CAPSULE: Killer fish chasing near-naked women. I miss the good old horror films of the 1970s. This film tries to be one of them and falls on its face. Insultingly the filmmakers thought that modern audiences want lots of nudity and lots of gore, but would not appreciate decent writing or interesting characters. Rating: low 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10
The real heyday for a film like PIRANHA 3D was in the decade from 1975 to 1985. This film would have been made with minimal special effects--perhaps some stock footage of sea life. And it probably would have teenagers who perhaps showed a little flesh--just enough so that the film could not be accused of being too tasteful. And it probably would not play at a normal movie theater. No, this one would have played at the drive-in, and three or so years later it would have been a feature on TV's "Chiller Theater" or whatever was your local equivalent. Perhaps on television they would cut out the little bare breast scenes. Now if later a film came along that wanted to revive some of the fun from this genre they might or might not have a little better writing and actually create some characters. If you want to see a film in this style LAKE PLACID (1999) is probably the best I know of. ANACONDA (1997) is not too bad. PIRANHA 3D would be way down on my list.
The material in PIRANHA 3D was pretty tired stuff even back in the 1970s. The characters are not developed. The plot is just a contrivance to show in detail a number people--mostly young and sexy--being ripped apart by fish and to show off a lot of women's breasts and to grout in the narrow spaces between with the minimum of storyline. This is a film that shows a lot of fish and a lot of breasts. My guess is that it is a lot more breasts than fish, even if you divide by two because they usually show up in pairs--the breasts, not the fish. The fish show up in schools. The breasts are fresh out of schools being that the film is set during Spring Break and there are fifty thousand college students descending on Lake Victoria, Arizona (played skillfully by Lake Havasu, Arizona). Now this film claims to be a remake of Joe Dante's PIRANHA (1978). In that film government is developing the piranha as a weapon. This "remake" uses very little of the earlier film, and here the killer fish come from a prehistoric lake beneath the current lake. Seismic activity opens a crack and the fish can get from the lower lake to the upper lake. Just how that works without the falling water draining the upper lake is never explained. Nor it is explained why fish that have been millions of years in a subterranean lake still have functioning eyes. Somebody did do a little bit of thinking and asks what the piranhas could survive on deep under the earth's surface. The scientist figure, play by Christopher Lloyd, says "cannibalism" with supreme ignorance of the laws of thermodynamics. No species can subsist on cannibalism alone for long. But I digress.
If the film has a main character it is Jake Forester (played by Steven R. McQueen), a local who is hired by Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell). Jones is a film director wanting to make a porno that can use the gratuitous nudity that the Spring Break students are showing off so gratuitously. Jake should be home babysitting his younger brother and sister, but goes off with the Jones instead, lured by seeing his actresses show off their bodies. Did I mention there was a lot of nudity? Actually there is more than that. To do THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON one better (or two, or three, but not necessarily better) there is a two-woman nude underwater ballet. Of course Jake's two little babysitting charges, not being supervised, go off to where they are in the most danger from the man-and-kid-eating fish. They charge off to a tiny island where they are likely to be killed by the fish. So we have a lot of nudity and a lot of fish killing of nubile college students who lure the fish by shaking their body parts.
So how is the film different for being made in 2010 rather than in 1978? Firstly, there is a lot more nudity than Joe Dante would have ever put in his film. That much nudity would have absurd in 1978. People would have watched it very closely, but they still would have thought it was absurd. Secondly, all the carnage would have been a real shocker thirty years ago. PIRANHA 3D is pushing the envelope even for 2010. There are at least three graphic scenes of people somehow being cut in half, and that is just scratching the surface (of the tally, not the people). Also this film was made in Real-D 3D. That is a good process, but the 3D images are really poorly used here. Like a few other recent films, I suspect this film was shot in 2D and modified. Things in the foreground look very flat. By the middle of the film, if you are concentrating at all on the effects (or the nudity) you have forgotten to notice the 3D. The 3D adds nothing to and it makes a lot of the underwater shots murky and blurry. For gosh sakes, do not pay extra to see this film in 3D.
This film is getting a lot of positive attention because it brings back a nostalgic feel, even for 1970s horror films that were only mediocre to start with. PIRANHA 3D is mediocre, even compared to those films. I remember the good old days already and this film is not going to bring them back to me. I rate PRIANHA 3D a low 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464154/
What others are saying: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/piranha_3d/
Mark R. Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright 2010 Mark R. Leeper