DVD Review: Piranha has two speeds: breasts and blood. If hot bikini women aren’t getting naked and making out, then someone’s getting eaten by prehistoric fish. Its single-minded dedication to sex and violence may be sick, wrong and disgusting, but Piranha’s shamelessly exploitative fun. Horrible people getting eaten alive by horrible critters. What’s not to love?
The following is a reprint of the redblog review of Piranha on its theatrical release in August. Piranha is now available from redbox.
When people say horror movies are trash that’s rotting our brains and destroying society, Piranha is exactly, gloriously, perfectly what they’re talking about.
Elizabeth Shue plays the sheriff of an Arizona lake town overrun by spring breakers and carnivorous beasties. (The “Martin Brody” role.) The actress took most of the past decade off from acting, but one look at the Piranha script and she said, “Hmm, I like the examination of connections between humans and their environment, the societal role of the bacchanal, and lessons of morality via primal marine proxies. And a swimmer gets her hair caught in a propeller and has her whole face yanked off? Why yes, I think I will come out of retirement for this.”
Also out on the lake is infamous Hollywood playa Jerry O’Connell as the sleazy showman behind the “Wild Wild Girls” videos—O’Connell’s character is so good at plying women with champagne and peer pressure to strip and make out for the camera, it’s almost like the actor had done months, maybe years of Method research for the role.
Likewise, you can’t tell me this is the first time Ving Rhames has fought off a horde of hungry piranha using only an outboard boat motor and bad language. And yes, Richard Dreyfuss returns as Jaws’ Matt Hooper (sorta), opening the whole fishbang by singing “Show Me the Way to Go Home.” Best of all the talented comic actor Adam Scott playing it almost straight as a a heroic biologist.
Nemo’s Back and He’s Out for Blood
The plot involves something about an earthquake and the opening up of a passage to a hidden underwater lake that happens to be fully stocked with ancient fishies. Soon thousands of the toothy little buggers are chewin’ up naked spring breakers like it’s their job.
These piranha are especially ugly and mean—they’re like the Insane Clown Posse juggalos of the water. They look like someone fed Michael Bay meth and Twinkies all night and then forced him at gunpoint to design the perfect killer fish.
Some of you might be saying, “I’m a fan of the original Piranha films, the first one written by John Sayles and directed by Joe Dante, and then Piranha Two: The Spawning directed by some truck-driving hack named Jimmy Cameron, and I was wondering how this new version from French director Alexandre Aja—who did the terrific French thriller High Tension and Mirrors–compares to those two in terms of theme and tone.” What’s that? I’m sorry, you’ll have to speak up–I couldn’t hear you over the sounds of hundreds of half-naked youth being eaten alive by thousands of piranha.
Nom Nom Nom
Did I mention a lot of people get tore up by piranha? And no, not in a tasteful, Piranha Afternoon Tea sort of way. Piranha is hands down the most over-the-top, gleefully gory bloodbath ever inflicted on a mainstream audience, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Oh, sure, you can find movies with worse gore, but usually only in really cheap and sleazy videos you have to rent in the back room of some disreputable store. This is no coy, flirting quick glimpse of a little blood here and there–this is long, lingering, loving looks at hard-core gore, as each scene is an attempt to out-gross-out the one before. This is Gore Gone Wild. (And yep, that’s Hostel director Eli Roth MC-ing the wet T-shirt contest.)
You want severed limbs? I haven’t seen this many legless folks since the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl. Piranha is also a big fan of the Chrissy Scene—you know, where a character is floating in the water and gets bumped, looks around confused, and says “Hey, I think something just bit me.” Then suddenly the water looks like you left the lid off the blender while making tomato daiquiris, and people start screaming as if someone deleted their WoW accounts.
At one point you see a severed eyeball float by and that’s just the warm up. I don’t want to give away Piranha’s Crown Jewel, insane, ridiculous, “do I laugh or throw up?” gore shot, but suffice to say when you see it… well, you’ll understand why Thomas Edison invented this technology in the first place.
(I kid, but this is not some slapped-together cheapie–Aja is a good director who knows what he’s doing, and while the subject and script is plenty silly, the movie itself is well made.)
Horror films are morality plays–the vicious, stomach-turning violence inflicted on hedonistic college students is simply punishment for their transgressions, and Piranha also makes dang sure you get your fill of said filthy wrath-invoking behavior.
Did you really think God, Karma, or L. Ron Hubbard would let two surgically enhanced naked chicks perform an underwater make-out ballet and not send a plague of chompy monsters to cleanse them of their sin—and most of their flesh?
If Piranha II hopes to top all this carnality—and please, please, L. Ron, let there be a Piranha II—it’s going to have to take place at a Vegas strip club.