Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A 2-4-1 Special of "Jaws" rip-offs

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A 2-4-1 Special of “Jaws” rip-offs

By: Brian Cotnoir

"Jaws”; not only is it one of my Favorite Films of All-Time, but it is one of the Greatest Films Ever Made.  Seriously, how many times have I made references to “Jaws” on this blog?  I can’t even count.  “Jaws” is one of the three most common references/influences that I’ve seen in Horror films (the others being Serial Killers and Movie monsters).  If you go to Netflix right now there are over 10 Films about Shark attacks.  However, for every good Shark Attack film you get like a “Jaws” or a “Deep Blue Sea”, you get a dozen films like “Sharknado”.  And then every now and then you get a good “Jaws” spoof like “Sand Sharks” or “Jersey Shore: Shark Attack”.         But if Hollywood has taught us anything about films it’s this: when any idea in film is overly successful, just try to copy exactly what they did.  So just three years later, in 1978, after “Jaws” left an entire generation “too terrified to go back into the water” audiences were treated to not one, but two films that were blatant rip-off’s of “Jaws”, both film opting to use another creature from the deep, in lieu of a shark.  These are the two films that I am reviewing today, “Piranha” and “Barracuda”.  So how badly did these two films taint the legacy of “Jaws”?


“Piranha” is the story of an insurance investigator named Maggie McKeown who is sent to the Lost River Lake to investigate the disappearance of two missing teenagers.  While searching through the mountains she comes across a mountain man named Paul Grogan, who Maggie recruits into helping her try to locate the missing teens.  Maggie and Paul come across and abandoned Army testing site and suspect that the teens may have drowned in a giant water tank on the property so they decide to drain it, in hopes of finding the teens remains.  Unfortunately, for Maggie & Paul they have just released a super-breed of killer piranha that can survive in cold waters, into the local rivers that serve as tributaries to a new beach resort and a children’s summer camp.  Now Maggie, Paul, and the United States Army are in a race to stop the killer piranha from spreading out and saving as many lives as possible. 
Our Heroes(?) ladies & gentlemen
    So I wouldn’t necessarily call this film a complete “rip-off” of “Jaws”, because it does do something’s that I actually enjoyed.  “Jaws” gave people the idea in your mind that the ocean is not safe; “Piranha” gave people the idea that the lakes and rivers are not safe, so they managed to tackle a new demographic.  Although, there are no (confirmed) reports of a human being eaten/killed by a school of piranha the films story actually does a very good job explaining why the  piranha are more aggressive.  According to the films plot, the Army was performing an experiment on piranha’s called “Operation: Razorteeth” in which the piranhas were being bred to survive in cold water and eat everything in sight.  The Army had hoped to release the piranha in the rivers of North Vietnam to combat the Vietcong, but when the war ended so did Operation: Razorteeth.  The Army tried poisoning the piranha, but a small group managed to survive their strongest poisons and began rapidly breeding.   
So Much Blood :)
The one thing that “Piranha” has on “Jaws” is that it’s more violent.  There’s more blood, more guts, more stuff shown as opposed to “Jaws” where some of the scariest parts were the things you didn’t see.  I did see the 2010 re-make as well, and although I didn’t find it to be all that good, I didn’t totally despise it.  The one thing that the original “Piranha” has on the re-make is it was scary.  Look at who a majority of the victims in “Piranha” (1978); they were children at a Summer Camp and families who were on vacation.  Who were the victims in “Piranha” (2010); A bunch of drunk, moronic, and naked college students.  Who are you going to feel more sympathetic towards?  The children and families, I’d hope.  So right away the re-make is less scary and more exploitative than graphic.  “Piranha” (1978) did contain some nudity, but compared to the amount shown in the re-make it’s like a freaking Disney flick.                    
    “Piranha” does have its faults though.  Most of the time you only see the silhouettes of the piranha traveling through the water, it’s a pretty cheap effect.  At least “Jaws” had the benefit of a mechanical shark in their film.  The film also does make a few references to “Jaws” in the film, but it’s more like they’re paying tribute, rather than ripping off or making fun of the film.  So is this a good film?  Yes, it is.  I think if you’re a fan of a “Jaws” than you most certainly will be a fan of “Piranha”.


     Now you want to talk about a bad film that is a rip-off of “Jaws”; then let’s talk about “Barracuda”.  Released the same year as “Piranha”, “Barracuda” is the story of a young marine biologist named Mike Canfield who believes that a chemical company in Palm Coves is polluting the oceans and contaminating the water.  He’s trying to get the Chemical plant shut down for pollution, but he accidentally ends up uncovering a massive government cover-up that could mean even worst news for him and the residents of Palm Cove.      
Should have been called "Garbage"
The major problem with this film is that it tries to have an “Environmental Message”.  The chemical dumping in the ocean is what causes the barracuda to attack humans, and yeah that’s their motivation, I guess.  See, want to know what’s great about “Jaws”, it’s just a hungry-freaking-shark! It’s not a genetically mutated or new super breed of shark.  It’s just a big great white shark that eats people.  Even in “Piranha” the reason why they were aggressive was because they were bred that way as part of an experiment.  The barracudas in “Barracuda” are attacking because the chemical company is dumping waste from a new medicine developed by the town’s physician and mass produced by the chemical plant.  This causes the barracuda (and most of the town’s residents) to suffer from “Hypoglycemia” (?) and it causes people and the barracuda to act very hostile.  The only reason why the barracuda are attacking people is because they’re a little angry.  That’s not scary.   
     Not only that, but I’m just not going to be that scared of a barracuda.  Yes, I’ve read that some barracuda can grow to over 7 feet in length and have been known to attack human beings from time to time, but like the piranha’s I have found no reports of a human being ever being killed by a barracuda.  I think I’d be more scared of a swarm of piranha because they are smaller and there are many of them.  If I had a choice between rather taking on a swarm of piranha or a barracuda, I’ll take my chances with the barracuda.                                           
Not only that, but the effects in “Barracuda” are incredibly cheap and lousy.  “Jaws” had Bruce, a bada$$ mechanical shark, “Piranha” managed to scare people without having to show actual piranha’s (they just showed gratuitous amounts of blood instead).  But the effects in “Barracuda” are really bad.  The barracuda looks like a rubber puppet.  The best way I can think to describe “Barracuda” is it’s like if Ed Wood tried creating his own version of “Jaws”.  It’s just really boring, really cheap, and not even worth wasting your time on.  Just do yourself the favor and see “Jaws” and if you liked that then maybe check out “Piranha” when you’re done. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh Hollywood, the land where one success leads to a thousand derivative failures