The phenomenon of black people dying in horror movies didn’t really come into its own until the 1980s, when the slasher film hit its stride and trickle-down Reaganomics, yuppie elitism and Izod shirts rendered persons of color utterly disposable. Witness Piranha II, a film that has heretofore derived its relevance from being the feature directorial debut of James Cameron, but in my mind is just as relevant as a snapshot of ’80s black death.
Every black person of import in this film exists just to die, and since the setting is an island in the Caribbean, there’s a good amount of ’em waiting to be eaten. The purveyors of said carnivorousness are government-bred piranha that have been spliced with genes from different species of fish — including grunions who can live out of water and flying fish who can, er, fly — “to create the ultimate killer organism.” Why? Because it’s cool. Or at least, it would be if it weren’t so damn cheesy. (I’m pulling for the next Anaconda movie to have a snake with ostrich legs and a jet pack.)
Ancile Gloudon, Aston Young and Paul Drummond all play locals who should really know better than to help a heroic leading couple (in this case, Lance Henriksen and Tricia O’Neil) in a monster movie, and while Dorothy Cunningham actually does the right thing by trying to shoo the twosome away, she doesn’t fare any better for her efforts. Imagine Hitchcock’s The Birds, but with fish…and minus Hitchcock.