In this second remake to Joe Dante's 1978 camp classic, a breed of carnivorous killer fish are unleashed from a subterranean cave system after an earthquake creates a giant fissure in Lake Victoria. They quickly set out to ruin everyone's good time as they mow through hundreds of drunken co-eds that are out on the water for Spring break.
If one was to assess Alexandre Aja's work based solely on his latest remake, he could be expected to have a long and lucrative career filming made-for-TV garbage for years to come. PIRANHA 3-D takes the terms "gratuitous" and "excessive" to extreme new levels, putting on a spectacular display of gore and nudity unlike any other recent theatrical release without providing any substance or contextualization to back it up. Instead, audiences are subjected to mind-numbing characters and useless subplots that only serve as set-ups for additional nude scenes that are both unnecessary and unappreciated (for once). It is actually angering to have over eight-minutes worth of a costly theater ticket wasted on a softcore lesbian scene that required nearly half-an-hour of poor acting and otherwise worthless plotting to establish. It is tough to say who is responsible for the many recognizable errors, since Aja is typically a strong presence in the genre. The countless problems that riddle the entire picture just make it impossible to enjoy even as a cheesy B-movie. Unlike the impressive work done in other 3-D releases like MY BLOODY VALENTINE or AVATAR, PIRANHA 3-D makes very little use of the cutting-edge technology whatsoever, falling flat on screen when it isn't disorienting and nauseating audiences. Its editing is atrocious, many times setting up a gory gag without following through with any generated effects from the partygoers. This is most noticeable when a nude para-glider is dunked in the water, only to have her lower extremities devoured by the fish. When she is raised back up, all that remains is her bloodied torso, but not a single person comments or shows even the faintest reaction. Jerry O'Connell plays into his drug- and sex-crazed character far too convincingly, taking what could have been a fun and silly performance and turning himself in to an annoying and hated stereotype. PIRANHA also sells itself as a Horror Comedy, but most of the trashy humor and attempted gross-outs are unable to earn a laugh. Obviously, in an intentionally over-the-top picture such as this, nitpicking minor failures in the logic, plot, or acting seems futile, but this kind of sloppy filmmaking and juvenile scripting is representative of the product as a whole. What does come as a surprise is that the computerization of the fish, which most people feared would be the film's greatest disappointment, actually gives them the character and ferocity that had been missing in the earlier entries.
There is only one area of the film that truly succeeds at all, and that is in the incredible amount of gore that it brings to the table. With the award-winning special effects team of Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero creating each of the bloody deaths, gore fans will not be disappointed in the least. For all of the painful dialog and meaningless storytelling leading up to it, the final meltdown where several hundred feet of lake water turns red with screaming college students is worth the price of admission alone. Missing limbs, chewed-off faces, decapitations; PIRANHA pulls no punches in splattering the screen with gallon upon gallon of blood. With a body count that easily stretches in to the hundreds, PIRANHA can certainly claim to be one of the most gruesome Horror films to reach theaters in years.
Despite an overwhelming response from many genre fans during its theatrical release, PIRANHA 3-D is nothing more than the poorly made shocker that the trailer made it out to be. Rushing out to theaters in order to experience the film in 3-D will only disappoint movie-goers, and this one is better left to DVD.
If you liked PIRANHA 3-D, check out:
MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D, JAWS 3, MEGA PIRANHA.