Piranha 3D (2010)

Puerile, childish, violent, bloody and utterly derivative, Piranha 3D will win no prizes for originality but it certainly entertains. Mostly for fans of blood, cliché and lots and lots of breasts, this is silly, unimaginative fun.

The premise for Piranha 3D is as crass and thoughtless as any B-movie monster flick. A localized seismic quake opens up an ancient underwater chasm, releasing thousands of evil prehistoric piranha into Lake Victoria. Coincidentally it happens to be Spring Break on the lake and thousands of teenagers are partying in the water. This unfortunate combination of events leads to a disaster on a catastrophic scale, but only if you actually like idiotic frat boys and brainless boob-flashing slags. If you don’t, then it’s some kind of welcome fish-instigated genocide and an absolute pleasure to behold.

Luckily for Piranha 3D there are actually a few characters you might care for. There is the long-suffering Sheriff Julie Forester (played affably by Elizabeth Shue), her likeable son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) and, oddly, Jerry O’Connell. O’Connell, in fact, is the only actor who seems to understand what kind of film he’s in. He takes the character of crappy porn director Derrick Jones and amps up the camp – he’s sleazy, over-the-top, ridiculous and genuinely a pleasure to watch. He relishes the stupidity the film embodies. Sadly the other named actors seem to flap around aimlessly in the dud script, with tragically pointless cameos from Richard Dreyfuss, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd and Eli Roth. They’re all incredibly underused.

Piranha 3D’s major issue, however, is not the quality of acting but it’s tone. This is a film that would’ve benefited from a slightly more comical tone rather than the unfortunately po-faced one it carries throughout. As mentioned above, it’s only the scenes with Jerry O’Connell that invigorate and feel tonally right. This is perhaps the fault of director Alexandre Aja, who is more used to helming serious horror films such as Switchblade Romance, The Hills Have Eyes (2008) and Mirrors. Luckily Piranha 3D isn’t as appalling as Mirrors, but it’s not a patch on Switchblade or Hills. This tonal imbalance is irritating, especially as there are some genuinely decent moments – the scary walk across a rickety pier at night, the absolute carnage of the wet t-shirt competition and the oddly beautiful underwater scene with naked-nymphets Kelly Brook and Riley Steele – yet even these are so tonally different they could be a series of vignettes rather than a complete film. Especially since Piranha 3D also includes a scene involving a severed penis and a burping fish. Pathetically childish in places, beautiful in others, totally bonkers in some – it’s vastly inconsistent.

Often the failing in many monster movies is a crappy-looking antagonist and sadly Piranha 3D is no exception. Up close and vivid, the fish look excellent, but it’s the rush shots of them swimming and attacking that are just messy, especially the underwater attacks – it’s like a fleshy version of Transformers’ insanely-kinetic but ultimately dull bot battles. It’s shot in bloodied water and so zoomed-in that you could be watching someone farting into cranberry juice and you wouldn’t tell the difference. Also continuity-wise it makes absolutely no sense. The piranha’s just kill, sometimes eating someone to the bone and sometimes just biting them a little bit and leaving them to die. There’s no consistency, but it’s clear these evil fish aren’t hungry, they’re just a bit mental.

Okay, so this is not supposed to be smart or clever or terrifying – it’s called Piranha 3D for gawd’s sake! It’s a claret-splattered action horror film featuring a horde of aggressive underwater beasties killing teenagers – it’s all about the killing! Sadly, however, the violence is expected and mostly uninspiring, although Aja does occasionally pull some excellent deaths out of nowhere (boat in the face, anyone? Ouch).

But wait – it’s in 3D! Yes. Yes it is. The 3D is pointlessly gimmicky, but a bit of a laugh while it lasts. Much like the film itself.

Piranha 3D is unoriginal, stupid, mildly pointless and feels like anyone could have made it. It’s certainly entertaining, and it’s good to see a full-blooded 18 certificate horror film unashamedly living it-up on the big screen, but this is by-the-numbers silliness that is instantly forgettable. Apart from the severed penis, maybe…

Rating: ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

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