Film Review: Piranha II: The Spawning (1981)

Also known as: Piranha II: The Flying Killers
Release Date: December 1981 (Italy)
Directed by: James Cameron, Ovidio G. Assonitis
Written by: Ovidio G. Assonitis, James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee (all credited as H.A. Milton)
Music by: Stelvio Cipriani (credited as Steve Powder)
Cast: Tricia O’Neil, Steve Marachuk, Lance Henriksen

Brouwersgracht Investments, Chako Film Comapny, Columbia Pictures, 84 Minutes (theatrical), 95 Minutes (Extended Version)


The original Piranha was a cool and inventive movie that was both a parody of Jaws and a political commentary that analyzed the mistrust of the American military following the Vietnam War. Piranha II is none of those things.

The only notable things about this picture, is that it is the directorial debut of James Cameroon. Also, it takes such a bizarre and goofy twist, in an effort to top its predecessor, that it is hard to believe that the idea got off of the ground.

In the first movie, you had genetically altered piranha that could survive in any water system. They were created by the military in an effort to win the Vietnam War. The first film’s piranha must stay in water and can theoretically be contained. In Piranha II, the killer fish were genetically altered so that they can fly. Even the mad scientists of the fictional U.S. Military must’ve known that this was an incredibly stupid idea. But seriously, flying piranha! It’s an idea so ridiculous that it made me want to give the film a watch.

It is safe to say that this was not James Cameron’s best work. But somehow, he managed to bounce back from this movie and went on to direct some of the most successful films of all-time. Plus, Lance Henriksen is always awesome and I can watch him in just about anything.

The one gift that this movie gave to the film industry is experience for James Cameron. The film has a lot of underwater scenes, which would go on to be a prevalent thing in Cameron’s future films. Also, the use of the piranha animatronics helped Cameron develop the facehuggers for Aliens.

The special effects are far from great but they aren’t awful. There are some mistakes, like seeing one of the attacking piranha attached to a rod. Also, they are mostly obscured to hide their flaws. While that is understandable, to a point, it just hurts the film.

Piranha II: The Spawning isn’t nearly as awful as you might expect. While it has a 3.2 on IMDb and a 7 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is interesting to fans of filmmaking, if only to see the origins of James Cameron’s work. It is also worth mentioning that he was incredibly micromanaged on the film and the flaws might not entirely be his fault. Either way, without Piranha II, we might not have gotten The TerminatorAliensThe Abyss or his other movies.

Rating: 3.75/10