Joe Dante has no shortage of interesting and entertaining projects in his filmography. The Howling remains one of my favorite werewolf movies, and I have fond memories of watching the exploits of Gizmo and Stripe in the theater as a child. In one moment I was absolutely terrified, only to lapse into a hysterical giggling fit the next. That pretty much sums up most of Dante's work though. He effortlessly combines his love of movies with satirical gags and plenty of in-jokes for film geeks to sink their teeth into -- while a strange and frightening undercurrent runs amok. The director's 1978 killer fish flick Piranha was released under Roger Corman's New World Pictures banner, and it was one of the first films to set the precedent for Dante's cinematic philosophies and subversive eye.

Spielberg's Jaws was a huge success when it premiered in the summer of 1975 -- so huge that it paved the way for the summer blockbuster as we know it. What followed in its wake was a slew of B-movie titles taking the shark by the tail and attempting to cash in on its box office success. Joe Dante and writer John Sayles' ode to Jaws, however, cannot be written off as a mere copy. Their story about a genetic experiment that is accidentally unleashed into the river and terrorizes a youth summer camp and riverside resort does mimic several scenes from Spielberg's film, but does so with a darkly humorous approach (I love the opening scene's use of the Jaws videogame). Add to that the political satire surrounding the military's botched fish-capades, some decent gore, and surprisingly entertaining performances (genre legend Barbara Steele plays an evil doctor -- what more could you want!) -- and you have yourself a truly fun B-movie experience.
categories Features, Dvds, Reviews, Horror