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Piranha II: The Spawning

Spanish film poster
Directed by James Cameron
Written by H.A. Milton
Starring Tricia O'Neil
Steve Marachuk
Lance Henriksen
Ricky G. Paull
Ted Richert
Leslie Graves
Music by Stelvio Cipriani (as Steve Powder)
Cinematography Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli
Editing by Roberto Silvi
Release date(s) 1981
Running time 94 min.
Country  United States
Language English
Preceded by Piranha

Piranha II: The Spawning is a 1981 horror movie, the sequel to the 1978 low-budget movie Piranha, and the feature-film directorial debut of James Cameron. The film is also known as Piranha II: Flying Killers.



Off a Caribbean island, a couple is found dead inside a sunken ship. Anne Kimbrough, a scuba instructor from a local resort, breaks into the morgue with her acquaintance, Tyler Sherman, and finds that the bodies have been eaten in many parts. Anne explains that she studied marine biology, this let her know right away that something was very, very wrong. While studying the photographs of the damage, she and Tyler have a one night stand. Anne goes to get a picture of the piranha to prove they exist, and she is rescued by Tyler. Tyler tells her that he is a biochemist that has developed a specimen of genetically modified piranha capable of flying to be the ultimate weapon. Unfortunately they had lost a cylinder full of the new breed in the water. During the fishing party promoted by the resort, the piranhas attack the guests. Anne and Tyler decide to blow up the ship to destroy the nest of the predators.

Production history

James Cameron was originally hired as the special effects director for this film and took over the direction when the original director left (his hand in story-writing can be suspected under the H. A. Milton pseudonym on the original script). Due to budget limitations the crew was composed essentially of Italians, none of whom spoke English. Some however did have prior experience on horror/fantasy movies so they were, to some extent, able to satisfy Cameron's requirements.

After the first week of shooting, the set harmony was disturbed by some discussions about the work between the director and the producers (the executive producer, Ovidio G. Assonitis, asked to verify the day-to-day activities, arguing with most of Cameron's choices), so whilst Cameron was only responsible for the shooting, most of the decisions were under Assonitis' authority. According to Dreaming Aloud, a biography of James Cameron by Christopher Heard, Cameron was not allowed to see his footage and was not involved in editing. He broke into the editing room in Rome and cut his own version while the film's producers were at Cannes, but was caught and Assonitis re-cut it again.

In a 2008 interview on The Hour, Cameron jokingly denied breaking into the editing room, then recounted the story as a "hypothetical scenario", and told host George Stroumboulopoulos how he "would've broken into the office" if he actually did it.

As in the first film, which was one of many horror films inspired by the success of Steven Spielberg's 1975 film Jaws, piranhas act as the antagonist monsters harming human life, and have developed the ability to fly, which they did not have in the first film. On the Terminator 2: Judgment Day commentary track, Cameron jokingly defended the film, tongue firmly in cheek, as "the finest flying killer fish horror/comedy ever made." He would later employ some of the same mechanisms used to make the piranhas fly in the facehugger animatronics for Aliens.

Most of the underwater scenes were filmed off Grand Cayman, and the stand-in for the Club Elysium is the Mallard Beach Hyatt. Interior scenes were filmed on a sound stage in Rome.[1]


Some critics called the film "abject". Others opined that "the piranhas...look as though they had been remaindered from a joke shop" and that they resembled "haddock with dentures".[2] According to Tim Healey in The World's Worst Movies (1986) the film is "a strong contender...for anyone's list of all-time horror turkeys.[3] The film holds an 8% positive review rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

James Cameron consistently refers to The Terminator as his first feature length film, despite the fact that it was made in 1984, three years after Piranha II: The Spawning.


  • Tricia O'Neil - Anne Kimbrough
  • Steve Marachuk - Tyler
  • Lance Henriksen - Steve Kimbrough
  • Ricky G. Paull - Chris Kimbrough
  • Ted Richert - Raoul
  • Leslie Graves - Allison
  • Captain Kidd Brewer Jr. - Lou
  • Jan Eisner Mannon - Lisa
  • Carole Davis - Jai
  • Arnie Ross - Mal the Cook
  • Tracy Berg - Beverly
  • Albert Sanders - Leo Bell, D.D.S.
  • Anne Pollack - Mrs. Wilson
  • Dorothy Cunningham - Nurse April


  • James Cameron - Director, Screenwriter
  • Ovidio G. Assonitis - Executive Producer
  • Giovanni Corridori - Special Effects
  • Giannetto De Rossi - Special Effects, Makeup Special Effects
  • Roberto D'Ettorre Piazzoli - Cinematographer
  • Lee Reynolds - Screenwriter
  • Roberto Silvi - Editor
  • Antonio Corridori - Special Effects
  • Chako van Leuwen - Producer
  • Jeff Schechtman - Producer
  • H.A. Milton - Screenwriter
  • Steve Powder - Composer (Music Score)
  • Medusa Paltrinieri - Art Director
  • Carbonaro - Special Effects
  • Chako VanLeeuwen - Producer


  1. ^ Dr. John L. Flynn's essay on Piranna II
  2. ^ Tim Healey (1986) The World's Worst Movies. London, Octopus Books: 6-7
  3. ^ Tim Healey (1986) The World's Worst Movies. London, Octopus Books: 7
  4. ^ Piranha 2: The Spawning at Rotten Tomatoes

External links



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