A couple go scuba diving at night off the coast of a Jamaican island. Recently a government ship has sunk there, so it looks like a good opportunity to go exploring. They disappear beneath the waves and make their way to the wreck, eventually swimming inside. Then they begin to feel amorous and just as they embrace, a shoal of fish hurtles towards them and begins to take bites out of them. The ship had a deadly cargo, you see, an experimental strain of piranha that have now escaped from their containers - and there's a beach resort nearby that will be paid a visit by them soon...
Well, even big shot directors have to start somewhere, and the sequel to Piranha was where the future director of Titanic got his. It does feature a sunken ship, to be fair, but to be even fairer, it's worth pointing out that James Cameron was pretty much forced off this project by the producer, Ovidio G. Assonitis, who shot many of the scenes himself when he became dissatisfied with Cameron's progress. But even if he had been given carte blanche to do whatever he wanted, the fact remained this was a flying piranha movie.
And therefore utterly ridiculous. Unlike its predecessor, this wasn't meant to be a comedy, but like it, it was a rip-off of Jaws: this is very much the Jaws 2 of the piranha movie world. There are attempts at humour in the human interest angle, which takes up a higher, tension sapping percentage of the film than the thrills, as you can see when the story unfolding in the first twenty minutes concentrates on the characters who will soon be meeting their untimely demise nearer the end of the film. These characters are strictly from stock, closer to an eighties sex comedy than a horror movie.
If you're in an auteur theory frame of mind you could see the heroine, tourist entertainment co-ordinator and ex-marine biologist Anne (Tricia O'Neill), as the first of Cameron's tough, capable leading females. There's also Lance Henriksen (with his name spelled wrong in the credits) as her estranged husband and local police chief who is there for a rivalry with new man on the scene, holidaymaker Tyler (Steve Marachuk) who might know more than he's letting on about the dastardly grunions. But there's the expected scenes of Anne finding out what we have been aware of from the opening sequence, and trying to persuade the others of the danger.
Meanwhile the characters get themsleves into tricky situations, with, for example, a couple of girls getting food for the two-person party they're holding on their yacht at the expense of a stuttering chef (I wonder how they will end up?) and Anne's teenage son Chris (Ricky Paull Goldin) being hired as a cabin boy for a rich holidaymaker and delighted to see his teenage daughter onboard for... well, not much but to place themselves in peril at the end of the film. Needless to say, the effects hold more ambition than believability, with some painfully obvious plastic fish fluttering around ludicrously and attaching themselves to the necks of the cast in a spray of theatrical blood. Some unintentional humour can be gleaned from the underachieving nature of these setpieces, but Piranha Part Two is a chore to sit through otherwise. Music by Stelvio Cipriani.
Canadian director and writer responsible for some of the most successful - and expensive - films of all time. Cameron, like many before him, began his career working for Roger Corman, for whom he made his directing debut in 1981 with the throwaway Piranha 2: Flying Killers. It was his second film, The Terminator, that revealed his talents as a director of intensely exciting action, making Arnold Schwarzenegger a movie star along the way. Aliens was that rare thing, a sequel as good as the original, while if The Abyss was an overambitious flop, then 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a superbly realised action epic featuring groundbreaking use of CGI.
Cameron teamed up with Schwarzenegger for a third time for the Bond-esque thriller True Lies, before releasing Titanic on the world in 1997, which despite a decidedly mixed critical reaction quickly became the biggest grossing film of all time. His TV venture Dark Angel wasn't wildly successful, but ever keen to push back the envelope of film technology, 2003's Ghost of the Abyss is a spectacular 3D documentary exploring the wreck of the Titanic, made for I-Max cinemas. After over a decade away from fiction, his sci-fi epic Avatar was such a success that it gave him two films in the top ten highest-grossing of all time list.