Jarv’s Birthday Series: Piranha 3D (2010)
I’m nearly there now. In case you don’t know what the score is with this series, it works like this: Droid came up with the idea last year, and it’s intriguing enough for a few of us to take it on as well. We’re watching one film released as close as possible to the day we were born on each year that we’ve graced the planet. My run has been comparatively simple (well compared to poor old Just Pillow Talk’s), with an eclectic mix of the good, the bad and the ugly, and as I near the end, I have to say that I’m feeling really quite pleased with how it has gone. The joy of this series, is that you get to watch a lot of films that you either needed to be reminded about or hadn’t seen to begin with and the chance of rooting out some overlooked gems is fairly high. In my instance, I discovered Reform School Girls, The Driver and Invincible as films that really came in as a pleasant surprise. The flip side is that you also have to watch a fair old amount of shit, but you can’t have everything. I will sadly, be returning to this series in the next few months, as I made an unfortunate cock-up with 2009 and there are a hell of a lot of films released next week that I’m interested in. And an Almodovar film that Mrs. Jarv is interested in. Pah.
Nevertheless, 2010 was another interesting year, Werewolves on the Moon was coming up to being one year old, and I had mostly refined my conversational style to the standards of this review. In all honesty, actually, I look back at some of the early ones and cringe at how comparatively unsophisticated they are. Not that my more recent ones are a model of finesse and craft, but you get the idea. After much rambling preamble, it’s now time to take a look at 2010’s effort: Piranha 3D (release date either the 20th or 26th of August globally).
To say my expectations of this film were at rock bottom is a bit of an understatement. The director is Alejandre Aja, who has a resume stuffed full of films I hate (The Hills Have Eyes and Mirrors) and I doubted his torture porn mentality would be a good fit for a hungry fish eats people film. The second point of note is that it is intentionally 3D and not a conversion. I remain severely unconvinced about the merits of 3D. The only film I’ve seen where it hasn’t annoyed me intensely is Avatar, but I think that stands in a league of its own, and I know several people who took the glasses off during that movie. If Billion Dollar Avatar provokes that reaction, then it doesn’t bode well for anything else using the technique. Usually, 3D is an awful and intrusive experience where the director just pokes things at the camera. Secondly, the cast didn’t exactly scream out “Schlock”. Richard Dreyfus, Ving Rhames, Elisabeth Shue, Dina Meyer, Jerry O’Connell and Jessica Szohr (particularly the latter- as I took this as a cast-iron guarantee of no nudity) are all too, well, classy to star in a big and cheesy fish-eating-people movie. The presence of Kelly Brook and Riley Steele did raise my hopes briefly (The ex-Mrs Stath in particular is practically allergic to clothing), but even still, I wasn’t full of hope for it.
This is the plot of Piranha 3D: Piranha bust into lake. Douchebag kid (Steve R. McQueen) hooks up with porn director (Jerry O’Connel) to impress girl (Szohr) and shoot nuddy movie during spring break (WOOO-HOOOOOOOO! Incidentally, I once drank a table load of frat boy dickheads under said table to win a bet. And I hadn’t slept in 24 hours and was several pints ahead of them. I won $200 which I really needed at the time, and they had to pay the bar tab. Loud mouth pussies, the lot of them.) For reasons to complicated to bother with, his younger siblings are also caught on the lake. His mother (Shue) is the local sherrif and she also gets caught on the lake. The Piranha eat lots and lots of people, our heroic family survives. This is basically a hungry fish movie by numbers.
Time to give credit where its due. Aja absolutely understands how hungry fish movies are meant to go down: trap the food on the lake, and have them chomped in amusing ways. Furthermore, I want to give him a gold fucking star for having prime sack of cocks Eli Roth killed, pity it’s only a movie. He lays on the carnage by the bucketload, and although some of it does wonder a bit to close to the torture ethos that ruined The Hills Have Eyes (the hair on the propeller leaping to mind) all in all there’s plenty of gore here to keep me entertained.
He also, to his immense credit, understands the need for boob in these films and in Brook and Steele he has two more than willing accomplices. This is a film with loads and loads of spectacular nudity. So double points scored for that one as well. Finally, on the credit front, I think this is the only film I’ve seen that revels in its use of 3D. This is pure unadulterated schlock, and as such the 3D is strangely fitting. The subject matter is hilarious, by definition, and 3D works brilliantly in this context- particularly moments like the floating disembodied penis. Who needs good taste when you have sensibilities like this?
The acting here is OK for the most part with O’Connell and (unbelievably) Brook standing out. These are the two actors that best understand the ethos of the film, and they jump in whole-heartedly. Brook has been compared to a table with breasts before (not by me), but her wooden screen persona works fine in this context. Furthermore, she takes all her clothes off willingly and in almost every seen that she’s in she’s got a big happy smile on her face. I can’t believe I’ve just given praise to a Kelly Brook acting performance. I must be going nuts, but still, it goes to show how much more enjoyable these films are when people are having fun making them.
The writing is, well, nothing above the usual. The rationale for the fish being in the lake is about par for the course, the rationale for the people being on the lake is about par for the course, and the characterisation is also, you’ve guessed it, about par for the course. There’s the odd good piece of dialogue such as this exchange between Brook and Laura (the Sherrif’s daughter) that always makes me laugh:
Danni Nice horn.
Laura Forester: Thanks. Nice boobs.
Laura Forester: I have a training bra but I don’t like to wear it ’cause it itches.
Danni: Tell me about it! Who are you waiting for?
Laura Forester: My brother Jake, he’s seventeen. He’ll like your boobs too.
Danni: They all do.
This is quite nicely written, and there are a few more of these lines there (Derrick’s “It isn’t cheating if it’s with another girl” leaping to mind) but really, the dialogue here is just light and fun and not to be taken seriously.
It has to be said, Piranha 3D is for the most part a hell of a lot of fun. It’s over the top, silly, and as a rule hugely enjoyable. However, I’m docking it one point for something that I wish cinema would retire. When I eventually get round to doing my list of overused clichés this one is a lock down place. At one stage, the survivors have to climb along a rope that is crossing the lake with the hungry piranha in. The rope inevitably dips towards the surface causing one character to be gruesomely chomped. This fucking hackneyed claptrap is hideously overused. This is just off the top of my head, but the following three films all featuring marine life use it, or some minor variation of it: Frankenfish, Rogue and Deep Blue Sea. If I really think about it, I can probably name another shit load. It’s as bad as a bitten character concealing the wound in a zombie film, and I never, ever, want to see it again. Hackneyed crap.
The other problem is the presence of children. The fact is that with these types of schlocky movies it is only the disgustingly mean spirited ones that kill kids. It’s unsurprising that those schlock films that plumb these depths are also not enjoyable. There are higher-end horror films where kids are killed early on to prove that nobody is safe (think Mimic), but as a rule, when you see children in a film of this type, particularly one as light as this one, you know that they are going to survive unscathed, regardless of how annoying the kids are. This, sadly, puts a real dampner on the film because it effectively renders two characters chomp-proof, and any sequence with them in “danger” is so utterly devoid of peril, and as a result, tension, that it works to the detriment of the film. Shame.
Overall, Piranha 3D is a fairly splendid beer and pizza movie. It’s loads of fun, and there’s gore, gags and gratuitous nudity aplenty. Futhermore, it totally understands the intrinsic silliness of a good fish-eats-people film, and therefore, the usually aggravating 3D shots just add to the enjoyment here. This is a pretty sterling effort, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed and were it not for the two items mentioned above, I’d consider it to be the best Fish-eats-people film in decades. It isn’t sadly, Deep Blue Sea still holds that prize, but nonetheless, I give Piranha 3D a well deserved 3 angry drowning tigers in a hat out of 4. (This photo was originally an actual submerged tiger- who would do that, and more to the point, which poor bastard had to fish the severely unhappy drenched cat out of the water?)
The full list in this series:
- 1978 – The Driver (3 out of 4)
- 1979 – Life of Brian (4 out of 4)
- 1980 –Xanadu (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1981 – An American Werewolf in London (4 out of 4)
- 1982 – Class of 1984 (3 out of 4)
- 1983 – Fire and Ice (1 out of 4)
- 1984 – Cal (1/2 out of 4)
- 1985 – Teen Wolf (3 out of 4)
- 1986 –Reform School Girls (2.5 out of 4)
- 1987 – Dirty Dancing (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1988 – Married to the Mob (1 out of 4)
- 1989 – Millennium (1 out of 4)
- 1990 – Darkman (3 out of 4)
- 1991 – Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (2 out of 4)
- 1992 – Christopher Columbus: The Discovery (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1993 – Hard Target (3 out of 4)
- 1994 – Natural Born Killers (1 out of 4)
- 1995 – Desperado (3 out of 4)
- 1996 – Freeway (2.5 out of 4)
- 1997 – Mimic (2.5 out of 4)
- 1998 – Blade (3.5 out of 4)
- 1999 – Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1 out of 4)
- 2000 – Bring it On (1 out of 4)
- 2001 – Heartbreakers (0.5 out of 4)
- 2002 – Sim0ne (2 out of 4)
- 2003 – My Boss’s Daughter (Orangutan of Doom)
- 2004 – Exorcist: The beginning (1 out of 4)
- 2005 – The Cave (0.5 out of 4)
- 2006 – Invincible (3 out of 4)
- 2007 – War (2 out of 4)
- 2008 – Death Race (0.5 out of 4)
- 2009 – Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (3.5 out of 4)
- 2010 – Piranha 3D (3 out of 4)
- 2011 – Conan the Barbarian