Billows of blood, bounteous bare bodies, blobs of blood, bountiful batches of boobs, and bunches of bloody bones are what you will find when you watch “Piranha 3-D,” an indescribably gory, insensitively gross, irresistibly intriguing, and irrefragably intense thriller that makes “Jaws” look like an episode of Charlie Tuna.
Those who are old enough to recall the release of “Jaws” in 1975 will remember thinking twice about venturing into the ocean after watching that terrifying mechanical great white shark wreak havoc on the lovely little resort town of Amity Island. For its time, “Jaws” was a truly frightening film, and then three years later “Piranha” swarmed onto the big screen and made just about everyone wonder whether it would ever be safe to go into the water again.
Throughout the years all horror movies have become increasingly bloodier as the filmmakers seemed intent on equating the fright factor with the amount of fake blood spilled. I recently read that the extremely bloody film “Hostile” made use of 500 gallons of the red gunk, but by comparison the makers of “Piranha 3-D” dumped 7,000 gallons into their production. And that will give you just some idea of how “red” this movie is.
The film is set at the fictional picturesque resort Lake Victoria, a favorite spot of college students who gather there to drink beer and participate in wet T-shirt contests during their spring breaks. Unfortunately, an underground earthquake occurs in the area and frees thousands of saber-toothed prehistoric piranha that ultimately turn the placid blue water of the lake into what could double for a huge bowl of cherry Jell-O.
The film’s plot closely resembles that of “Jaws” in that the local sheriff (Elisabeth Shue) must decide whether or not to close the lake and thus sacrifice all of the revenue from the college students who are partying there. Of course the decision becomes a no-brainer when the nasty fish begin separating swimmers’ flesh from their bones.
Now this is a rather difficult movie to evaluate because there were things I really liked about it, but I also found parts of it needlessly repulsive. Obviously the film is excessively gory, but anyone who walks into it not expecting that is living in a fantasy world. After all, we’re dealing with man-eating fish here, and whether you like it or not, the film is going to show scenes of fish feasting on people. The big question is whether or not the filmmakers went too far with the depiction of the blood and violence, but this movie is so unbelievably gory, that the whole thing actually becomes humorous, and that’s exactly the effect the film was intended to have. In an online interview, director Alexandre Aja (“The Hills Have Eyes”) offered an insightful analysis of the film, and he emphasized that it is not a remake of the 1978 version.
“It’s not a remake. It’s a very, very different movie. The studio decided to acquire the rights to the original to be able to use the title because we are living in a world where title is more important than anything and where marketing took over all the creative process. I’m not saying that in a negative way; it’s the reality. It’s just a title that is more easy to package and to market to the audience. Even if you’re coming from the planet Mars, you go to the multiplex and you see ‘Piranha,’ you know what it is. It’s going to be a movie about a piranha creature; it’s going to be fun.
“It was written as a comedy, not a horror movie. There were some horrific moments, but it was much more like a comedy. I really liked the idea: prehistoric piranha released by an earthquake during spring break. That was a very simple, efficient concept to reboot or reinvent that kind of disaster movie, creature movie from the ’80s, that kind of guilty-pleasure movie that delivers on every front.”
Now let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this film. The fun factor is a 10 because the special effects are terrific, and the beasts are satisfyingly horrendous. In fact, these toothy fish are enough to keep anyone out of a lake for life.
The acting in the film is not going to win any Academy Awards, but it is respectable because of Elisabeth Shue’s presence. She is the female equivalent of Sheriff Brody from “Jaws,” and she is quite convincing in her part. The supporting players all are respectable as well, and so we’ll give the acting factor an eight.
The film also gets a high mark for the fright factor. There are a number of places in it that succeed in making you jump in your seat, and one sequence near the end is painfully tense. Let’s give the fright element a nine.
In the opening scene, Richard Dreyfus makes a cameo appearance in a segment that pays awesome homage to “Jaws,” and this definitely deserves a 10.
This movie could have been a classic thriller, but the filmmakers went too far over the top with the nudity and tasteless gore. Certainly the movie deals with college students on spring break, and so you would expect to see lots of hot girls flashing their breasts, but this film literally beats you over the head with bare boobs and copious full-frontal nudity. The movie definitely is not for children, and we’ll give the nudity factor a two.
But the film plummets to the depths of totally tasteless trash during one attack scene and the subsequent action that is enough to induce severe vomiting. I won’t elaborate on this other than to say you will know what I’m talking about when you see it. And this part of the movie receives a well deserved minus five.
The numerical average based upon the factors I have mentioned works out to 5.7, and so let’s the film a final score of six. It’s potential for a much higher rating was destroyed by its disgusting tastelessness. Of course, what I thought was tasteless, those fearsome fish found quite tasty.