I’ve never been in an orgy before (not for lack of trying, mind you), but now that I’ve seen Piranha 3D I feel like I’ve come pretty close. This is a wet, squishy movie full of glorious nudity and copious bodily fluids and sometimes unexpected grotesqueries that I’m not entirely sure I wanted to see. There are moments of sheer bliss balanced by an occasional sobering moment of guilt for the unrepentant excesses going on around you. And the best part is that you’re surrounded by countless strangers in the dark who are just as stimulated as you are, yet it’s all completely socially acceptable because somehow this phantasmagoria of gore and unshaved pubic areas got an “R” rating.
Piranha 3D is a remake of Piranha insomuch as they’re both about piranha. Frankly, most of the similarities end there. Joe Dante’s still wonderful original was a river-based road trip of ichthyological horror about a school of carnivorous fish mutated by clandestine government science (the only kind, really). In contrast, Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D couldn’t even be bothered to take his film seriously enough to blame faceless government spooks. His piranha are prehistoric creatures are freed from a subterranean lake after Richard Dreyfuss drops a beer bottle, which naturally (?) causes an earthquake. No pretentions of cultural significance whatsoever, as indeed the film’s emphasis on spring break – a cultural nadir if ever there was one – is any indication.
And so these Paleolithic super-piranha spring forth from their watery tomb to besiege a small lakefront community in the middle of the most awesome spring break ever conceived. Kegs are tapped, women are objectified, and a handful of good people played by talented actors like Elizabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Steven R. McQueen and Jessica Szohr are surrounded by a sea of unrepentant douchebags personified by Jerry O’Connell in a legendarily sleazy performance. When the piranha finally arrive – they take the scenic route, apparently – the spawning ground that is spring break turns into abattoir of epic proportions. Limbs are devoured, bodies are sliced in half, and a couple of fish-related homicides take place that are so innovative it would be cruel to ruin them for you. Well, okay, maybe one: One girl gets her hair caught in the propeller blades of a speedboat, but rather than try to save her life the guy in the boat just turns on the engine, which tears off not only the girl’s hair but her entire face as well. That’s either unbearably grotesque to you, or a rousing endorsement of Piranha 3D. Possibly even both.
Alexandre Aja may be a talented director but until Piranha 3D it would have seemed fair to call him one of the most humorless storytellers on the planet. His previous, troublesome films High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes displayed a flare for tension and gore but often fell apart due to utter seriousness of it all, and in the case of High Tension some undeniably shoddy plotting. Piranha 3D seems like a direct response to these criticisms. Plot is very low on his list of concerns here (very, very low), and not a moment of the film requests actual involvement from audience. Like the 3D it utilizes to the utmost extent, except when he uses shallow focus (which never seems to work in three-dimensions), Piranha 3D is a gimmick film. You won’t believe what you’re seeing, and you especially won’t believe that anyone thought it was necessary to film this much depravity, good-natured though it may be, in 3D.
Piranha 3D is as pure a cinematic experience as you can get, focused entirely on getting a rise out of the audience and then gleefully chopping off whatever part of you arose. You’ll have a blast at the theater, but no matter how old you are you’ll probably get the distinct impression that your Mom would be ashamed of you for enjoying a single moment of this shameless little floozy of a film.
In short: Enjoy your cinematic orgy. I sure did.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10