Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Piranha 3-D: CGI carnality and carnage

*This review contains minor spoilers.

The fish are bigger, this time around in the 3-D semi-remake of the 1978 classic which was produced by Roger Corman and directed by Joe Dante. In this 2010 version, director Alexandre Aja, who is no stranger to remakes since he helmed 2006's The Hills Have Eyes, is the man responsible for this extra dimensional entry, in it's full 3-D glory that proudly directs to the audience everything from beer bottles, severed private parts, boobs, and the piercing eyes and razor sharp teeth of the titular killers.

Shot in beautiful Arizona and set in the fictitious town of Lake Victoria, Piranha 3-D utilizes great looking locations perfect for a horror film. The setting is primed for spring break festivities in which nubile babes and lunkheaded frat boys all congregate to party lakeside and ripen the appetite of the fish below. In the opening scene, special guest star Richard Dreyfuss, presumably reprising his Jaws role as he drunkenly sits alone in a boat fishing while mumbling the lyrics to "Show Me The Way To Go Home", is victim number one as the lake floor opens up to free some prehistoric killer fish more than happy to munch on poor old Matt Hooper.

This casualty comes to the attention of the town sheriff Julie Forester (a miscast Elizabeth Shue) and her deputy (Ving Rhames) who both immediately agree that it's best to close the beach. But of course in any Jaws ripoff, keeping the party animals out of the water is about as easy as swimming away from the rapidly moving piranha.

To make matters worse, Forester's teenage son (Steven R. McQueen) the town nice boy, ditches his duties as babysitter to his little brother and sister in order to take a job escorting an obnoxious pornographer (Jerry O'Connell) and his two hot-to-trot starlets (the very striking Kelly Brook and real life porn star Riley Steele) out to water for a prime location for his lesbo epic. The younger siblings also ditch their post at home and find themselves stranded on a small island after they fail to anchor their canoe.

Piranha 3-D has all the necessary elements of a brainless but fun gore fest. It also has the spirit of the kind of film an 11 year old kid watches at a drive-in yards away with his dad's binoculars. The nudity is extremely abundant and so is the bloody violence, which is executed in some tastelessly wonderful and creative ways. But the movie really lacks the kind of consistent pacing needed for an efficient exploitation movie. No real tension is built and a lot of the attempted scares come too quick and aren't effective enough. The intended comedy is woeful with the exception of another amusing stunt cameo with Christopher Lloyd as a crazed fish store owner who is more than shocked and amazed that two million year old piranha have suddenly appeared in the local lake.

Certain "money shots" of gore and CGI keep the eyes interested at certain points of the movie but they are too few and far between. At a reasonable 89 minutes, Piranha has stretches that become repetitive and lagging. A few days before seeing this, I saw Humanoids From The Deep on Blu-ray, another monster-in-the-water epic from Roger Corman. That film is played pretty seriously but it at least had a consistent pattern and story amidst the nudity and bloodshed. Not that Pirahna 3-D needed to take itself seriously to be a good movie, but I think it spends too much time meddling with the exploitation elements to have any real momentum and long lasting shock value.

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