It’s hard to find a remake that embraces the cheesiness and nostalgia of its predecessor while still delighting audiences with a simple premise, in 3D no less. Director Alexandre Aja’s remake of Piranha hit’s the ground running from the world go with a smorgasbord of boobs, gore and blood that never lets up, even as the credits roll. A true schlock film remade into a schlock film for modern audiences Piranha 3D will leave you grinning if you’re a gore hound, or just sick if you hate horror.
Lake Victoria is swamped with the legions of college kids who party there during Spring Break. When a subterranean fissure opens up releasing thousands of prehistoric piranha it’s only a matter of time before people are endlessly devoured. Sherriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) desperately tries to get people out of the water while her teenage son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) parties it up on a boat with a Girls Gone Wild-esque director (Jerry O’Connell). When the piranhas set upon everyone in the lake its up to Julie to save as many as she can as well as her son and two young children who find that the boat their on is sinking.
Anyone who enjoys good old-fashioned blood and guts will want be dying to see Piranha. The movie really embraces its roots as a campy 70’s horror film and director Aja crafts a film heavy on effects and carnage and only a miniscule amount of story. Audiences won’t learn the deeper motivations of the characters, in fact aside from their names and occupations you won’t learn anything about the characters, but that’s not the point as everyone in the theater will want to see prehistoric fish attacking college kids. The movie never shies away from showing the effects of the piranha attack with brutal results (legs stripped of flesh, faces ripped from skulls). The effects are hard to watch, mainly because they look so real and also because the camera never pulls away. Aside from the gore the movie also embraces the need for gratuitous nudity with copious amounts of full nude women in 3D. As a woman I never felt offended as its par for a horror movie, and its so ridiculous all the audience can do is laugh at the 3D effects and hope that the fish attack soon. At a brisk 90 minutes the movie knows what fans want and once the piranha are let loose the movie goes into an endless bloodbath sequence with a hilarious ending that implies a sequel but also just leaves the audience grinning. Piranha 3D was a film converted in post so at times the effects will leave you with a headache but the underwater shots are gorgeous and give audiences a great POV of swimming through the water on par with a nature documentary…but whose really noticing that when naked women are swimming in the water in 3D? The movie also has a hilarious scene with a phallus that everyone will be talking about.
The cast is a hodgepodge of 80s veterans and rising stars. Elisabeth Shue, Richard Dreyfuss and Christopher Lloyd are fun to see playing various send-ups of roles they’ve played in the past, mostly seen in Dreyfuss’ cameo as a doomed fisherman and Lloyd as a wacky scientist. Shue seems to embrace her tough chick role but also has the perfect dash of maternal instinct that never makes her character seem too motherly or too tough. Adam Scott is a surprise as scientist Novak, a surprise since he’s barely featured in the trailers, and he gets a chance to flex his action skills. Jerry O’Connell does ramp it up at times but provides the most comic relief as a sleazy porn producer who might or might not be Joe Francis (please don’t sue Mr. Francis!).
If you don’t enjoy blood, gore or nudity you’ll hate Piranha from the word go. The movie is all about carnage so if you’re squeamish see something else. If you don’t enjoy 70’s/80’s horror or very little story than skip this. The movie suffers from some pacing issues in the beginning as it tries to thinly introduce the cast before going into this world of porn with the character of Derrick Jones. It keeps the audience in suspense for the fish attack but far too much time is spent with Jones and his nude women that after awhile it’s tedious waiting for the attack. Once the piranhas are unleashed the movie never lets up but its getting there that can be boring. The 3D also has some issues in the establishing scenes due to the nature of its post-conversion. The opening credits might give you a headache so it’s best to put your glasses on after they’re shown. The two young leads, our hero/heroine of the film so to speak, played by McQueen and Gossip Girl star Jessica Szohr are the worst part of the film. Their formulaic “friend zone” relationship never goes anywhere and they spend the majority of the film yelling at each other with Szohr having no lines other than asking questions and saying “Jake.” Don’t quit your day job honey, XOXO Gossip Girl!
Overall Piranha 3D is a must-see if you’re a horror or gore aficionado who just wants to be entertained. There’s no deeper meaning and the characters are stock but there’s something special about a movie made in 2010 that embraces its campy roots and the blood and boobs will appeal to anyone who enjoys that. A solid thrill fest with plenty of carnage and a great way to cap off the dog days of summer!