French director Alexandre Aja whose credits include the debatably interesting High Tension (2003) and the universally panned The Hills Have Eyes remake (2006), has finally found a niche in which his incompatible thirst for violence and dearth of critical thinking are perfectly matched: the camp creature-feature horror genre.
The title of this magnum opus is Piranha 3D, a loose remake of a 1978 Roger Corman flick called, succinctly, Piranha (keep in mind that this was three years after Jaws, the film that launched the blockbuster concept so it’s not hard to see why Corman—the king of campy gore—was eager to get in on the action). The narrative is exactly what you would expect, and hope for, if you love terrible horror movies as I do: a placid lakeside village gets overrun with drunken, sex-crazed college kids during Spring Break; the party soon turns to panic when all the young, nubile bodies get chomped to bits by herds of freaky, prehistoric piranhas.
The rest of the plot revolves around a teenage boy (Steven R. McQueen, grandson of the Bullitt star) who is torn between taking care of his younger siblings for his sheriff mom (Elisabeth Shue) or partying with a Girls Gone Wild sleazebag (Jerry O’Connell) and his bevy of buxom babes (Kelly Brook and Riley Steele). Naturally he chooses the latter, and gets a front row seat to the toothy mayhem that follows.
The film’s best moment by far is its opening cameo by Richard Dreyfuss, which comes complete with a rendition of Show me the way to go home. A surprisingly self-aware production, Piranha 3D repeatedly rips from Jaws and plays with the various conventions that the original scary-fish film put on the map. Eli Roth (a fellow member of the so-called splat pack of torture-porn filmmakers) makes an appearance as the host of a wet-T-shirt contest, only to be mauled limb to limb a little later in the film. But it’s all good fun: the gore is over-the-top as is the nudity (might want to leave the younger brother at home). And when the bloodthirsty fish arrive, it’s hard not to root for them.
It is hard to understand why Aja wanted to make this film in 3D, other than to jump on the gimmick bandwagon; the cinematography doesn’t really take advantage of the added dimension so it ends up being tiring to watch rather than enthralling. However, it’s hard to argue that making the film campier and sillier by putting it in 3D is a bad thing, really—the film’s raison d’être is just how impractical the whole thing was to begin with.