Directed by Alexandra Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors)
Piranha 3D is the best film about Piranha made in 3D you’re ever likely to see. In fact I’d hazard a guess and say it’s the best film about killer Piranha ever made. This is including Piranha 2 (Where the fish can FLY!). Though I have a lot of love for Joe Dante’s original film, which in itself was a rip-off of Jaws, so much so in fact that the film was nearly buried by Universal studios until Steven Spielberg himself convinced them not to. That film was a sly, winking nod of a film that knew it was capitalising on the, ahem, monster success of Spielbergs film whereas 2010’s version is something different entirely, It’s a slasher film that has the Piranha as the slasher, so rather than being a riff on the ‘science gone mad!’ conceit of most monster movies, Aja’s Piranha 3D revels in the blood, nudity and occasional comedy of the better slasher films. For instance, there’s really no need to have an extended sequence of Kelly Brook and pornstar Riley Steele swim around underwater totally nude, but it very much fits the tone of what Aja was going for. It’s not particulary arousing (Though if I were 15 it would probably be the greatest sequence in the history of Cinema) but it is audacious, and very very funny.
The film runs a spry 82 minutes, and Aja has seemingly cut the thing right down to the bare essentials. There’s a minimum of set up here, in fact it’s so trimmed down that there’s a few characters that vanish from the film entirely. While it’s good to not have a film maker overindulge in their material and risk audience fatigue, there’s something about the film that made it seem like it was originally larger in scope until Aja cut them out so we concentrate on Elisabeth Shue and Co. Shue is always a welcome presence on screen, and she’s joined here by Comic actor Adam Scott. Those of us who know Scott from his bit part film and TV work might be amused to see him toting a shotgun and striking some hero poses, but he aquits himself really well here. It’s even more impressive considering he has to wear comically oversized glasses (Again that seems part of a joke that was cut from the film). In case there was any doubt as to just what Aja was going for, Christopher Lloyd turns up sounding like Doc Brown’s weird cousin, on hand to provide just the bare minimum of exposition. For you Slasher fans, consider him the crazy guy who always declares the teenagers as “Doomed!” just as they’re on their way to the ominous Cabin in the Woods.
Still, as good as those guys are they take a back seat to the real star of the film, which is the gore. Glorious glorious gore. The film was rated an 18 here in the UK, and it earns that rating again and again. There are a couple of moments at the start that had me a little worried (More on that in a bit) but once we hit a sequence towards the end of the film I really shouldn’t have paid it any mind. This film is violent, wonderfully so. Bodies are shredded, appendages removed (I bet this is the only film that has a penis being bitten off by a fish) and it’s all done in incredibly tasteless fashion. I can appreciate that this doesn’t appeal to everyone, but I won’t pretend to understand that mindset. It’s nothing but trashy fun, and Aja doesn’t pretend that it’s anything deeper than that (Though I’m sure there’s a feminist reading into the vagina like mouth of a fish biting off and spitting out a man’s penis. We’re just not going to do that here).
As for the negatives, there are some and they’re almost entirely related to the 3D aspect of the film. Like almost every 3D flick that’s come out recently, the film was shot in 2D and converted afterwards. The effect is almost entirely without merit. Scenes have that pop-up book feel to them, where the perspective is so out of tune that things look flat and lifeless. The credits were almost headache inducing given that my eyes kept trying to focus on the foreground and background at the same time. Now I’m not a film maker, but I’m pretty sure that this so called Cinematic revolution isn’t supposed to give you migraines. There are also one or two sequences where attacks take place underwater, which is not unsurprising in and of itself. They’re supposed to be quick and ferocious, and remind us just what the Piranha can do but instead they’re murky and hard to watch. Not because of the content but because it all looks so dark. Again the 3D effect doesn’t help because the glasses naturally darken the screen (Take them off sometime and see how much brighter the film is).
Still, it’s a great time to have with friends. So grab a few, have a couple of drinks and be surprised at the knowledge that you can indeed use a taser on a fish.