"Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina."
Shelby (Katrina Bowden)
Shelby (Katrina Bowden)
Let's talk about sequels. Many suck, without a doubt — for every rare feat like Aliens (1986 / trailer), there are probably a dozen flicks like Speed II: Cruise Control (1997 / trailer) or Candyman 2: Farewell to the Flesh (1995 / trailer) or the jaw-droppingly terrible original The Hills Have Eyes II (1985 / trailer) — the last being one of the all-time worst films ever made, if it can even be called a film (most of the movie consists of flashback footage from the first film... even the dog gets a frigging flashback). Most sequels, however, tend to be like The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999 / trailer) or Robocop II (1990 / trailer), in that they are neither all that good nor that terrible, per say, but oddly empty and unnecessary and terribly pale in comparison to the first film, or like or Pet Semetary II (1992 / trailer), which is oddly empty and just as dull as the film it follows, but indefinitely better acted. Some, like A Nightmare on Elm Street II: Freddy's Revenge (1985 / trailer) are pretty crappy, but manage to become interesting as time passes and new levels of interpretation become obvious.
But some sequels can be enjoyed in their own right, on their own terms, if you're in the right state of mind that it. Take the Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986 / trailer), for example: if you're expecting a raw tale of relentless terror like the first film, you're gonna hate it because it is anything but that; but if you're up for a polished, gore-tacular black comedy, you'll find it a barrel of laughs and better than the average Jim Carrey flick. Or let's consider Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000 / trailer), a film that would well have done better had it been released simply as Book of Shadows and not tried to tie itself to the original "found-footage" flick; as a film of its own, Book of Shadows actually does well as a mystifying dead teenager film, but as a sequel, it fails. Of the two sequels just mentioned, we liked the latter because we chose to see it less as a sequel than as simply another film using aspects belonging to the canon of horror that were introduced in the earlier movie; the former we liked because, like the admittedly far better Aliens, it continues the original storyline but takes it off into a new direction.
But the type of sequel we like the most is that of a trashy follow-up that is even more trashy than the film it follows. A good example of that kind of film would be the House on Haunted Hill II (2007 / trailer), the sequel to the less-than-perfect remake House on Haunted Hill from 1999 (trailer). Haunted Hill II is a cheap and sleazy piece of filmmaking with a ridiculous storyline and no real reason to exist, but we'll be damned if the people who made that film didn't already know that and, as a result, go for the gusto and make a film that is actually more fun than the original. We laughed throughout most of the film version of Haunted Hill II — the DVD release adds an interactive aspect that is highly William Castle in nature but absent in the straight release we saw — but by the time the hot-looking main bad gal, when confronted by two hot-looking (ghost) babes, goes for a full lesbian make-out session instead of freaking out, we knew we had a film that was not only aware that it was trash, but even wanted to be trash — and could easily be enjoyed as such.
Species II (1998 / trailer) is like that, too. We could never figure out why anyone liked Species (1995 / trailer), which aggravated us both times we saw it, but in Species II, by the time the first naked babe's belly expanded like a balloon and then burst in a shower of blood and guts, we were hooked! Species II is pure and unapologetic senseless garbage like we like it. It kept us entertained and it kept us laughing, just like the unjustly maligned sequel Cabin Fever II: Spring Fever (2009 / trailer), which is truly a disgustingly tasteless comedy if there ever were one, and thus has our full recommendations.
And that now brings us to the sequel at hand, Piranha 3DD, the trashy low-budget sequel to a trashy bigger-budgeted semi-hit Piranha 3D (2010 / trailer). Director Alexandre Aja of the original has bailed, replaced instead by one John Gulager, a relative unknown that hoisted the tasteless and hilariously fun splatter flick Feast upon us many a year ago in 2005 (trailer), as well as the two even trashier direct-to-video sequels that followed, Feast II: Sloppy Seconds (2008 / trailer) and Feast III: The Happy Finish (2009). If nothing else, the two sequels showed that John Gulager is the man to call if you want a brainless, tastelessly funny and bloody flick when you have no budget and a penchant for multi-violent cheese. And how does this work out on Piranha 3DD? Well, there seems to have been more studio control, for the flick doesn't go quiet as ape-shit crazy as in the Feast sequels, but although Piranha 3DD doesn't stoop as deeply, it still wallows in its cheapness and exploitive roots and takes a throw-the-spaghetti-on-the-wall approach. And while a lot of spaghetti doesn't stick, enough does to make for a good time and a good laugh...
That the budget of Piranha 3DD was substantially less than the first film is already obvious in the opening sequence due to the first guest victims: instead of someone of the calibre of Richard Dreyfuss, we are offered two notable but definitely low-rent cult figures: Gary Busey and Clu Gulager. No Jaws (1975 / trailer) reference here, for sure, but a true if silent statement that what to come is intended as cheap B-movie fun... and cheap B-movie fun it is!
Dumbing down from the relatively low IQ original, Piranha 3DD moves the location of carnage from the wide breadth of a lake to the narrower scope of the swimming pools of a water park — and not just any old water park, but one reopening as "Big Wet," complete with an adult section life-guarded by "water-certified strippers." The park is owned jointly by Maddy (Danielle Panabaker of The Crazies [2010 / trailer]), a marine biology student, and her breast-obsessed step-father Chet (David Koechner of Snakes on a Plane [2006 / trailer] and the surprisingly good Final Destination 5 [2011 / trailer]), who owns the stock majority and thus calls the shots and can make such decisions as "Double Ds get in for free!" Thus, boobies galore — and unlike in the first part, an occasional pair even look real.
At an evening party at the water park, most of the central characters are introduced — including Maddy's policeman ex-boyfriend Kyle (Chris Zylka of Kaboom [2010 / trailer]), her eternal secret admirer Barry (Matt Bush), and two of her old friends, Ashley (Meagan Tandy), and Shelby (Katrina Bowden of the excellent Tucker and Dale vs Evil [2010 / trailer]). From here on, one or two people die, another gets a baby piranha up the vagina in what must be an obtuse homage to either They Came from Within (1975 / trailer) or Slither (2006 / trailer) — an event that leads up to the mandatory circumcision scene that doesn't outdo the one in Piranha 3D but still gets all men to reach protectively for their gonads — and the film steadily pushes forwards to the big gory showdown when the fish finally break into (!) the water park and begin to chow down...
Although only 8 minutes shorter than the first film, Piranha 3DD seems to fly by way faster. True, the base story is even more idiotic than that of Piranha 3D, but both the violence and the jokes tend to be less mean-spirited and a lot more fun, particularly after the deliciously self-ironic David Hasselhoff appears on scene to be the celebrity lifeguard on opening day (saying quietly to himself, "Welcome to rock bottom"). Likewise, since 3DD was filmed as 3-D film from the start instead of being converted after the fact, its visual effects are often stronger than many of those in 3D, despite being obviously cheaper. Which isn't to say that 3DD is a good horror film — in fact, it is anything but a good "horror" film: it is a hilarious and oddly likeable blood- and breast-heavy burlesque that hides it innate bad-film roots behind its half-way decent production and acting and effects and an obvious self-awareness of its own cheap and sleazy limitations and intentions. The only thing Piranha 3DD wants to do — aside from bringing more money into the studio's pockets — is to entertain with blood and breasts and bad taste, and that it does well.