Mega Piranha title card

How is it that it’s 2011 and I haven’t, until now, seen a Sy-Fy original movie? Their entire body of work is fodder for this site – malicious space bears in space mauling space astronauts, robotic snakes terrorizing Old West towns, Kevin Bacon fighting Betty White… ok, that last one is made up. For now. But it truly is like a production house making movies solely for me. It’s nice of them, though I’m still not gonna pay for cable to see ’em.

That said, I did finally take the Sy-Fy plunge with Mega Piranha, which tells me everything I need to know about the baffling, incoherent world of these made-for-killing-two-hours-on-a-budget pictures. How incoherent was Mega Piranha? Imagine a movie script written by an eight year old, with all the half-thought-out, convoluted plot points you’d expect. Then pretend you’re in a loud bar and a drunk guy with loose dentures is trying to explain the plot of the eight year old’s movie, only he can’t remember it that well and has to keep starting over. And that all of this is happening while you’re recovering from multiple concussions and amnesia, and you’ve been dosed with mescaline. Actually, the movie’s still less coherent than that.

Greg Williams as Secretary Grady
He was Greg Brady, so we’ll call his character “Grady.” Who needs screenwriting class?

I did follow at least this much: there’s an evil genetically-engineered piranha colony living in South America’s Orinoco River and munching on everyone in their path, including the US ambassador to Venezuela. The fish make very audible slurping noises while they eat – didn’t anyone teach them mealtime etiquette? This upsets Secretary of State Bob Grady (Barry Williams, Greg from “The Brady Bunch”), and so he sends a large slab of meat called Jason Fitch (Paul Logan) to investigate.

Fitch and his abs
The diamond-hard scales of mutant piranha are no match for abs like these.

Fitch, who has the body of David “Angel” Boreanz and the wits of Keanu Reeves, flies down to Caracas and meets up with Dr. Sarah Monroe, United Nations Genetics Researcher (Tiffany, in the 80’s, she thought we were alone then). Sarah, it turns out, led the genetic experiments to make piranhas bigger. And – let’s just hold things up a minute here. What the hell is the purpose of making piranha bigger? Are they being bullied at school? Do they suffer from low self-esteem? Are they starting an after-hours fight club? They’re growing, anyway, and implausibly so – one of Sarah’s sidekicks notes that “they may be doubling in size every 36 hours.”

Flying piranha

So Agent Beefcake heads to the river to check things out – lucky he remembered to bring scuba gear for a diplomatic mission! It only takes a few seconds for the piranha to find him, and just a few more for Fitch to fend them off… with a penknife. That’s right, he gets into a knife fight with a fish.

Fitch and Sarah look at the piranha carcass
I’m thinking a Chablis would go nicely with this.

Sarah and her scientist pals are stunned as they look over the genetically-modified carcass of Fitch’s defeated foe: “Two hearts, triple-thick skin, and it’s a hermaphrodite – it breeds on its own.” Again, it’s worth asking what kind of ridiculous experiment was she running there, but, sadly, this isn’t even the most ridiculous thing in the movie – or even the scene: one of the other scientists says the piranha are moving upriver, and that “in 48 hours… they’ll reach the Mississippi.”

The piranha are in Venezuela, which my map puts about 2000 miles away from New Orleans as the crow flies (we can assume the piranha will be given clearance to travel through Cuban airspace.) To travel 2000 miles in 48 hours they’ll need to swim over 40 miles an hour. But then what can you expect from a science fiction channel that misspells Sci-Fi?

Piranha fly into buildings and explode
The evil piranha crash into brick-and-mortar stores and explode. Jeff Bezos is behind this!

I haven’t yet mentioned the movie’s third wheel, Venezuelan Colonel Diaz. He’s convinced the giant piranha are a hoax, that Fitch and Sarah are American spies, and that he doesn’t look like Shel Silverstein (wrong on all counts). Then he launches an airstrike against the non-existent fish anyway and shuts down Sarah’s lab. The airstrike is a bust: the piranha have now grown to MEGA size, and they not only shake off the cluster bombs and make their way upstream but start jumping out of the water and crashing into buildings and exploding.

Let’s repeat that: the evil piranha are flying into buildings AND EXPLODING.

And they’re flying at Fitch, too – ol’ washboard abs gets attacked on the beach; he has to throw himself on the ground and kicking at the fish like he was a seal and they were a circus ball.

Fitch roundhouse kicks a fish
This movie might have made a slight bit of sense, if only they’d used ANY ANIMAL BASED ON LAND. GEEZ.

Luckily, Secretary of State Grady is on the scene, and he’s worked up a plan: the fish are heading toward the ocean, and since they can’t breathe salt water, they’ll be stuck in place – sitting ducks for the American warship parked nearby and ready to launch lots of bombs. And this fails just as badly the second time around – the piranha can, in fact, live in the ocean, and their favorite hobby there is to eat big US warships. “God help us all,” Grady says. He’s speaking for anyone who’s still watching this movie. He tries a new plan – nuke the ocean – and that doesn’t work either; one of the fish literally shakes its head “no” during the electromagnetic pulse.

So the only thing that’s worked against these piranha is Fitch’s penknife – nuclear weapons fail, but a chunkhead’s pocket knife worked? The filmmakers actually turn this stupefying illogic into a plot point – Fitch asks Grady to let him and some other divers hit the water and stab fish into the eyes, Thunderball-style. “But you’ll be killed,” Grady says. “It’s better than the alternative,” Fitch says. Beats the alternative? That is the alternative, dolt!

Pilot gets a mouth full of laser light
Fitch activates a pilot light

And this plan fails too! Well, sort of – the underwater missiles bounce of the piranhas’ scales. Fitch tries to go back to land to reload, but somehow ends up in Diaz’s helicopter, which he escapes by shooting some laser light/gum into the pilot’s mouth and roundhouse kicking Diaz. “You’re fish food!” Fitch yells as he goes back into the water. See, Sarah gave Fitch a sonar device that attracts the piranha, and Fitch activates it inside the helicopter. So, naturally, a piranha jumps out of the water and eats Diaz and his helicopter whole. Fitch goes back underwater and shoots a missile into a fish’s stomach, which works only because we’re out of time. Then the other fish all eat that one. Which somehow means the problem is solved.

And that ends one of the loudest, dumbest movies I’ve ever seen, having achieved its goals of a) being two hours long and b) having special effects (such as they are). There’s very little to praise in a movie that features fish flying in the air and eating helicopters – Barry Williams is at least not laughably bad here, which is more than I can say for the rest of the cast. But if your movie gets its gravitas from Barry Williams, it’s got problems bigger than a giant piranha that eats helicopters. Not recommended.