Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Piranha 3-D (USA, 2010)

We have to admit that the original Piranha, the low budget Roger Corman production from 1978 (trailer), as out-of-date and as creaky as it might be, is one of our favorite nature-gone-wild films of the Golden Age of Grindhouse. But we also really have nothing against remakes, especially if they are more revisionary than template-driven. For that reason, we never made it through the Roger Corman produced TV remake of Piranha from 1995 (trailer) starring William Katt because, basically, was as similar to the original version as Gus van Sant's version of Psycho (1998 / trailer) was to Hitchcock's original film (1960 / trailer) — but whereas van Sant was playing an intellectually driven practical joke, Corman was obviously just trying to milk a dead cow. 
Here, however, in the case of Piranha 3-D, Alexandre Aja's film might share the same name and the same basic concept of an endangered lakeside amusement park and flesh-eating fish, but from there onwards he takes his film in as much of a different direction as, say, the unjustly maligned 2005 re-visioning of The House of Wax (trailer) or the stupid but fun Ghost Ship (2002 / trailer). And like those films, the new version of Piranha might have its share of questionable if not problematic aspects, but on the whole manages to be enough of a new film to be enjoyable: for the most part, Piranha 3-D not only changes virtually every other aspect of the original plot, but also ups the ante of gore and tits to such an extent that it literally out-grindhouses the original and, in turn, becomes a film all of its own. It is, totally, much more "inspired by" than "a remake of" — hell, if this flick is a remake, than one could also argue that all films in the world featuring a killer shark are a remake of Jaws (1975 / trailer), much like all flesh-eating shuffling zombie flicks are simply a remake of Night of the Living Dead (1968 / full film / trailer). 
Ah, Jaws: the film that actually inspired the original version of Piranha — and Alligator (1980 / trailer), for that matter (both films of which were written by the auteur filmmaker John Sayles). Aja opens the film with a direct nod to the mother source, the mini-special appearance of Richard Dreyfuss as the fishing Matt Hooper who sings Show Me the Way to Go Home, the same song his character sang (along with Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw) in Jaws just before the great white attacks. Here, however, first there is an earthquake and a laughably fake-looking CGI whirlpool, and then Dreyfuss' special appearance comes to an end. Just how acceptable the scene is rests more on one's ability to appreciate "wink-wink" homages and special appearances than on actual execution, for the overall execution of the opening scene is truly half-assed. Luckily, however, the special effects not only improve but Piranha 3-D quickly picks up speed thereafter, swiftly explaining the concept of prehistoric flesh-eaters freed from an underground lake even as the film introduces the masses of fish-food (with and without names and faces) and the obligatory survivors so as to barrel as single-mindedly as possible to the blood- and breast-heavy mayhem that is the film's reason for even being made. 
Be warned, for all its gore and titties Piranha 3-D is a highly cheesy and almost traditional film, and is definitely not meant for viewing by those that don't like the visceral, don't want to see (mostly) silicon tits by the yitload, or have an aversion to the concept of a severed CGI prick floating by in the water and being eaten by meat-eating fish. But if those three features sound in any way appealing to you and your sense of humor, then you will probably enjoy this "horror" film a horror film that is far less in any way scary, or even suspenseful, than it is funny. Horror and suspense are generated by a sense of dread or possible danger; Piranha 3-D is totally lacking both, as all characters that appear literally have "I'm gonna die" or "I'm gonna survive" written all over their faces or their bodies, if only in invisible ink. The classic rule of the traditional body-counter is fully at play here, the one that mandates that if you have sex or are a sexual person you are going to die — only Aja increases the female death toll by adding an addendum to that rule: If the babe got big titties, she gonna die! (A good example of blood, death, titties and laughs without any suspense is the topless hang-gliding gal played by the pulchritudinous porno actress Gianna Michaels; perhaps the only woman in the film with naturally huge, swinging orbs, her death is as predictable as it is gory and, in its excess, very funny.) 
Piranha 3-D is breast-heavy, blood-drenched cotton candy for gorehounds. The slumming Elisabeth Shue — anyone remember when she won the Oscar? — as the town's sheriff gives the film more thespian professionalism than it actually deserves, but in general the plethora of familiar faces aside from Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd and Eli Roth immediately come to mind — are severely underused. One or two deaths seem less necessary than simply mean — the gal that gets her face ripped off, for example, or the "nice" gal-gone-wild (Kelly Brook), who dies only because the other women present at that point are all less obviously sexual and never exposed their (smaller) breasts at any point in the film.
Whether or not you see Piranha 3-D in 3-D is really of no importance: unlike the film's (much more stupid but nevertheless almost more enjoyable) sequel, Piranha 3DD (2012 / trailer), the 3-D here was added as an afterthought and, for the most part, even looks like an afterthought. As such, it neither truly adds nor detracts from the events onscreen — unlike much of the strangely cheap-looking CGI, which at least adds to the film's overall cheese factor. 
On the whole, Piranha 3-D is simple, empty but titty-heavy, blood-drenched fun and, as such, fits well to pizza and beer and/or pot. Like all junk food, is enjoyable while it's there but is just as quickly forgotten once it's gone. As such, we say: get that six-pack and give it a go!

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