So my wife wanted to go see The Expendables. There are some other words with the suffix "-able" to describe The Expendables. How about "forgettable?" What about "regrettable?" Personally, I like "insufferable." One more adjective could be "stupidable." Okay, I know that one really isn’t a word but I’m gonna argue artistic license and move on…
But one good thing that came out of The Expendables was that my wife decided to do a little shopping and I decided to hang around (along with only two other people) for a showing of Piranha 3D. Boy, was I glad I did.
First of all, it was directed by Alexandre Aja who burst on the scene with the gruesome and grueling High Tension a few years back, and followed that up with the ultra-violent remake of The Hills Have Eyes, one of the few remakes of the past several years that I thought was decent. His next film, Mirrors, was a bit of a road bump, but I was still excited about him directing the Piranha remake. And Aja wastes no time in communicating to the audience just what kind of remake this movie is going to be. It opens with Richard Dreyfuss playing a retired Matt Hooper (his character from Jaws for those who might be a little slow on the draw with the in-joke) fishing on a lake and singing "Show Me the Way to Go Home" just before being shredded by a school of our toothy–and very hungry–title characters. So immediately the audience knows this is going to be high camp. The director has already shown us his tongue has been placed into the deepest recesses of his cheek and we are in for a bit of twisted fun.
Make no mistake about it, Piranha 3D is pure exploitation. In fact, it may be the most perfect example of an exploitation film this reviewer has ever seen. I purposefully used the French movie poster for this review as an illustration of exactly what I mean. The tagline reads: "Sea, sex and…blood." This is exactly what we get, and we get plenty of it. We also get a still very attractive Elisabeth Shue as the sheriff of a town similar to Lake Havasu where, each year during Spring Break, all the college kids gather for a week of debauched water aerobics. And in another genius bit of casting, Christopher Lloyd picks up his mad scientist persona from his Back to the Future series and manages to ratchet up the histrionics even more as the resident ichthyologist who first identifies the type of fish that is causing the problems in the lake. Both Dreyfuss and Lloyd are limited to near-cameo roles, but they are worth the price alone. There is also another terrific cameo featuring producer Eli Roth who is on screen just long enough to have his brains splattered across a platinum blonde’s face and bikini-clad breasts.
The plot is the same story for every single mutant-animal flick ever made: an environmental (or man-made) disaster occurs just in time for the sleepy hamlet’s one chance a year it has to make money from the tourists that descend upon the town. This of course causes some tension as the sheriff has to decide whether to face the ire of the townsfolk by shutting down the lake or a possible disaster by gambling that the tourists won’t be placed in harm’s way if the lake were to remain open. And just as in Jaws, the sheriff’s own kids are placed right in the midst of the peril. I did like the device used to introduce and explain the presence of the piranha in a freshwater lake. Instead of the usual environmental problem that creates a freakish mutant species, an earthquake under the lake breaks open an underground cavern where the prehistoric piranha had lived for millions of years as they fed on each other. These piranha are just leftovers from a time when they weren’t the only monsters swimming in a primordial sea.
The true exploitative part of the plot concerns a cocky and loutish director who is famous for his "Wild, Wild Girls" videos, an obvious adaptation of the "Girls Gone Wild" craze. He has hired a boat and a couple of buxom beauties and plans to film his latest video amongst all the beautiful college co-eds on the lake. This, of course, gives the director a chance to include some gratuitous and totally unnecessary–but fun–nudity. And there is plenty to go around. The two Wild Wild Girls have no trouble making out with each other and swimming totally nude as the director films them. We also get a young lady who decides to go para-sailing topless and a plethora of drunken and semi-nude chicks out on the lake. And lest we forget this is a 3D film, we also get plenty of boobs literally slapping the viewer in the face (a unique and not altogether unpleasant experience for this reviewer).
Just as there is a ton of nudity, there is even more violence. These prehistoric piranha don’t nibble, folks. They slash. They rend. They tear. And for anyone left in the water more than three seconds, this is very bad news indeed. Quite frankly, I’m a bit surprised this received an R rating as it is quite bloody and violent. I can’t imagine what an unrated version on DVD might contain…. True to his bloody beginnings, Aja revels in the gore and gives us some unique kills. I hate to spoil any of the truly wonderful moments, but I will hint at the ironic demise of our oversexed Wild Wild Girls director, which also gives us one of several laugh-out-loud gross-out moments in the film.
Roger Corman would be very proud of this remake. It is 100% exploitation and 100% fun, fun, fun. This may be the single best remake of a film I’ve ever seen and I enjoyed it tremendously. It will be a definite purchase as soon as it is released on DVD, but don’t wait until then. See this one in the theater and get the full 3D effect. You won’t be disappointed.