There was a time when all you needed for a horror film was a handful of young actresses willing to take their clothes off, buckets of fake blood and a mildly interesting premise to string it all together. For the last decade horror films have, in general, taken a more grim approach, eliminating a lot of the fun in favor of vomit inducing sequences of torture and mutilation. While I still enjoy the horror films of today, I long for the days gone past.
The recent reboot of the Friday the 13th franchise was a mostly fun return to form for that type of film-making but Piranha 3D hits the nail fully on the head, straight down to the use of the 3D gimmick. Unlike Friday the 13th, the Piranha franchise does not have the storied history that Jason’s films do. In fact the last film in the series, Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, was 28 years ago and was (fun fact) James Cameron’s first feature film. The ties in Piranha 3D are in name only though, as you won’t see any flying fish in this film.
The premise behind Piranha 3D is a simple one, Lake Victoria is a spring break hot spot and just as the throngs of college co-eds crash down on the small town an earthquake takes place and prehistoric piranha are set loose to reek havoc on anyone who gets in the water leaving the town sheriff (Elizabeth Shue) to put a stop to the mess. Sound familiar? It should being as it is basically the premise behind Jaws but unlike in Jaws there is more than one fish to fry.
Of course there is a little more to it than that and most of it involves Jerry O’Connell acting insane as the film producer Derrick Jones, getting women to take their clothes off and act wild. If you have problems with gratuitous amounts of nudity, you may want to avoid this film because the film is stocked full. At one point a five minute scene involving a completely naked Kelly Brook and Riley Steele swimming like dolphins on a National Geographic wildlife video takes place. Another scene has a woman para sailing topless, with close up shots of her in the air and skimming across the water breasts first. So yeah, its that kind of film.
While the film gets everything right in its attempt to pander to teenage males (and straight men with a heartbeat in general), director Alexandre Aja also hits every note on the gore front as well. People get eaten apart, face’s get torn off skulls, girls get ripped in half, carnage rules the day and call me a sick puppy if you want but I laughed my way all the way through it all. Aja knows what his audience wants with this film and he delivers. He doesn’t attempt to build tension because it is not needed. If you are going into Piranha 3D, you are going in for gratuitous nudity and ridiculous kills featuring buckets of fake blood and CGI killer fish.
The film saddles itself with the 3D label and while it is a gimmicky throwback, the 3D was mediocre at best and added no value to the film whatsoever. I get that 3D is all the rage but this film works on its own merits and should have had a chance to stand on its own. What does add value to the film though are Richard Dreyfus reprising his role from Jaws as Matt Hooper and Christopher Lloyd turning on the Doc Brown as he plays a marine biologist who knows all about prehistoric piranhas. Much like The Expendables, Piranha 3D is a throwback to 80s film making, horror in this case and its a fun ride that puts a nice exclamation point on the mixed bag of films that comprise Summer 2010.
4 out of 5.