Sunday, October 19, 2014

Film Review: Piranha 3-D

"Piranha 3-D"  ** (out of ****)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water comes along "Piranha 3-D" (2010).

You don't expect much from a movie called "Piranha 3-D" (released in theatres in 3-D but is now referred to as "Piranha" since its DVD release), which works in its favor. Because the expectations are so low, all "Piranha 3-D" has to do is not be an embarrassment and a career low point for everyone involved. It is not an embarrassment but it is a career low point for everyone in this movie. This is a movie in 20 years from now people will look back on it (if they even remember it) and say "I can't believe so-and-so was in that movie"!

The most amazing thing about "Piranha 3-D" is the people that were involved in this. The movie was directed by Alexandre Aja, who directed the brilliant French horror film, "High Tension" (2003). He also directed the remake of Wes Craven's "The Hills Have Eyes" (2006) and wrote the thriller "P2" (2007). The movie stars Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Jerry O' Connell, Adam Scott, Christopher Lloyd, Jessica Szohr and a cameo by Richard Dreyfuss(!). The Weinstein Brothers produced it, the cinematography was done by John R. Leonetti, who directed the recent "Annabelle" (2014) and was the cinematographer on "The Conjuring" (2013) and "Insidious" (2010). How did this happen?! How were all of these talented people able to combine together and give us a final product like this? It is mystifying. All of these individuals are capable of making a better movie. They must have known this is trashy "B" quality material. Why did they even bother to waste their talents on sub-standard material?

Of course on the other side of the coin, because these talented people were behind this movie it does have its defenders. The sheep (movie critics) actually wrote positive reviews for it. The appearance of Elisabeth Shue and being released by the Weinstein Brothers...ect gave the movie an air of "respectability". The sheep or audiences could say they liked the movie as campy fun and not have a strong backlash against them because they could point to the talent involved and say, how bad could it be with them in it? Their involvement adds to the movie and makes it rise above the material.

"Piranha 3-D" is a remake of a 1978  "B" movie of the same title directed by Joe Dante and starred Kevin McCarthy (best known for his role in "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956), Keenan Wynn and Richard Deacon (from "The Dick Van Dyke" show) which was an attempt to cash in on the success of Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975), hence why Richard Dreyfuss has a cameo in this movie. He starred in "Jaws" and his appearance here is suppose to serve as a reference point and be a movie "in joke".

The movie takes place in Lake Havasu when an earthquake hits splitting the lake floor revealing a lake within a lake. This earthquake has now released prehistoric piranhas which going on a killing spree just in time for spring break, when hundreds of drunk kids will be out in the water.

There is a lot of nudity, with busty young women taking their tops off, scenes with teenagers excessively drinking and lots of mutilation when the piranhas attack, as we see characters losing limbs and having their eyeballs eaten. Basically the movie becomes a blood bath. A slasher movie with piranhas instead of an ax murderer.

And like all slasher movies and horror pictures, it is the sinful young teenagers that get killed for the drinking and sexual behavior and must die gruesome deaths as retaliation. It is an old horror cliche, only the virgin lives, the good girl, the one without sin.

I don't mind the nudity, the silly story or even some of the death scenes, but after a while it becomes too much. It is an onslaught of disgusting mutilating scenes; faces getting ripped off, bodies slashed in two, eyeballs taken out of the sockets and one ridiculous sequences when we see a penis eaten. What's the point? None of this is scary. It is just disgusting. And like the piranhas, the movie doesn't let up. It tries to up the ante, going further and further with the kills. Each one a bit more extreme than the last one. What is pleasurable about seeing this? I'm not going on a moral crusade but I've seen better horror movies with less violence and better story lines. I've seen better campy horror movies. Watch Dario Argento's "Dracula 3-D" (2013) instead. But this movie has nowhere to go. It had one idea, lets show piranhas eating naked girls alive and after that the movie ran out of ideas.

Spring break is a very important time for the locals at Lake Havasu, thanks to all the tourism dollars it brings in but it is also a headache for the town's sheriff, Julie Forester (Shue) who needs to make sure that everything runs smoothly and no unwanted publicity comes to the town. But this year that is especially difficult as Julie and her deputy, Fallon (Ving Rhames) have been called to investigate a local who has gone missing. The remains of his body have been found in the lake. The sheriff and the deputy would like to have the lake closed by the town's council would never allow that when this is their most busy season.

Meanwhile, Julie's children; Jake (Steven R. McQueen), Laura (Brooklynn Proulx) and Zane (Sage Ryan)  do everything possible to get into trouble. Jake, the oldest son and quite possibly one of the most unlikable characters in the movie, because of all the destruction he causes due to his behavior, gets mixed up in a "Girls Gone Wild" type production directed by Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell) and Dani (Kelly Brook) one of the models for the shoot.

Jake was supposed to be babysitting his two younger siblings, but, not wanting to take responsibility, prefers to go out and mingle while all the drunk and half naked girls are around for spring break. So, he pays his brother and sister off, leaves them unattended to, but, does make them promise to stay out of trouble, and heads off to meet Derrick.

Jake's behavior upsets his younger brother Zane, who had planned to go fishing. So Zane and Laura decided to leave their home and head into the deeper end of the lake where the fish will be biting. Jake on the other hand, leads Derrick and his crew to a remote area of the lake to do their photo shoot and film the models naked.

As this goes on as the sheriff with the help of a team of seismologist, headed by Novak (Adam Scott), who have come to study the earthquake, slowly begin to discover the piranhas are behind the attacks and need to evacuate the lake and figure out how to kill all of the piranhas.

At this point the movie becomes a blood bath and engages in graphic death scenes involving bodily mutilation and becomes an excuse to see half naked girls in something other than soft-core pornography.

"Piranha" is neither scary or suspenseful and instead becomes a by the numbers production. We know who will survive this massacre and who won't. We know when the movie is trying to play on our emotions in an attempt to create suspense.

Watching "Piranha" you have to ask yourself, why? Why was this movie made? Why did people go and see it, it grossed more than 86 million dollars. Why are audiences so attracted to graphic violence? It is not campy enough where is it playful and harmless. It is not really what I would call a midnight movie. We are dealing with a level of filmmaking which is in the same league as "Lake Placid" (1999) and "Anaconda" (1997). If that sounds interesting to you, enjoy, the fish are biting.