Piranha 3D presents the perversely satisfying thrill of watching swarms of great looking beachgoers having the time of their lives – bikinis, booze, pumping beats, shots of tequila licked out of belly buttons, that sort of thing – then seeing them scurry for survival as the soon-to-be dead meat for an influx of hyper human eating piranhas.
It’s shot like a Coca Cola commercial, with glossy creamy bods offsetting the blood and gore beneath the waterline. The target demographic of teens and young adults will gaze longingly at the screen, imagining themselves shirtless and dancing on sun drenched boats surrounded by underwear models, then witness the rock and roll descend into gory anarchy – the sorts of situations one would expend considerable energy trying to avoid. Extremely gnarly flesh chewing fish tend to have that kind of effect on people.
Director Alexandre Aja serves up a vintage round of classic creature feature schlock. This is a horror sub-genre dominated by goofy stories of man versus wild, with various sub-sub-genre twists. Smetimes it’s the “we’re going to need a bigger boat” conundrum, i.e. a matter of size (Anaconda, Rogue, Jaws, Lake Placid); sometimes it’s a case if science-gone-bad mutants (Man’s Best Friend, Monkey Shines, Eight Legged Freaks) or simply a matter of they’re-scary-in numbers (Arachnophobia, Snakes on a Plane).
Piranha 3D is a blend, but I won’t ruin the narrative complexities by explaining exactly why. Let’s just say an underwater tremor sets free ancient ravenous man munching piranhas, but don’t go fishing around for too much story logic.
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There is a small role from Christopher Lloyd in “great scot!” mode who plays a scientist with a penchant for breathlessly reciting panicky warnings about the disaster our doomed cast quickly find themselves in.
The story cuts between the sheriff of Lake Victoria (Elisabeth Shue), her three kids who are ‘sposed to be at home and not the beach, and the aforementioned big mumma of all parties, which becomes a glorious communal of death and violence. The action is constructed with a sharp, sassy and crafty style; Aja plants his finger on the pulse of the target audience of hooters, squealers and thrill seekers, with tongue firmly in cheek.
The interpersonal relationships are ludicrously forced and character development, while courteously brief and efficient, is as junky as a deep friend double quarter pounder glazed in dripping.
You can’t wait to see the cast become piranha food, and perhaps that is the point – if it isn’t a justification for lack of character development then certainly a hearty form of compensation. Watching a floating stage crowded full of screaming yoof slowly tip over, the humans about to be fed like breadcrumbs to yetis, is a manic highlight. Once a certain point in the story is crossed the pace never relents and the action flows thick and fast, and despite the body count there’s nary a dead minute in it.
Crucially, Aja gets the tone just right, spearing the audience with sharp and sassy touches, of which there are many. Watching the scene in which Ving Rhames rips a motor out of a small boat and goes down in a bloody pool of glory, tearing apart dozens upon dozens of horrible critters with a “see you in hell” determination streaked across his contenance, is what these movies are all about.
Piranha 3D’s Australian theatrical release date August 26, 2010