Sunday, August 29, 2010

Piranha 3D - Theatrical Review

Screened at the AMC 30 Theater at the Block  in Digital 2D.

Release Date: August 20, 2010

Do you like story? Do you like character development? Do you like seeing random people get chewed up and spit out by some very food deprived piranha? You only need to answer yes to one of those questions to enjoy this film and here is a hint as to which one that is...piranhas eat story and shit out character development like nobodies business. It may seem silly to even mention that a horror movie doesn't have much of a story or any real characters but Piranha 3D takes it to a whole new level. You WILL see copious amounts of blood and half eaten limbs a plenty and honestly, what else would you expect from a movie like this?

It is spring break and all the frat boys and girls have flocked on down to the small town at Lake Victoria for a week long party. This event happens every year and is a big headache for the sheriff of the town, Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas) and her go-to deputy Fallon (Ving Rhames, Dawn of the Dead). Maintaining law and order is only made more difficult with people like Porn king extraordinaire Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell, Sliders) using the lake as a filming location for his latest masterpiece which is complicated more when he hires Julie's son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) to show him all the local hot spots.

Adam Scott and Elisabeth Shue discussing the finer points of the Karate Kid.

During all these local shenanigans there has been a large underwater quake that has opened a rift under the lake where some very hungry and very unapologetic beasties are lurking. These piranha are not your average everyday piranha, oh no. Christoper Lloyd (Back to the Future) appears out of nowhere and gives us an exposition speech about the history of the little guys in the best Doc Brown imitation he could muster. He goes on about how they are a long thought extinct specimen that has not been around since prehistoric times. Well, there are quite a few of them and they have now been set loose on the lake which is kind of like an all you can eat buffet for the little suckers.

The film is a slow burn, even for it's very brief 82 minute run time. For the duration of the film you end up following the Porn king and his entourage as they explore the lake and the sheriff escorting a team of seismologists lead by Novak (Adam Scott, Party Down) that have come out to study the quake. You get a death here and there that helps move things along and most are so over the top gross that you have to laugh at it. However, everything you see in that first hour is all preparation for one of the greatest displays of carnage I have seen in quite some time.

How cute, I want one.

Throughout the film you keep getting glimpses of all the stupid frat house jocks and airhead women partying like there will be no tomorrow complete with an enormous amount of gratuitous female nudity (watch out for that nude female underwater ballet scene). Well, unfortunately for them and fortunately for us there is no tomorrow for most of them when the piranha finally invade the docks where people are lining up to be the main course. The amount of death, blood, and chaos that ensues is at one point shocking and at another glorious. By the time this all goes down you have seen how douchey all this kids are and you end up actually rooting for the dam piranha.

But the one thing that kept running through my head during that human buffet (other than "oh shit") was that I couldn't believe it was still going. Most horror films blow their wad and give you a few gruesome deaths, not this one though. Just when you think it will doesn't. It was hard to track how much time went by but I would swear it lasted from 10 to 15 minutes which is an eternity for an 82 minute film. I will admit that I was pretty lukewarm to the movie up until that scene but when it was over I was in horror nirvana.

"Your order is ready sir...would you like any ketchup with that?"

As for problems with the movie, well I have already mentioned the story and character issues. Just to emphasize my point as to how much this movie cares about it's characters let me point out one particular fellow. Part of the Porn king entourage is camera man Andrew (Paul Sheer) who like everyone else in the movie is just kind of there. For some reason during the final showdown between the piranha and our heroes he just vanishes. He is there one minute and gone the next never to be heard from again. Not that it is much of a big deal but that just goes to show you how much attention was paid to each character...none.

The CG piranha were OK, but you never really got the feeling that what you were seeing were living creatures. Honestly, the only time they were believable was when they were attacking their victims and that was because of the quick editing and also that you never really got to see them very well. To balance out all the middling CG effects we do get a ton of practical gore effects which in this day and age is a breath of fresh air. You will wince and cringe at some of the more imaginative kills and that is due to the fact that what you are seeing is real for the most part.

"You get the left cheek and I will get the right one".

One last gripe I have with the film is its use of children and I am not talking about something obscene here. I am talking about using them as a form of tension. Two of the sheriff's younger kids decide to go fishing out on some remote sand island in the middle of the lake and wouldn't you know it, they get stranded there. There is a scene with one of the kids dipping their feet in the water that was supposed to give some sort of suspense I guess but I didn't feel any of that. And it's not because I have no heart, its because I know that never in a million years would they actually have either of these kids get fed to the piranha. What it all boils down to is that it was a useless device to try and get you on the edge of your seat that many other horror films use as well. Kids in peril in a horror film never works 99.9% of the time and this movie is a clear example of that.

Where do I stand on the film then? I would have to say that I enjoyed it as a mindless send up of horror films from long ago. There is definitely no need to see this in theaters unless you are enthralled by the idea of seeing a 3D floating severed penis right in your face. The 3D looks like it would have been fun (I saw this in 2D by the way) but not fun enough to warrant the price tag. Catch it on video if you feel the need to see some people die and get maimed in horrible manners but in any case I would have to say...



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