Jarv’s Schlock Vault: Mega Piranha
So what have you done in the past few years?
Jarv’s Rating: A typically over-generous 2 Changs out of 4. This isn’t awful, and does have a strange watchability to it, but let’s face it, it’s still an Asylum film.
Those crazy people at Asylum. Seriously, they’re entire raison d’être is that when they think that someone has hit on a golden formula for cheap and cheerful schlock they can mimic endlessly and spend even less for equal success, they follow it with sub-standard crap without the slightest understanding of what made the original successful. For example, the rightfully much derided Snakes on a Train fiasco. Admittedly, Snakes on a Plane wasn’t exactly a slice of deep-fried gold, but it’s not a premise that you can extend indefinitely. However, something seems to have changed (possibly the medication) there and they’ve latched onto a formula that they can repeat forever with only minor tweaks to it: The Giant Fish eats people genre. First there was Megashark v Giant Octopus (which I reviewed here and was inexplicably generous with), then there was Megashark v Crocosaurus (again, reviewed by me here with a ridiculously generous rating), and now I’ve finally seen Mega Piranha, Asylum’s part 3 in the trifecta of crappy giant fish movies.
The formula works thus: take one large fish/ carnivorous animal. For the sake of argument, I’ll use a shark. Find feeble and implausible excuse to make the shark even bigger than it was originally, say it was frozen in an iceberg. Ignore rules of physics completely. Have shark run rampant around the ocean eating large boats/ cities/ whatever. Again, ignore consistency in sizing- you can make the shark jump/ fly, bite the Golden Gate Bridge and swallow an entire navy using only the cheapest and crappiest CGI. Also, and this is important, ignore geography as you need your shark to be some kind of extinction level event able to travel vast distances without impediment. Then, having established what can only laughably be called a script, grab a couple of D-listers or ex-pop stars from the 80’s (Gary Stretch, Urkel, Tiffany, Lorenzo Lamas and Debbie Gibson have all appeared in these films at one point or another) and have them heroically overcome the giant aquatic menace. Job done.
This time round, we’re in some shitty South American country (I think it’s Venezuela) where a team of crack geneticists led by, er, Tiffany have been buggering around trying to grow piranha to solve the food crisis or something. Next thing you know, the piranha have got into the Orinoco and are chomping down on the US ambassador. The reaction is to call in Paul Logan’s special agent/ navy seal/ ninja/ trick footballer (delete as applicable) to come down and investigate. In the meantime, the scientists discover that the piranha can breed really fast and double their size every 2 days (a fact completely ignored for the rest of the film). Fitch (Logan) has managed to piss off Colonel Diaz (David Labiosa). The Piranha escape the Orinoco and a naval salvo to menace Florida (they get there in about 3 minutes), Fitch dons the wetsuit, assembles a team of crack-divers to go Man0-e-fisho with the Piranha. World gets saved. Oh, and one of them (Tiffany)eats Diaz’ helicopter.
This film is a mess. However, for all intents and purposes it’s also a fairly entertaining one. Logan lying on his back kicking hundreds of fish away, for example, or the hilarious TV reporter getting chomped moment. Not to mention that the sight of a giant piranha stuck in the side of a Miami hotel is intrinsically funny. There’s also a car chase and I learned that if you suck on a flat mobile phone battery for 30 seconds that will recharge it fully. In case I’m not being obvious here, the script doesn’t make sense at all. For example, the final battle has a simple plan: get the piranhas to eat each other by cutting one of them. This is possibly the worst plan in any of these films, because surely there will be one fish standing (swimming?) at the end and the damned things spawn by themselves, so I can’t see how this will help. Nevertheless, there are enough chuckles to be had (watch Logan’s covert infiltration of Diaz’ base for a pure example of blundering stupidity) to carry the film. The dialogue isn’t great, and the plot is convoluted and clearly not properly thought out (do the fish really need to be invading the US to be a threat? Surely a school of giant piranha chomping all life in the Orinoco and on the shore is menace enough) but against my better instinct I found myself quite enjoying it.
Which begs the question: why? I think it’s down to the acting. Tiffany, I suppose, needed an acting career now her music one is tits up, but mother of God has the 80’s warbler piled on the pounds. She’s officially a fat beast nowadays. Nevertheless, she gives it her all, and is comparatively better than Gibson was in Megashark, which should please her. Labiosa is a bundle of clichés wrapped in bacon as Diaz, being constantly one step away from saying “We don’t need no steenking batches”. However, he puts in a pretty entertaining performance. Logan, on the other hand, is either the best or the worst actor commissioned for one of these films (bear in mind that Lamas has had a shot at one), and plays knucklehead super commando/ navy seal/ etc completely and totally straight. Simultaneously, he’s having a blast (I know this from the making of) and the one time he slips character at the end is when he has to kiss Tiffany and a brief look of horror flashes across his face. This is a man who has fought off a ravenous school of piranha armed only with a knife (not joking) without displaying the slightest bit of emotion, yet when he’s forced to play tonsil hockey with an aging
whale starlet looks like he’s about to lose his lunch. Hilarious.
The effects, naturally, are crap. Asylum in the extras say that the golden rule of CGI is that you can only have two of the following three things: Fast, Cheap, Good. Except they always want all three. This leads to a lot of terrible fake fish effects. At least this time, though, they use different ones rather than recycling the same lame sequence over and over again. However, it isn’t really fair to judge Asylum on the crapness of their effects- it’s like putting a donkey up against a thoroughbred in the Grand National and then wondering why Eeyore is still at the first fence when the horse finishes. They simply don’t have the time, money or talent to do proper CGI.
I can’t remember the score at all, other than I think Tiffany sang a song. Which I can’t remember either.
Overall, this is an OK film, it’s probably the best of the hungry fish trifecta that I’ve seen, but that’s not saying much. In an ideal world, Asylum would have more time and cash to do these things properly, but they don’t and as a result of rushing everything they always feel a lot shoddier than they are. Having said that, though, I’m never going to give a bad rating to a film that was so desperate for female nudity that they went out and hired some local hookers to bare some completely gratuitous skin. Particularly because it kept Mega Tiffany’s norks under wraps. Still, Mega Piranha has moments of genius amongst the mess, and therefore I can cautiously recommend it (with beer, naturally), and astonishingly, Mrs. Jarv really, really enjoyed it. She must be a closet Tiffany fan.
Until next time,