Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Premise: A remake of the 1978 film. Set in a resort town during spring break season, a tremor releases prehistoric piranha from an underground cave, putting them directly in the path of vacationing college students.
What Works: Piranha 3-D is really a remake in name only, as its storyline bears little resemblance to Joe Dante’s original film but that is just as well. The original Piranha was a half-serious send up of Jaws and drive-in horror films of the 1950s; this new Piranha is also a half-serious send up, this time of Girls Gone Wild, slasher films, and the recent gruesome trends in the horror genre. The film is a silly, over-the-top gore fest full of gratuitous nudity and bloody violence. Of course, that is the entire point of the film and it is abundantly clear that the filmmakers are out to have fun, constantly using sexuality to bait the audience to keep watching and then launching into an attack. There a lot of good actors in this film such as Elisabeth She and Ving Rhames as local police officers, Christopher Lloyd as an ichthyologist, and Jerry O’Connell as a sleazy pornographer. These actors elevate the proceedings, delivering solid performances that help to give the film some sense of authenticity and lend weight to the peril of the characters.
What Doesn’t: Piranha 3-D takes a while to get going. The film has a terrific last half hour but the film slogs through the second act of the story. The authorities take a long time to figure out the danger and when they do the film lacks urgency, failing to stage a race to the potential victims between the protagonists and the fish. This is indicative of the larger flaw of the film. Although Piranha 3-D has some impressive makeup effects, the film largely lacks scares or suspense. Like a lot of contemporary horror directors, Alexandre Aja knows how to film flesh being mauled but he hasn’t quite grasped how to build up to an attack, which is where the scares in a horror film are primarily located.
Bottom Line: Piranha 3-D is trashy, B-movie fun. It’s doubtful that in thirty years monster fans will recall this version with the same admiration and adoration that they do the original, but it is better than the dull 1995 TV remake.
Episode: #303 (August 29, 2010)