Every summer the population of Lake Victoria goes from 5000 to 50 000 as thousands of partygoers descend on the sleepy seaside town for the annual ‘Spring Break’. However an underground tremor releases hordes of oversized, deadly killer piranhas, and when teenager Jake leaves his younger brother and sister to go on a boat tour with a soft porn filmmaker, the two children become trapped on a tiny island. Meanwhile the party hots up and the fish are hungry…..
I wasn’t too happy when I heard Alexandre Aja, who debuted with the excellent slasher Haute Tension, was embarking on his third remake in a row, even though I did enjoy The Hills Have Eyes and even bits of Mirrors. However Piranha 3D [as it’s called, although apparently there are 2D showings around if you look] isn’t really a remake of Joe Dante’s 1978 film called Piranha, it just takes the same basic idea of killer piranhas and comes up with something new. Well……kind of. It’s very much like Snakes On A Plane, an attempt at a ‘so bad it’s good ‘B’ type of movie which by the very nature of its making kind of misses the point. This movie is somewhat better though, and does provide a great deal of guilty fun. When a film opens with Richard Dreyfuss in peril from a whirlpool and mutant fish, in a tiny boat and obviously needing a bigger one, it’s hard to really dislike it.
Indeed the shadow of Jaws [or rather it’s sequels] does hang over this movie, but of course the script doesn’t even try to be anywhere near as good. The characters are set up reasonably well but are mostly stock, and it’s all really just an excuse to show lots and lots of gruesome piranha attacks. At first things seem a little tame but they certainly don’t remain like that. The film’s major set piece, with the fish causing havoc right at the height of the party, is full of really inventive gory moments, from slicing in half to decapitation to really graphic nibbling, and ended up reminding me of, of all things, the opening of Saving Private Ryan, though of course the gore is of the “wow, isn’t that cool” variety” rather than trying to really shock or disturb.
The effects by and large work and the fish are very cool menaces. No subtlety with this movie, you see them right from the outset. Maybe this is why the movie is never actually scary, though there are some very suspenseful bits, especially a really tense sequence of people trying to evacuate from one boat to another. Memorable in a different way is a Blue Lagoon-style underwater makeout session between Kelly Brook and a girlfriend [accompanied by a piece of music that had once accompanied Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon enjoying themselves in a similar way in The Hunger] which is actually beautifully shot if rather tame, and the filmmakers kindly give us boobies aplenty.
The young cast are predictably feeble but Elisabeth Shue is a fine tough heroine and Christopher Lloyd has a fun cameo as a rather mad doctor. The most disappointing aspect of the film for me was the 3D. Considering the nature of this film, you’d expect loads of pop out moments but there are very few and what was probably supposed to be the highlight, where a piranha pops out of a mouth, doesn’t quite work. Coupled with the fact that sometimes when the camera moves things go all blury, I would say that they slightly botched the 3D in this film [though I personally don’t think they’ve perfected it in any film yet, and certainly not in Avatar] and it will probably play as well in 2D. Whether as Piranha 3D or Piranha, it is definately a fun evening out at the cinema if you don’t expect too much, and where else can you see two fish fighting over a severed penis? Aja, though, please do something original for your next film though!