You know what you’re getting when you watch Piranha: scantily-clad cavorting and lots of gore. It’s the mix that draws adolescents: libido and animus, in a gratuitous, trashy package. (Beware spoilers.)
Piranha 3D (I watched it 2D, on DVD) is actually a remake of a much older series of films that originated as a parody of Jaws. However in this movie, I didn’t sense much irony, comedy or even much craft.
I was actually disappointed by the story structure; the trailer screamed a narrative crescendo culminating in a bloodbath at the big lake party. But there was never any conflict over closing the lake, no buildup of incidents leading up to the finale – the climax was actually diluted between two locations. The bully never got his payback, the scene of the protagonist getting together with his love interest was awkward and actually cut from the theatrical release, and the ending abrupt and silly.
The characters aren’t just shallow, they are too thin to allude to monster/horror movie archetypes. One of the characters joins another in a boat: “I’m coming with you!” – but there’s really no reason why. One character creates an unlikely impromptu chainsaw and goes down in a blaze of glory – pity we have no attachment to him.
The special effects are wonky in a 90s fashion, and completely, self-consciously over-the-top. People are sliced in half, have their skin ripped off, have limbs eaten to the bone, are reduced to skeletons, et cetera, et cetera. The two “Girls Gone Wild” actresses frolic naked for several minutes in an obviously composited green-screen scene that’s hopelessly contrived.
Jerry O’Connell is hilarious and disturbing as the unhinged director of a “Girls Gone Wild” analog. I kept on recalling his Quinn Mallory in Sliders of so many years ago. Christopher Lloyd is a crazy-looking pet-shop owner (yes, a pet-shop owner) who has barely any scenes. I liked Jessica Szohr (but that might be from her work in Gossip Girl). Eli Roth was in the movie too, but I barely noticed him.
If you’re into this specific brand of entertainment, Piranha delivers, but with flawed execution.