Get ready for Sharktopus vs. Piranhazilla
Horror parodies and satires are nothing new. Horror, as a genre, is so over-the-top and ridiculous that jokes need to be made at it's expense. In recent years, thanks to the Scary Movie franchises, even the parodies have become parodies. While they may be good for a chuckle or two, they're mostly just painful exercises in what not to do. Comedy movies can have horror in them and horror movies can have comedy. We've seen it work before, but it seems to be difficult to combine the two into a cohesive, entertaining story. Of course, it doesn't hurt when you throw in lots of nudity and gore.
Piranha 3D is a 2010 horror movie starring Steven R. McQueen (Minutemen, The Vampire Diaries) as Jake Forester. It's spring break at Lake Victoria and the area is full of drunk party goers. A small earthquake splits the lake floor, causing ancient piranhas to be released from a hidden underwater lake. Jake meets Derrick Jones, the creator and owner of Wild, Wild Girls, an amateur adult movie business. Derrick hires Jake to take him to the best spots are the lake. James' mother, Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue, Hollow Man, Adventures In Babysitting) discovers a mutilated body from the lake, but don't close the lake due to fears of the town losing business. She asks Derrick to babysit his younger brother and sister, but ditches them to go out on a boat with Derrick. They are joined by two actresses, Danni and Crystal, as well as Jake's crush, Kelly (Jessica Szohr, Tower Heist, Love Bite). Meanwhile, Julie takes a team of seismologist divers, including Novak (Adam Scott, Veronica Mars, Leap Year) to explore the cavern exposed by the earthquake. The divers are devoured by the piranhas, who begin to invade the entire lake. They take a captured piranha to marine biologist Carl Goodman (Christopher Lloyd, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Back To The Future) to figure out what it exactly is. Carl discovers that the piranhas are a prehistoric, long-thought extinct piranha that has survived by adopting cannibalism. Eventually, Jake sees his brother and sister stuck on a nearby island and uses the boat to pick them up. They hit some rocks and begin to sink, taking on piranhas in the process. At the same time, more piranhas invade the lake, eating hundreds of drunken college kids. Will Julie be able to save the partiers and will Jake be able to save the people on his boat?
I expected the worst from Piranha 3D, as the commercials and previews made it seem like a big screen attempt at a terribly SyFy channel movie. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the movie actually had a lot more more depth and action than the usual animal attack movies. The two biggest differences between Piranha and typical SyFy movie is the amount of nudity and gore. I'm not sure if I watched an unrated version, but there was more nudity in Piranha that most late-night Cinemax movies. Not that I'm complaining, but there is a copious amount of topless women and a full-nude swimming scene. On top of all that nudity is some of the best gore in a horror movie I've seen in years. There is no shortage of blood, bones, and guts throughout most of the movie. We get the “best” of both worlds with a scene featuring a piranha taking a bite out of computerized penis. Yes, really. Writer/director Alexandre Aja (Mirrors, The Hills Have Eyes) gives the audience what it wants in both regards, giving us just enough of a story to get us into the movie, but never overplaying his hand. There really isn't much to the movie other than nudity and violence, so Citizen Kane, this is not.
The movie has a surprisingly deep cast, including Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Jerry O'Connell, Christopher Lloyd, and small cameos by Eli Roth and Richard Dreyfuss. Shue is good in her authoritative role and Rhames plays his usual tough guy. Jerry O'Connell is very entertaining and natural as a sleazy porn maker. I swear that's a compliment. The money used to get such a cast probably put a dent in the special effects budget because, to be honest, the piranhas look cartoonish. I guess you're asking a lot from a movie where the main selling points is “breasts in 3D”, but it still would have been nice if the fish looked more realistic. Speaking of 3D, the version I watched was in regular 2D, so it was a little funny watching scenes clearly made for 3D, but seeing no effect. The makeup and prosthetics look good for all the injured swimmers which certainly helps keep the movie from becoming completely ridiculous.
"I've had it up to hear with these piranhas!"
Piranha 3D won't change the way we look at movies and it won't make you afraid to get in the water, but it will entertain you. It's simple, to-the-point, and loaded with violence and nudity. The story is nothing special, but it gets us from A to B. Obviously, this movie is for the younger audience and should probably not be watched during Family Movie Night. The acting is good for what is required, especially given the silly premise. There is a ton of violence and heaps of gore, enough to make any horror fan happy. The special effects are a little silly looking and border on cheap SyFy channel material. It's goofy and ridiculous, but it is self-aware, so it's OK. If you need something to watch with friends or need a light-hearted gore-a-thon, Piranha is a good choice.