One, two, three, four, five…who’s going to get out alive?
The return of 3D to cinemas has divided opinion. Where some people have described a brave new world of cinema, where the world of the film literally envelopes the audience, others have pointed out nothing but murky picture quality and headaches from eye strain. While Piranha is unlikely to settle the argument, it might well encourage some haters to look on the fun side of the technology.
There are two ways in which 3D seems to be used: the wide, all-encompassing vistas such as can be seen in Avatar, and the rather less artistic shock value, “make the audience jump” style, which is really this whole revival started back with My Bloody Valentine 3D. Piranha falls, gleefully and shamelessly, into this latter camp. A remake of Joe Dante’s witty 1978 Jaws rip-off, Piranha is never in danger of originality and wears its influences on its bloody, tattered sleeve. This is clear from the very first scene, wherein Richard Dreyfuss, playing a character with the same name as the one he played in Jaws, and even singing the same song, is dragged to his bloody death in a whirlpool created by prehistoric piranhas. You may well groan, but by the time Christopher Lloyd appears to roll out his Doc Brown/Cletus from Tremors: The Series schtick for the umpteenth time, you will be grinning too much to care.
Of course, this enjoyment comes with a proviso. If the idea of acres of naked flesh and oceans of gore offend you, run the other way. This is not a film for the sensitive or faint of heart – bodies are ripped apart, legs are chewed off, and body parts both severed and attached are flung at the screen with alarming regularity. It would be churlish to criticise the film for this, however, as the lack of pretence renders it all quite charming, with a balletic naked swim coming as the hilarious highpoint of the naked shenanigans. Roger Corman (producer of the original film) should be very proud indeed.
Amidst the floods of sexy horror, none of the cast really stands a chance, although Jerry O’Connell (of Stand By Me and Sliders fame) makes an impression as a sleazy pornography producer, with Kelly Brook proving that an English accent really does add class to anything as one of his stars. Headliners Elisabeth Shue and Adam Scott do what they have to with aplomb, although it seems like they are only on screen for about ten minutes, and the cameos are everything you would expect (Dreyfuss and Lloyd as mentioned, Eli Roth as a lewd emcee).
But what of the fish themselves, you ask? Well…let’s just say that filmmakers still have a way to go before cinematic monster fish start to look realistic on screen. These CGI snappers are no more believable than their cartoony predecessors in the original, and obviously come nowhere near Bruce the shark from Jaws (who cares that we can see his cogs, that Great White is still an evil looking brute). This is not to say that the lack of believability means there are no scares – director Alexandre Aja is a dab hand at this sort of thing, and there are some deliciously orchestrated jump moments. It may not be genuinely terrifying in the way that his breakout French hit Haute Tension (released in the UK as Switchblade Romance) was, but you will still need to keep a firm grasp on your popcorn.
Take it for what it is and sit back to enjoy exploitation cinema at its silly best.