Piranha 3D did exceptionally well in theatres this weekend, considering it has an 18A/R rating. Critics are eating it up, and the film is selling as the "most fun you'll have in the theatre this summer"! At most, I was mildly entertained. The film wasn't scary, it wasn't clever, and it wasn't shocking. At times, Piranha 3D made me feel like I was watching an episode of Jersey Shore (I've only watched half of one episode, before throwing up in my mouth a little, and changing the channel).
After a minor underwater earthquake in Lake Victoria, prehistoric piranhas are set free to fish-feast upon thousands of spring breakers over the course of a weekend. Sheriff Julie Forester (Elizabeth Shue) and company must save the town and her family, before the feisty fish devour everyone. The plot itself is campy, and there are occasional comedic lines in the film, but what might have been funny in a low budget B-rate horror film is embarrassing in this $24 million dollar, high technology feature.
The protagonists in the film are so poorly developed, that when their lives are at risk, it's difficult to care for their safety. The only actor worth saving in this film is Derrick Jones (Jerry O'Connell), and his over-the-top pervert character. The brief cameos made by Richard Dreyfuss and Christopher Lloyd take themselves too seriously, and fail as a selling point in the context of the film.
The film is devoted to tits and ass – some of which is fine – it's a horror film after all. However, in Piranha 3D, it's downright degrading and tiresome. I'd like to think that the genre has evolved a little. The slightly more covered-up Kelly (Jessica Szohr) plays a romantic interest for Jake (Steven R. McQueen), who couldn't be less charismatic, even with a decent script – and I think that is what is essentially wrong with the film itself – the writing behind it.
Director Alexandre Aja and his film-buddy in crime, Grégory Levasseur, are brilliant writers. They have come up with two of the most innovative, modern horror films in the last decade: Haute Tension, and The Hills Have Eyes remake. Both films felt very French and vintage horror: original, with an underlying political context that was both genuine and critical. Thus, I had high expectations for Piranha 3D. Aja was my new hero of horror. But Aja and Levasseur did not write the script for Piranha 3D, and the film felt like a teenaged, pubescent boy with a knack for cinematography (one of the film's best qualities) directed it. The 3D aspect was fun, but not enough to entertain spectators (with brains) through an entire hour and a half at the movies.
Many of the scenes in Piranha 3D were immature, and at a spry 26 years of age, I felt too old to be at the theatre. Perhaps what also turned my stomach was the fact that there were young children at the screening. Canada's rating system needs an overhaul, because parents are making poor choices about what their small children should see at the theatre. I'm certain that a piranha-inflicted-castration is not toddler age appropriate. I wouldn't lie to you, friendly horror comrades – there were babies in the building.
What kept me from walking out was the slaughter scene on the beach. There is nothing like seeing countless, ignorant, and careless spring breakers get ripped to pieces by fish with teeth. The deaths were graphic, detailed, unique, and well executed. Typically, I dislike horror films that rely too heavily on CGI effects, but the computer graphic imaging in this film was very well done, as were the special effects - courtesy of KNB Effects. However, while the slaughter-beach-scene was very enjoyable, getting up to it, and then waiting for the credits to roll afterward was a tedious process.
Oh Aja... I thought you were the one. As much as it breaks my heart to say this, Aja's next project, The Contractor, is a drama - and this is a good thing. It seems as though someone could use a time-out from the horror genre, unless he's coming in with an original script.