Monday, December 20, 2010

Short Review: Piranha 3D (Alexandre Aja, 2010)

Full of blood and extreme gore, boobs, killer fish, horror cliches, and more blood, Piranha 3D is everything you expect from such an outrageous B-grade concept, but not much more. Directed by Alexandre Aja, it is the second re-make of the 1978 original. I initially thought, as I left the cinema, that this may be the worst film I had ever seen. But I was endowed with a such a buzz that I realized I had actually enjoyed every minute of it and it is destined to be forever remembered as a cult classic. From a cinematic point-of-view, it is complete and utter garbage, with an outrageous plot full of ridiculous conveniences and predictable gags, but visually, the death and destruction captured during the piranha's massacre of the unsuspecting spring-breakers, is nothing short of astonishing, and made with the intention of creating abhorrent bad-taste fun. 

Piranha 3D opens with an ode to Steven Spielberg's Jaws (of which there are an abundance of throughout the film), which sees a man (Richard Dreyfuss) fishing on Lake Victoria. A violent earthquake hits, splitting the lake floor and causes a whirlpool in close proximity to his boat. He is sucked into the vortex, and massacred by a school of flesh-eating piranhas that emerge from the chasm. We then meet Jake (Steven R. McQueen), an unpopular kid who is admiring the attractive locals on Spring Break. He re-unites with an old crush (Kelly), who typically has a new jock boyfriend who mocks him, and by chance meets an eccentric pornographer, Derrick (Jerry O'Connell) and one of his actresses (the lovely Kelly Brook). They convince Jake to show them the local hot-spots the following day so Derrick can shoot his new film. Jake's mother (played by Elizabeth Shue) is the local Sheriff, who along with her partner Deputy Fallon (Ving Rhames) find the mutilated body of the missing fisherman, and decide to close the beach. Having bribed his younger brother and sister to stay at home unsupervised, Jake meets with Derrick and boards his vessel. Of course, Jake runs into Kelly, who accompanies him. Julie (Shue) seeks to investigate the source of tremor, taking a team of seismologists, led by Novak (Adam Scott) to the fissure. Two of the divers investigate the buried lake and find a cavern full of egg stalks. They are soon attacked by an enormous school of piranha, and Julie and Novak manage to pull the mutilated body of one of the divers into the boat, and capture a lone piranha. They take the specimen to Carl Goodman (Christopher Lloyd in his usual eccentric performance), a former marine biologist who now works as the local pet store owner. He reveals that this particular species of piranha has long been believed extinct, and that the tremor had released them from their underground entrapment, where they had since bred and evolved.

The final third of the film is outrageously entertaining. Before Julie, Fallon and Novak can notify and evacuate everybody from the water, the Piranha strike hits in brutal and bloody fashion. Panic and carnage ensues in incredible 3D. Flesh is devoured, limbs are torn off, a woman's hair is caught in the propellers of a speedboat, while one is sliced in half by a metal cord. Meanwhile, the porn shoot is going well, but tempers flair when the boat becomes trapped in dense submerged weeds, and then crashes into a rock and begins to sink. Soon enough the piranhas begin to strike the boat. Julie then must save as many of the locals as she can, but also rescue her son. It's all very predictable, and ridiculous. Most of the events you can see minutes before they occur, and if any of the leads find themselves in danger, you can rest assured they make it out safely. If you have minimal screen time, you are doomed. Piranha 3D is a visual feast, and while the 3D is really not necessary, there are some hilarious gimmicks. But ultimately, because so much is shot from the dark depths of the ocean, you feel like you have sunglasses on in the cinema, which is an unfortunate distraction. The plot is full of cliches, but also seemingly unlimited B-grade genre references. The nudity is for the pleasure of the eye only, and really, in how many films would you see Ving Rhames grab a functioning outboard motor and use it to take out attacking piranhas? Stock characters, awful acting and appalling dialogue can all be forgotten here, because it really is so much fun.

My Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

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