Not content in remaking a stone cold 70’s classic in The Hills Have Eyes and THEN (sort of) remaking a slice of J-Horror while simultaneously wrangling Keifer Sutherland in Mirrors, Gallic gore meister Alex Alexandre next chose to remake Roger Corman/exploitation/Jaws ripoff Piranha because apparently being pigeonholed is awesome.
Initially, I considered all this remaking malarkey somewhat disappointing from Alexandre as his debut, the nerve jangling – if slightly illogical – Haute Tension (aka. High Tension, aka Switchblade Romance) really struck a nerve with me. Sure, ONE remake is ok, I guess, especially when it’s as systematically brutal as The Hills Have Eyes, but THREE?! In a ROW!?
Putting aside for a moment that Mirrors was greatly altered from it’s orginal soure – mainly because it pisses directly on my point – the news that genuine cult classic Piranha was next in my sights filled me with the sort of conflicting emotions that usually strike me when I’m contemplating movies about killer fish.
Yes, Piranha is not much more than a Jaws ripoff but eager direction by Joe Dante and a great script script by Joe Sayles meant that the end result is far more meaningful than it should have any right to be. However, Alexandre and co. came at the basic concept from another angle, taking the sly, dark humour and shards of satire and making an insanely gory American Pie movie.
It’s Spring Break, everyone is horny as fuck and booze and drugs are rampant as hordes of crazed kids descend upon the lakeside resort of Lake Victoria to party and screw their lives away and single mom and police chief Julie Forester (Elizabeth Shue taking things admirably seriously) and her deputies are girding their loins for days of debauchery that make New Orleans look like Iowa in comparison. However, the police force might have to gird their loins a little harder than usual this year because an underground earthquake has opened up a cavern where a lost species of prehistoric piranha has been camping out – and by fuck are they peckish. On the prospective menu for the summer – aside from hundreds of screaming, nubile adolescents – are Julie’s kids and various overacting character actors determined to have as much fun as they can before they are crammed down the throats of various, voracious, vicious aquatic carnivores.
Part of Piranha 3D’s charm – aside from frequently launching CGI fish two feet from the audience’s nose in the third dimension – is the starry cast sweetly enjoying the chaos unfolding around them. Joining Shue is a rare hero role for Adam Scott (whizzing around on jet ski shooting piranha with a pump action), Jerry O’ Connell as a cocaine hoovering, entrepreneurial, dick hole, Ving Rhames as a gentle giant deputy and best of all, Christopher Lloyd gasping eyeball rolling like he’s having a constant panic attack as an exposition spouting retired marine biologist. Oh, and Kelly Brook’s boobs feature predominantly. Y’know, if that helps…
Ok, so a film like this is riddled with flaws pretty much by design so if you are too busy pointing out the plot holes you’d find in a million other B-movies then you frankly don’t deserve the sterling and various gore effects by KNB effects group that are strewn around the last forty minutes during a super satisfying massacre that features gurgling party goers being stripped to the bone as they simultaneously drown, a cameoing Eli Roth getting his head smooshed like a cantaloupe, a porn star being burrowed into and hollowed out like a pumpkin and has the darkly amusing audacity to stage the aftermath of the fishy massacre like it’s Saving Private Ryan’s Omaha Beach with sobbing survivors hauling the torn remains of their friends out of the surf.
However I will say that maybe the film concentrates a little TOO much on the tits and ass crowd as for a film this deliberately trashy, it takes surprisingly long to get to the REAL money shots of the movie – and I don’t mean Kelly Brook and her compatriot swimming around in their birthday suits like water nymphs.
As crazy as the movie is – and rest assured the movie IS piranha-vomiting-up-a-chewed-penis-into-your-face crazy – I’ve always had the niggling sensation that Alexandre and Co. are somewhat underachieving or holding back and that the film could have benefitted from spreading out the chewed to death scenes more throughout the movie. Although top marks for enlisting Richard Dreyfus in full Matt Hooper from Jaws attire to kick the movie off on the right foot.
Gorgeously shot (it’s one of the brightest, most colourful horror movies you seen in a while) there’s enough grue n’ girls here to satisfy the needs of gore hounds and trashy movie enthusiasts alike and it excels at being tremendous, undemanding fun when viewed with the right crowd but I have to say, I miss the brain of the original.
Founders a little. Still has plenty bite.