There are some people who were absolutely thrilled to see the culmination of Marvel’s recent run of Superhero blockbuster movies result in the box office SMASH known as the Avengers. Others waited with baited breath for John Carter and well… I believe the term is “shit the bed”. Still others are looking on to The Dark Knight Rises and next week Prometheus (the non official, official Alien prequel). What do all these films have in common? Hype. Lots of it. It’s been a veritable Thanksgiving feast of hype for the silver screen savvy, and this whole time the only movie lil’ old Jimmy T. wants to see is the film about the fishies… Piranha 3DD. Well its day has come and gone, twice in fact; once without the aid of eye apparel and the other with the bull benefit of all three dimensions. With all the technological achievements and with the benefit of new gimmicks helping to assure financial success for the movie industry, has Hollywood figured out how to give me a button that I can place next to my remote control wired directly to the Weinsteins testicles that produces and electric shock to illustrate my feelings as to their latest production? They have not. Their testicle are safe. I still don’t have Grindhouse Part 2 and Piranha 3DD exists in the world. Welcome to the review of my discontent.
Synopsis straight from the beast:
After the terror unleashed on Lake Victoria in ‘Piranha 3D’, the pre-historic school of blood thirsty piranhas are back. This time, no one is safe from the flesh eating fish as they sink their razor sharp teeth into the visitors of summer’s best attraction, The Big Wet Water Park. Christopher Lloyd (‘Back To The Future’) reprises his role as the eccentric piranha expert with survivor Paul Scheer (The League) and a partially devoured Ving Rhames (‘Pulp Fiction’) back for more fish frenzy. David Hasselhoff trades in the sandy beaches of “Baywatch” to be a celebrity lifeguard at the racy water park. Prepare for double the terror, double the action and double the D’s in this sequel.
Just so we’re clear, there may be a hint of spoiler in this review, but when I say spoiler I mean I’m gonna giveaway what happens to the victims of Piranha 3DD. I’m not going to reveal the plot or “twist” if in fact there is a “twist”. I’m quite certain that the synopsis and trailer will reveal far more than I could involving the story line. Forgive me in advance, but if the producers are giving out the bra size in the title of the movie of half the extras in the picture, I can giveaway a little gore. You have been warned.
Let’s give some back story to reaffirm why this film has disappointed me so. Me and Joe Dante go way back like Gremlins. The Peltzer family changed my life. Dante and I cut our teeth together on the Howling and the original Piranha. I love his work. I love his fishies. The sequel (not directed by Dante, but directed by James Cameron) left me raw but does hold a special place in my heart for having some damn fine cover art and having been on television when I wasn’t exactly supposed to be watching it. It’s one of those thrill seeking moments kids have right up there with staying up late reading under their covers and sneaking an extra cookie when mom’s in the shower. I have a history with this series. I even got to re-watch Piranha in 35mm goodness at a recent Exhumed 24 Hour Horror-thon which is a thing of beauty. The remake on the other hand was a theater going experience of a completely different kind.
I had the pleasure of watching Piranha 3D in the theater practically by myself with a set of 3D glasses strapped to my head. The summer that it came out was the first that I was really writing my blog and it inspired me to write about my plans for the summer. Piranha 3D was a work of comedic genius, not too shabby on the gore and was filled with homages and cameos that is crack to nerd folk. C’mon! Richard Dreyfus in his Jaws get up drinking an Amity brew? I might as well have had someone one giving me a happy ending under the seat (extra butter? sure!). Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Eli Roth, Christopher Lloyd, and my personal favorite, Jerry O’Connell as a cocaine snorting, man-slut, sleaze ball producer. There are scenes where you might as well be blowing rails just to keep up with O’Connell’s sick, black humor. You forget that he played Vern in Stand By Me. Piranha 3D is directed by Alexandre Aja who I have a fair track record with; loved the remake of Hills Have Eyes, but think that people who love High Tension need to rewatch it for inconsistencies… great idea poorly executed. This is his crown jewel although I realize that will be debatable with the High Tension crowd. I think when you balance this much star power with the sense of humor that our horror community often loves in their gorefests, you can’t lose. You just need a story that carries everyone overboard with you. Even the posters were brilliant especially the semi-mock ups of the original poster… especially the Jaws homage. All the stars were aligned and the damn thing was so campy even non-horror folk could find it entertaining.
When I left the theater after enjoying Piranha 3D I felt satisfied. Sure the overabundance of three dimensional boobs was a definite plus (I am a twelve year old boy inside this near middle age facade), but I kept thinking about watching Ving Rhames’ legs being eaten off. I laughted wholeheartedly at Jerry O’Connell’s cock being flung at the screen and then eaten by a Piranha. I couldn’t believe I was seeing a movie like this in an actual movie theater, and from the moment I walked out the door I was hoping it did well at the box office. It need to. The fans were going to need a sequel.
Let us be clear on one thing, sometimes the movie fans greatest enemy is himself i.e. you can hype up a movie until it dies of cardiac arrest. When I tell you that I’m not a fan of John Gulager’s vision of Piranha 3DD most folks are inclined to believe it is because I overhyped the darn thing. I don’t think that has much to do with it. I hype movies all the time. That’s what fan boys do I guess. Plenty of flicks have met my expectation when overhyped. The reason I was pissed at Piranha 3DD is that it didn’t move the series forward, overpower the original production or at least make a play for what made the original 3D release so successful. I probably need to go into each one of these in detail.
The story doesn’t move forward. If we take the Piranha and move the Piranha from a lake to a water park then we have not done anything new; even if we have an adult section of said water park and call it The Big Wet. The story has flat lined, pronounce it dead. Remember Piranha 2: The Spawning? It at least made the goddamn things flying fish. However ineffective that film was, at least you can appreciate the variation. If you’re not moving the series forward by introducing a new attribute to your creature creation than you have to evolve characters which was also a failure for 3DD. The characters were unfamiliar, and I really didn’t like them. There was no introduction to these new faces. In the original we had oodles of back story behind each face. In 3DD it was a couple scenes of dialogue about getting laid followed by attempts to get laid followed by clever, semi-gory piranha mutilation. Yes, there is a “twist” and I’m sure that when you read this paragraph after having seen the film you’ll be spitting out more butts than Denis Leary circa 1990 doing stand up, but the twist is just a doggy treat. Where’s the Alpo!?
Piranha 3DD didn’t overpower or outdo the original film in terms of body count, boob count, quality of boob, quality of gore or even quality of joke. Even if the body count was higher you’d never know it due to the rushed, grand finale showdown. The boob count is a debatable measure in this one, although it might be controversial I do believe you can stake that more quality nudity was scene in the original picture (underwater ballet anyone?). Let’s face it, with this kind of picture you actually have to take this factor in to consideration. It’s on the poster. It’s like the American Pie of horror films only this American Pie was more or less like one of the later year spin offs featuring Eugene Levy and barely a whimper of the original cast. The gore completely let me down. There was nothing like the brutality of the original and even a few moments where props seemed overly fake. 3DD tries to capture some of the special moments from 3D and then didn’t push the envelope. In fact the entire movie can be summarized in this concise way. In Piranha 3D I get to see Jerry O’Connell lose his penis, watch it float around int he water as if it were a piece of driftwood before being devoured up close and personal by a very hungry fish. In Piranha 3DD a guy has a piranha attached to his penis (and his reaction is forced), cuts it off (and doesn’t show the cut and what guy would slice off his Johnson?) and then it ends up on the floor (someone should have slipped and fell if not stepped on it crushing beyond all recognition like processed meat). That’s ferocity is down. The humor in the penis gag is lost on me since I enjoyed the 3D’s penis gag better. Apply that principle to the entire movie.
Piranha 3DD didn’t play on what made the original great. Charismatic, funny actors and actresses who understood just how campy the movie was going to turn out without overtly trying to make the production a B rate camping trip. I know that by casting some of the secondary characters played by Ving Rhames and Christopher Lloyd a filmmaker might believe they’ve captured the essence of the first production. Sadly this is not the case. Both of these stars come off as cheap imitations of their former characters which seems near impossible to believe given the action/comedy/horror fest we’re talking about here, but when you can’t produce laughs then you have to depend on the gore. When the gore falls flat you have to count on the boobs and when the boobs are squeezed into short, machine gun bursts at the beginning and ending of the picture then how does the MTV or post-MTV generation stay interested? Next you’ll be telling me that by including The Hoff (David Hasselhoff) a new character with superior wit will make up for the lack of star power or breakout performances in the primary players. If I hear Hasselhoff refer to that damn “ginger” haired kid one more time I’m going to take away his complimentary Knightrider leather jacket. He’s used ineffectively. Who wrote these jokes? Was this improv? Two of the writers did a pile of Saw sequels and Feast sequels. Another credited writer produced the film and produced Hellraiser: Revelations. Maybe they’re just not comedians?
Bottom line is that Ving Rhames isn’t allowed to be a candy ass in any movie. No guy is going to cut off his own dick; not even if it’s possessed by the Evil Dead. The damn thing is barely over an hour, was released in very limited screenings where folks could actually catch it in its well executed 3D. That doesn’t meant that the CGI was any better than the original, but at least you’re getting some nice action sequences in your face. I think it’s paramount that when working with lower quality CGI you need to keep the sequences dimly lit. It hides some of the defects. This film was bright and shiny. The water is crystal clear. I had to wait until my second viewing to see that since I watched it through my cable provider who didn’t offer it in anaglyphic 3D or even TV3D. I assure you that this must be enjoyed in 3D if their is any benefit to be gained from watching it. The marketing campaign and trailer were fantastic. The poster art is gorgeous. I went into Piranha 3DD expecting what I got out of the original… I wanted to laugh and be just a little grossed out while staring at some boobies and laughing at myself for being such an adolescent. Instead I got a short movie version of what MTV would look like if they could show nudity, swear and gore. I’m unimpressed, and more only fear is that we will be seeing a Piranha 3DDD that will go direct to VOD, no theatrical release even though it might utilize 3D effects well and they might cast even more pop-nut jobs like Gary Busey to try and pick up the slack where the writers left off.
Overhyped movies should deliver. If they fail to deliver than the filmmaker did not meet the expectation of the audience and the film should fail. In my case I am consciously aware of the hype I placed on this picture, but I can assure you that it didn’t meet even the base requirement for a satisfactory follow up to its predecessor.