Over the weekend there was a new Piranha remake, and (against all odds) it was good. Not good enough for the distributor to share the film with the press -- or good enough to crack double digits at the box office -- but certainly good enough to get the horror fans gnashing their teeth in surprised appreciation. It's not too often that a 3-D remake of a Jaws ripoff is cause for celebration, but Alex Aja's rendition of Piranha works resoundingly well ... aside from the truly terrible editing in the flick.
And just last night I was invited to blather on the Film School Rejects movie nerd podcast, and one of the topics was this: movies in which people get eaten by animals. And since I'm considerably lazy, I thought I'd turn that conversation into a brief article that you should read starting .... now!
(Note: I'm omitting the original Jaws and the original Piranha for obvious reasons. Anyone reading this list should have seen those movies by now.)
Orca (1977) -- When Dino De Laurentiis does a ripoff, he does it large. Here we find Richard Harris, Charlotte Rampling and Bo Derek being forced to contend with a vengeance-minded killer whale. Some of the flick (the special effects and the score, particularly) is actually pretty solid, but overall this is a wonderfully cheesy movie.
Deep Rising (1998) -- Before he hit the A list with The Mummy and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Stephen Sommers was hard at work on this action / horror combo that's bolstered by a nifty concept (monster on a cruise ship), a strong cast (Treat Williams rocks!), and a powerfully welcome sense of humor. Plus Famke Janssen has never looked sexier.
Jaws 2 (1978) -- There's a special video shelf in heaven for "sequels to classics" that actually work in their own right. On this shelf would go Superman 2, Halloween 2, Psycho 2, and (yep) Jaws 2. The follow-up never once comes close to the quality or creativity of Spielberg's original, but as a basic matinee flick full of sharks and their screaming food, Jaws 2 still works pretty well. Plus that helicopter scene is a freakin' hoot!
Alligator (1980) -- Here's what Jaws taught us: if you're going to rip the flick off, at least do so with A) an animal different than a shark, and B) some actual wit and creativity of your own. Lewis Teague's Alligator (which was written by a young John Sayles) does both of those things surprisingly well. Robert Forster (the cop) and Henry Silva (the hunter) are forced to deal with a gigantic alligator that lives beneath the streets of New York City. Keep your eyes peeled for the classic swimming pool scene.
The Host (2006) -- A colorful Korean family does strange battle with an outrageously huge and hungry beast. I'm far from the only movie geek who's in love with this awesomely monstrous import.
...and I desperately wanted to include the slick / ridiculous Deep Blue Sea in the list, but that would have broken the "five flicks" rule. And I believe in rules. But I know I left out dozens of water-logged mayhem movies, so please do share your own favorites in the comments section below. And never go swimming with pork chops in your suit. That's a free tip.