I had high hopes going into Alexandre Aja’s remake of Joe Dante’s 1978 Jaws parody. This is not to mean that I expected a great film from Aja that rivaled High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake. This meant that I wanted a film that delivered the goods, which this film does, but I also wanted a film that delivered the goods with style, wit, and just a tincy wincy bit of substance, which the film does not.
Don't let the CGI fish fool you, there is real gore in this film.
Here’s the good news: Piranha 3D is full of the major crowd-pleasing requirements. Regardless of any of its many faults, it’s still fun to watch. The first half of the film is relatively free of gore, but maintains interest with oodles of nudity. A Girls-Gone-Wild-style shoot is one of the primary settings…so you can imagine the sheer amount of skin this movie brings to the table. When the second half starts, the boobs tuck away (well, not quite) and blood pours out. KNB’s work is outstanding. The EFX gurus went to town and simply had fun with the macabre piranha-induced massacre. Horrific bites, floating limbs, boat prop mishaps, and more render Piranha 3D one of the most violent films I’ve ever seen in mainstream theatres. Luckily the MPAA must have had a sense of humor too, because it’s difficult to imagine this type of carnage obtaining an R rating. The gory chaos of man-eating fish attacking drunken bros and hoes is worth the price of admission alone.
Eli Roth cameo for horror nerd points.
But…it’s still not all there. The filmmakers try to hit some of the right notes, but completely neglect the rest of the keyboard. The movie gets points for opening to a scene of Richard Dreyfuss singing “Show Me the Way to Go Home.” And even more points for a lovely forced perspective shot on Elisabeth Shue. The minor Jaws references, however, are not enough. Holistically, the film misses out on any real cleverness. Rather than an overall goofy tone, I would have liked to see more humor spread throughout the film…with jokes that were actually funny. Additionally, I would have liked to see better use of the set pieces in a variety of atmospheres. It feels like we are in the same couple of places for 90% of the film. With less wide angle shots of saucy partiers and less time spent on the quazi-porn shoot, we could have had more action packed into its 89 minute runtime.
Douchebags in Lake Havasu... I mean Lake Victoria
Aja’s presence really isn’t felt in this film. I know he’s a better director than this. Sure, it’s a silly movie to begin with, but there was plenty of opportunity to do things better. Piranha 3D could have gone the half-scary/half-silly route or it could have gone the all-out cheesefest route. Unfortunately, it does neither. It tries to be fun and intense, but only succeeds in the fun arena. It tries to make you care about the characters, but only makes you hate them.
I recommend Piranha 3D, but only because I know many horror fans will enjoy the 20 minutes of mayhem so much that they will forget about the downfalls…at least forget about them until they sit down to write a review for their blog.