Last week I had the opportunity to watch Piranha 3D at the Galaxy in Saskatoon on the big screen. One thing I noted was the experience of watching Piranha 3D was similar to that of another movie from four years ago - namely Snakes on a Plane.
Snakes on a Plane seemed to represent a new kind of genre of movie: the so-bad-it's-good schlock movie. It featured some over-the-top ridiculousness and some quotable lines, and a healthy dose of amusing hungry animals who liked to feast on human beings. This type of movie is not everyone's cup of tea. Those looking for high art would dismiss such a movie as a piece of junk; some hard-core horror fans might be turned off by the campy nature of it all. But those who remember the flicks of the Seventies and Eighties - particularly the drive-in flicks with scary animals and the like - would get a big kick out of a movie like that.
Piranha 3D is essentially a remake of the previous Piranha movies, with the Roger Corman-produced 1978 original spawning a sequel and a 1995 remake. When I think of it, Snake on a Plane was probably inspired by movies like the Piranha series in the first place.
Basically, that's what this latest movie is: Snakes on a Plane with fish. And Snakes on a Plane was simply Piranha with snakes.
This latest 2010 version of Piranha is set in Lake Victoria, Arizona during spring break, and the hungry fish are set loose in the water thanks to seismic activity down beneath the lake. Predictably they end up terrorizing the college kids and feasting on some body parts, producing a lot of blood and gore.
Left to deal with the situation are the hapless cops. The cast features Elisabeth Shue playing a local cop, and she eventually has to try and save everyone, including her kids, from the fish. The movie also features Ving Rhames who, in a hilarious scene, orders the college kids to get out of the water. Take a wild guess whether these kids took that sound advice.
Usually, a movie like this is filled with a lot of requisite characters who can be counted on to either not follow instructions, or be so otherwise unlikable that you aren't sorry to see them die. The flick goes after Joe Francis and his Girls Gone Wild outfit in a big way, showing a group of imitators known as the "Wild Wild Girls" who are being filmed on the lake for their videos. Jerry O'Connell was hilarious playing the slimeball Derrick Jones. At one point O'Connell ends up getting targeted by the fish. I would rather not say which body parts they go after - this is a family newspaper. Needless to say, this is not a family movie.
Kelly Brook and Riley Steele provide the eye candy doing an over-the-top nude underwater kissing scene to ballet music. That scene is a good example of the utter ridiculousness that pervades the whole movie. Piranha 3D is not so much scary as it is outrageous. The flick is just filled with gore and naked women. Yes, the piranhas do eat a lot of humans and all that, but you got the sense that director Alexandre Aja's objective wasn't so much to terrify the audience. Instead, it was to see how much they could get away with, and how much blood they could show on screen. They fully intended this to be basically the Jerry Springer Show of movies.
It's clear the filmmakers knew what they were doing, most of the time. There was a great cameo at the start of the movie featuring Richard Dreyfuss (of Jaws fame) being eaten by a piranha - an obvious ode to the shark movie that started it all. Also in a hilarious scene was Christopher Lloyd who basically reprised his Doc Brown role from the Back to the Future movies as the prehistoric piranha expert. They also brought in famed horror director Eli Roth as a wet-T-shirt contest announcer.
The flick was shot on the cheap and it shows, unfortunately. Fans who are into special effects and the like should be warned: the 3D is not as crisp as what you got with Avatar. Avatar was a movie shot in 3D for 3D audiences. Piranha 3D, on the other hand, was shot in 2D and the 3D was tacked on in post-production. There are some good underwater 3D scenes involving the fish, but the fact is the 3D was just not that good. Quite a few films have done this tacked-on 3D and I don't think it adds much to these movies. It does add a whole lot to the ticket price, though. Piranha 3D could have just skipped the 3D and screened it in 2D, and saved everyone a few bucks. The rest of the movie is so entertaining and cheesy that it could have stood on its own two feet whether it was in 3D or not.
As I said before, Piranha 3D is a ridiculous, outrageous, wild tidal wave of a movie. Whether or not you will like the movie depends on the type of person you are and whether you like outrageous movies. No doubt it is entertaining for fans of so-bad-they're-good flicks, but it's definitely not for everyone. If you are an upstanding member of society in a position of leadership in the community, you will not want to be seen in any theater showing Piranha 3D. Nobody will take you seriously ever again.