Piranha 3D (2010)
Piranha 3D might be the single goriest movie I’ve ever seen. It’s as if director Alexandre Aja decided he was going to single-handedly make up for all of the bloodless horror remakes of the past few years in just 89 minutes. Whether or not he was trying, he definitely succeeded. Although the movie takes a while to really get the blood flowing, it’s absolutely stunning when it does. People don’t just get eaten; they’re torn to shreds, their flesh rent from their bodies by swarms of piranhas, limbs skeletonized, with survivors sporting massive, gaping wounds. One unfortunate woman literally falls apart in the arms of her would-be rescuers. It’s like watching D-Day unfold with bikinis and piranhas, instead of soldiers and bullets. The final 30 minutes of the film probably contain more gore than all other films released into theaters this year.
It’s all the more problematic, then, that it takes so long to get there. Most of the first hour is spent setting up the characters to be put in harm’s way, and at times it drags. Yes, there’s plenty of nudity during all this (and it’s far more esthetically pleasing than during the finale), but as enjoyable as that is, it still can’t mask the movie’s biggest flaw: lack of characters. I know this is a movie about voracious piranhas eating spring breakers, but I feel like the first hour needs more happening. I’m not asking for extraordinary character depth, but Piranha 3D manages to waste just about its entire cast. It’s been less than 3 days since I saw it, and I can barely remember anything about Jake (Steven R. McQueen), and he’s the lead character. Poor Ving Rhames is barely in the movie, and it feels like his part could have been played by anyone physically capable of using an outboard motor as a hand-held weapon. Elizabeth Shue and Adam Scott never really get to do anything with their characters either. And if you can figure out who Dina Meyer plays without checking the credits, I’m impressed – we never even see her face before it gets chewed off. Only Jerry O’Connell (playing a sleazy porn maker who’s not at all inspired by Joe Francis), Christopher Lloyd, and (I cannot believe I’m writing this) Kelly Brook make much of an impression.
The editing seems to be off, too. Watching the movie, you get the impression that several supporting characters were supposed to have more scenes, and one simply disappears, and his death has to be inferred. This may be due to the MPAA’s interference – supposedly, Piranha 3D was officially rated ‘R’ just 9 days before its release, so the final cut may have been thrown together rather quickly. If that is the case, it’s to the movie’s detriment.
That’s not to say there’s not plenty to like about Piranha 3D. Unlike most 3D movies, it is quite lovely to look at, even when the cast is fully clothed. Perhaps that’s because it was shot for 3D rather than converted in post-production, but either way, I have to applaud the cinematography of John Leonetti – this movie is much better-shot than you’d expect of a film so intentionally cheesy and tacky. Visually, it’s several levels ahead of the Sci-Fi channel movies Even the underwater sequences look great. And speaking of the 3D, the movie does use it pretty well in some places, particularly during a couple of the kills.
As I said before, the highlight of the movie is definitely the mass kill sequence at the end. It’s a crowning achievement for FX designer Greg Nicotero, with all sorts of unspeakably terrible trauma being wrought upon hundreds of extras. The kill count is incalculable, and the carnage, amazing. It doesn’t just earn its ‘R’ rating, it runs straight towards it, with arms wide open. For all of its flaws, Piranha 3D is definitely a crowd-pleaser. It gleefully caters to its audience with ample gore and nudity (sometimes together), and winds up being one of the most enjoyable films of the summer.