludicrous material to draw from for a new film, especially if they find a way to combine both concepts from the ending pre-credits stingers.

Christopher Lloyd in Piranha 3DD (2012) – Courtesy of Dimension Films, Radius-TWC,

I think self-parody and satire are “in” now, particularly in regards to horror movies. Films like Cabin in the Woods (which I’m pretty sure had piranhas as a possible “death” option in one of those many cells) and Happy Death Day proved how popular it can be.

A24, the production company, has demonstrated time and time again how unconventional audiences like their horror, now more than ever before audiences are open to experimental, satirical, and radical shifts to the genre.

Or maybe Piranha will be a return to the horror days of yesteryear but that doesn’t mean they can’t be smart about it. I think there’s always room for campy goodness on the big screen and it’s nice to have variety.

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Personally, I say it’s time we give the sharks a much needed break, at least for one summer, and let the little fish roar.

Are you a fan of the Piranha films? Which one is your favorite? If they were to make a new one what would you like to see in it? Fill us in below in the comment section!