Man-eaters: Piranha 3-D

The 1978 Roger Corman production Piranha, directed by Joe Dante and written by John Sayles (!), was part of the teeming school of “killer fish” flicks that traded on the success of Jaws, released the previous year. It had a 1982 sequel, Part Two: the Spawning, briefly directed by James Cameron (he was apparently fired after only two days on set) where the fish develop wings and fly, and was remade for TV in 1995. This, its second remake, is a flimsy would-be B-movie from French director Alexandre Aja which jumps on the 3-D bandwagon and adds bucket-loads of bloody carnage and bare breasts to the formula.

An earthquake unleashes several thousand prehistoric killer piranha from a subterranean lake on a gaggle of sex-crazed college kids on spring break. Elisabeth Shue and Adam Scott (Step Brothers) are the local law enforcement tasked with controlling the situation, while Sliders’ Jerry O’Connell plays a coke-snorting, tequila-drinking Girls Gone Wild-like videographer who ultimately has his manhood to the ocean’s murky depths. (GGW magnate Joe Francis is currently suing the production for defamation.) Richard Dreyfuss reprises his character from Jaws in the film’s opening sequence, while Christopher Lloyd is a Doc Brown-like mad scientist.

The film is sadly never quite ‘so bad it’s good’. It’s like the worst porn (sans money shots) combined with the most ludicrous, exploitative splatter-fest. The film’s few 3-D shots are so brief as to have almost no impact, and the continual sexual innuendo quickly wears thin. Director Aja (2006’s The Hills Have Eyes re-tread) is part of the so-called “splat pack” alongside Hostel director Eli Roth, who’s given a cameo here. While Aja gets the gratuitous gore—much of it, particularly a few grisly decapitations and a scalping, non-piranha-induced—down pat, the remainder is too glossy to be enjoyable: portions read like an extended music video or Jersey Shore interlude. An improbably lengthy nude underwater ballet scene with two actual porn stars is the film’s schlocky pièce de résistance.

A sequel is already being considered, for which director Aja has plenty of ideas, including “[a] full moon party in Thailand…with 200,000 young people taking mushrooms and partying on the beach [before (presumably) being torn limb from bloody limb by prehistoric killer fish.]”

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