I consider myself an adventurous film buff who can take anything a movie might throw my direction. Horror doesn’t bother me, nor do films about war, torture and the like. If it’s gruesome, I deal with it just as I would any other plot device, and do my best to take it like a champ.
But even the strongest willed among us reach a breaking point, and Dimension Films/Sony Pictures Entertainment have pushed me to mine. “Piranha 3D” is the single most disgusting film I have ever experienced.
Everyone has their favorite really gross film moment. Perhaps it’s watching Jeff Goldblum turn into a bug like creature in “The Fly,” or maybe your preference is the bizarrely popular “torture porn” titles that include “Saw” and “Hostel.” I thought I had a few front runners, including George A. Romero’s 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead.” All pale in comparison if juxtaposed with “Piranha 3D.”
The second remake of the original 1978 “Piranha,” this most modern version was filmed and shown theatrically in 3D. Perhaps the whole experience is better that way, but I found boring old 2D was more than enough. No doubt you’ll recognize some actors and actresses, but nothing out there is enough to compensate for this 88-minute train wreck.
It’s spring break in Lake Victoria, Arizona. Jake (Steven R. McQueen, and yes, he’s related to thatother actor you’re thinking of) is passing the time in a much tamer by comparison manner, but encounters his old flame Kelly (Jessica Szohr) while running an errand for his mom Julie (Elisabeth Shue), who also happens to be the county Sheriff. Jake is shy like no other, yet bumps into Derrick (Jerry O’Connell), an internet pornographer who brought actresses Danni (Kelly Brook) and Crystal (Riley Steele) along for some video work during the annual drunken college student mayhem. In desperate need of a local to show him around, Derrick hires Jake to play tour guide.
Meanwhile, Julie is busy searching for missing fisherman Matthew Boyd (Richard Dreyfuss) with her trusty Deputy Fallon (Ving Rhames). The pair inadvertently stumble on his chomped up carcass from the opening scene, and learn a mean nasty earthquake rocked the area just hours ago. Divers, including Novak (Adam Scott), eventually arrive and investigate, only to be devoured after finding a large undersea cavern. Julie and Novak manage to capture a lone piranha that they take to Goodman (Christopher Lloyd) for analysis. He explains that this particular species hasn’t been seen for over two million years, and that it likely survived by eating one another and reproducing.
“Piranha 3D” hits full throttle when these two separate stories come together. I won’t spoil the fun that is figuring out who lives and who doesn’t, or maybe more so, how those who don’t survive get killed. Rest assured that a lot of people do die, some from the piranhas, some from the actions others take to get away from the piranhas and some from their very own stupidity. The film is basically a suspenseless splatterfest that sees bodies ripped in half (or thirds, quarters…well, you get the idea) or devoured from flesh to bone by some really hungry and pissed off fish.
Why is this remake so disgusting? People get killed in movies all the time, don’t they? Perhaps the R rating summary will tell us more: “…sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use.” It’s all stuff we’ve probably seen, either on purpose or without intent, on the silver screen before, right?
Wrong! “Piranha 3D” features a character who snorts cocaine, has his legs eaten off and bleeds to death, but manages to complain that his penis was stolen by the piranhas before he dies. Later, his genitals float by and are ripped apart underwater. I lost count of how many bare behinds and breasts grace “Piranha 3D” with their presence, but it’s likely enough to classify the film as soft core pornography. Speaking of pornography, a few real life porn actresses have cameos in “Piranha 3D,” but they’re sliced in half by a stray metal support cable before their torsos literally fall away from their mid-sections and into the lake. We see girls puking their guts out from alcohol poisoning, cops pulling bodies to safety but actually pulling them apart thanks to the piranha damage, and of course, more blood than your favorite late twentieth century slasher flick. The drunk, stupid, lazy, sex hungry and party animal American college student stereotype hits a new low thanks to “Piranha 3D.” Rarely can one be so simultaneously disgusted and disturbed.
The film Steven Spielberg directed in 1975 starring a man-eating shark (I won’t bring this classic title down to the pathetic level “Piranha 3D” sits on by mentioning its name) made its bad guy the star. In fact, most films along the lines that “Piranha 3D” wants to populate do the same thing, but director Alexandre Aja couldn’t manage this. The film’s piranhas don’t get nearly enough screen time, as audiences are forced to endure over privileged young people swimming for their lives like scared children running from schoolyard bullies. The fish, which never at one point during the entire film actually look real thanks to blatantly obvious and blatantly unconvincing CGI work, are only really shown in quick two to three second shots as they gnaw on flesh. We can’t respect them, let alone fear them, if we don’t even get a tease of interaction.
Have I mentioned yet how awful almost every performance is during “Piranha 3D?” McQueen is probably supposed to come of age and win over his female friend’s heart, but he more or less stands around and takes up space until the climax. Shue is too bossy to achieve respect from those around her, which makes me wonder if director Aja felt it necessary to compensate for how little the other stupidly nude females in “Piranha 3D” actually contribute by casting her in a lead role that doubles as a position of power and authority. O’Connell is just too damn loud, annoying and pathetically selfish to matter. Lloyd and Dreyfuss have some really tiny roles (thank goodness) and both go over the top to convince, while Rhames has a presence powerful enough to intimidate but not to motivate.
There are only so many profanity riddled lines one can hear mixed among full frontal and rear nudity that get spread across a feeding frenzy for thousands of razor-toothed fish. I imagine that if you make it to the end, you’ll seek out two familiar friends right away who will feel like they’re thousands of miles from you: peace and quiet.
If you ever celebrated a spring break, it’s likely you did so in sunshine, and such is true throughout “Piranha 3D.” Sony’s 2.40:1 1080p High Definition video transfer is bright and clear, but lacks the sharpness other releases consistently bring to the table. I suppose this section may read differently if the film were viewed on Blu-ray 3D, but for our purposes, you can rest assured that natural light is king and bright colors sit as queen. Still, the only average sharpness impacts clarity quite a bit, including during long distance shots or the occasional CGI moment.
You won’t struggle to hear the loud rap and hip-hop music, cheering when wet t-shirt contests begin or yelling and screaming during piranha attacks thanks to a pretty strong English 5.1 DTS-High Definition Master Audio soundtrack. Any natural background noise that doesn’t include water splashing is pretty much gone, but the chaos and pandemonium you’d anticipate from a massive piranha attack are dead on audibly accurate. Spoken words come through just fine, but the film’s script is so poor it doesn’t really matter. English and Spanish subtitles are available.
An audio filmmaker commentary, a handful of deleted scenes and storyboard sequences, plus a whopping ten behind-the-scenes featurettes round out “Piranha 3D.” Most of it is fluff and surface level, but it somehow entertains.
A Final Word:
Rumors are already swirling across the internet that a sequel is in the works. Sigh. “Piranha 3D” doesn’t need another film like it to be made…ever. Really. It could, however, use a mop and some bleach to clean up the disgustingly putrid mess it made.