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At the seaside dive bar of Antonio Bay, flesh hungry creatures dressed in high heels and lowcut blouses circle around unsuspecting male prey gawking into their female gaze and their female bosoms. Lured back to the woman’s indoor pool lair, the lured men are nibbled-to-death with tiny, sharp teeth bred by a science gone mad. The normal, everyday guy Richard understands the dangers of his coining of the Piranha Women all too well as his cancer-stricken girlfriend desperately enrolls in an experiment drug program led by a Dr. Sinclair who binds the magically healing properties of the Piranha chromosome to his patients to build a sexy, sharp-teethed army. With his colleague dead after being enticed by one of the beautiful and fish-spliced femme fatales and his girlfriend disappearing soon after seeing Dr. Sinclair, Richard must evade the murder suspicions from the police and battle through a pair of sexually aggressive, bikini-cladded chompers to save his endangered girlfriend from becoming one of the Piranha Women!
From the bizarre brain of Charles Band, who delivered devilishly cult pictures like “Puppet Master” and “Trancers” under the Full Moon empire for 40 years (if you’re counting Band’s defunct Empire Pictures) , and from the eccentric and erotica-charged touch of Fred Olen Ray, the writer-director of “Evil Toons” and “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers”, comes the next freeform and fishy Full Moon feature, “Piranha Women.” The 2022 film has all the assurances of a contemporary Full Moon production with a slapdash story structure, a handful of willing women to go topless, a hale and hearty use of a familiar carnivalesque score, and, of course, blood and lots of it, discharged by freaks and fiends of mad science. Charles Band produces the venture, alongside associate producer, the former Playboy model and under-the-radar scream queen, Cody Renee Cameron, with Fred Olen Rey having penned the script treatment and sitting in the director’s chair.
For to recognize any of the “Piranha Women” cast, one would need reach down to the far depts of the fish tank where the bottom feeders roam. Now, I’m not stating that performances are poor but to call the principals household names at any caliber level in film. If you’ve established a residing foot on the internet, like me, or maybe have a photogenic keen eye, “Piranha Women’s” slender cast might blip on your brain’s recollection radar. For instance, Bobby Quinn Rice, the story’s male lead trying to save his girlfriend Lexi (Sof Puchley, “Gatham”) from the clutches of killer fish with hot bods, had swimmingly integrated into the web series Star Trek universe in multiple series. The “Super Shark” finds a solid lead performance in the adulthood reasonable and morally incorruptible Richard in what is Rice and Olen Ray’s fifth collaboration together as actor and director. If you’re not a Trekkie and have a more salacious sense of knowledge, the two actresses playing the genetically spliced, serrated teeth villainesses are former Playboy models in Keep Chambers and Carrie Overgaard and, yes, they do show plenty of skin if you were wondering. Chambers debuts herself as an actress with a tight curve on how to hook men to their death with an extremely attractive lure while Overgaard’s off-and-on working relationship with producer Cory Renee Cameron scores the Michigan native a Los Angeles shoot, her first dive into the horror genre. Chambers and Overgaard do as well as expected in roles where their nipples morph into bite-sized piranha teeth in conjunction with their mouths also modulating into larger razor teeth. In all honesty, the film could have benefited for more nipple dentata carnage much the same way vagina-dentata did for Mitchell Lichtenstein “Teeth.” “Piranha Women” fills the cast pool with B-movie actors Jon Briddell (“Hot Wax Zombies on Wheels”), Richard Gabai (“Demon Wind”), Michael Gaglio (“College Coeds vs. Zombie Housewives”), Nathaniel Moore, Jonathan Nation (“Mega Piranha”), Houston Rhines (“Angels Fallen”), and Shary Nassimi as the fishy Dr. Sinclair.
Sharks, the apex predators of the ocean, may have their own patented subgenre with Sharksploitation, but Piranha are predominately pack hunters also hungry from meat and deserve their own categorical moniker (perhaps Piranhasploitation?) as these little carnivorous creatures will eat a little of your flesh one morsel at a time until the masticated body looks like chewed bubblegum. Joe Dante knew this with his Roger Corman cult classic “Piranha” and even The Asylum gets into the action with their “Mega Piranha” schlocker. Fred Olen Ray, who once raised his own personal piranha fish, takes a stab at a new angle involving our rather ravenous ankle biters by not making them the main antagonists of the story. In fact, the fish itself is not the villain as “The Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfolds” and “Bikini Jones and the Temple of Eros” filmmaker splices female erotic genome into the fold with body horror elements. The science behind the genetic sequence isn’t necessarily important, as Dr. Sinclar mentions in the film, it’s all little complicated, but there’s a lackadaisical air with the barebones narrative. With a film titled “Piranha Women”, we’re not looking for Academy Award substance or an auteur aiming to reach the depths of our soul with a powerfully visceral, visual tale and there’s a genre fan understanding in what to expect from Film Moon Features and director Fred Olen Ray, but after being pleasantly surprised with Full Moon’s more contemporary projects, like “Don’t Let Her In” and “Baby Oopsie,” I found “Piranha Women” falling apart at the seams. Pivotal scenes of transformation of the desperate, ill-stricken women at the hands of Dr. Sinclair are boiled down to one moment their normal, the next their nips have gnashing nibblers. Plus, and I know I’m asking a stupid question in relation to the director, but why is Dr. Sinclair only genetically modifying beautiful women? And why are the women enacting siren ways by only seducing men? Perhaps men are easy prey when against a hot, female bod but isn’t meat meat? The climatic ending is the weakest link of the entire chain as Richard searches out his beloved Lexi at the “Piranha Womens'” indoor pool lair only to become with the last of the piranha mutants. Richard’s weapon? Ethylene glycol. Yup, antifreeze in the pool water kills piranha and before his showdown with the shifty seductress, he unloads a quart into a fairly large pool, which in my opinion would be diluted to the point of non-affect, but when the piranha woman hits the water, apparently antifreeze electrocutes piranhas and, apparently, for a brief glimpse, the bolts of voltage unveil their monstrous, animalistic side of a humanoid piranha. There’s also another instance of rain melting another creature and, again, the pieces of the puzzle of how this is happening isn’t adding up. A flat, crestfallen ending nearly drowns its interestingly ludicrous premise into forgotten oblivion as the lasting episodic memory continues to battle for legacy between a plunged ending of perplexity and the sharp-teethed piranha women with sharp-teethed areolas.
Piranhasploitation might be an insignificant right now, but the pygmy pack hunters are fiercely swimming upstream to be a household name in terror as Full Moon Features adds their entry “Piranha Women” to the exclusive ranks. Full Moon’s AVC encoded, 1080p, high-definition Blu-ray is presented in a widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This particular release has strayed from Full Moon’s indiscriminate use of dark and gloomy lighting gels, tints, and high contrast shadow work that heighten the horror tone for a more natural lit preserve that has become baselessly bland. Compression looks pretty good as I wasn’t catching major instances of banding or artefact blocking but there are softer details around skin textures. However, pixel resolution frequently waves up and down from mid-teens to low-30ss because of the interlaced composite shots with the Antonio Bay dive bar or the floor-to-ceiling piranha tank when layered with characters. The release defaults to an English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo but there is an English Dolby Digital 5.0 mix option that’ll you’ll have to toggle to during the feature. Both mixes are clean and clear with the surround sound option providing a slightly plusher but not by much more. No subtitles are available. More so with the post-production itself rather than issues with the Blu-ray is the stock ambient background noise doesn’t overpower the dialogue at all but is unfitting, especially when we only see a small cast in the scene but can hear a bustling office or bar. There is even one moment where the background clamor completely cuts out for an important part of the conversation and then never comes back despite being in the same room. Other ambience including poured drinks, popped corks, and high-heeled footsteps is right up front with the dialogue at times. Bonus features include a behind-the-scenes with one-sided discussions by the principal cast and director Fred Olen Ray as well as other Full Moon trailers that not only included “Piranha Women” but also “The Resonator,” “Baby Oopsie,” “Don’t Let Her In,” Evil Bong 888 – Infinity High,” “Weedjies: Halloweed Night,” and “The Gingerweed Man.” The physical features include a snazzy illustrated cover art of one of the piranha women with teeth bared, ready to bite; however, the release includes reversible cover art that reveals more of same said posed piranha women in a NSFW option which is a far better display cover for the standard Blu-ray snapper. As mentioned before, “Piranha Women’s” ending drops steep like going off over the Mariana Trench shelf and part of that reason might be the film’s 58-minute, under an hour, runtime which some will not consider a full-length feature that comes unrated and region free. Plenty to like about Fred Olen Ray’s “Piranha Women,” but there is equally plenty to dislike too with the absurd take on the raptorial fish’s transgenic titty-twisting body horror.