Theatrical Review: PIRANHA 3D

J.C. De Leon

by: J.C. De Leon
August 23rd, 2010

Rating: 3.5/5

Writer: Pete Goldfinger & Josh Stolberg
Director: Alexandre Aja
Cast: Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Jerry O’Connell, Steven R. McQueen, Jessica Szhor, Kelly Brook
Studio: Dimension Films

In the final week of what has been an overall subpar and fairly disappointing summer of film, PIRANHA 3D delivers just the bang that was needed weeks earlier than its release date. PIRANHA 3D sets out to give the moviegoer a fun and energetic experience at the theater, one that is also truly refreshing given the slate of PG/PG-13 horror remakes we’ve been subjected to over the last few years. Director Alexandre Aja wanted to create a horror remake that is built upon the classic nature of the original without creating an almost exact, 2010 box office rating-friendly, version of the original. This is anything but a remake.

The movie opens on Lake Victoria, with an innocuous fisherman (Richard Dreyfuss) out looking for some bass. A minor earthquake opens up a fissure on the bottom of the lake floor and out come pouring thousands of militant, meat-happy fish. This so happens to occur during Spring Break, the week in which this small town and its lake are overrun with thousands of peaceful, alcohol-happy teenagers and young adults. Once the body of the fisherman is discovered, all of the plot development from that point is neatly wrapped up in a bow during one conversation between the town’s sheriff (Elisabeth Shue) and her deputy (Ving Rhames). Seismologists want to check out the lake, they debate about closing it, but ultimately come to the realization that 20,000 drunk kids is a lot to handle – so they don’t shut down the lake.

There you have it, all neat and tidy and ready for carnage to take place and chew up bikini-clad girls and hair gel-soaked boys. The gore and the deaths in this movie range from the grimacing to the hilarious, to any combination between them. Obviously, this is where the most fun in the film takes place and is also where some of its homage moments come to life, and they’re far too amazing and awesome for any horror fan to be spoiled here.

The cast has some wonderful pieces in it (no pun intended) that really meshed well together in all of the situations they get put in. Elisabeth Shue is the sheriff who is charge of the safety of the patrons of the lake, and she is not to be trifled with by horny teenagers who want to touch her uniform. Steven R. McQueen plays her son, who cannot partake in the festivities of Spring Break because he has to babysit his brother and sister. Jerry O’Connell plays a guy we’ve all seen at Spring Break, someone obsessed with naked girls, and his character has made a living out of filming his “Wild Wild Girls.” No doubt this character will remind you of a certain real life persona who was so offended by O’Connell’s portrayal (even though it was of a fictional person) that he asked his name not be mentioned in the same breath as this movie. The cast is also where the movies shines at its brightest.

The success of most horror movies is how much you care about the characters and root for them in the end, or in the case of the arrogant bastard that O’Connell plays, how much you want his death to be painful, and oh, is it painful (for any man to watch at least). He does however, have some of the best final words of anyone in a horror movie, and I doubt anyone will ever have a character on their death bed utter those words, unless this movie itself is remade 20-30 years from now.

So, yes, this movie is a remake, but to call it only that is an injustice. PIRANHA 3D is more of an homage than a true remake. This is evident from the opening moment, when a certain aquatic monster film alum is out fishing in his boat singing “Show Me the Way to Go Home.” As stated earlier, the number of references to other horror films, and even some that aren’t horror films, would be far too many to name, and are truly great representations of what a reference in a movie should be to name them all here.

It’s not often that a movie will have a specific goal, allow the audience to form their own anticipation of what they would want to see, and have both of those be a perfect marriage of expectation versus execution. Ultimately, this is one of the most fun experiences to be had in a movie theater this summer, and while many will miss out because it’s not box office gold, the audience it did find should be happy enough to hold this treasured gem close to its heart and know that they were here with this film from the start, and loved every minute of it, this film was made for them.


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