Skip to main content

Piranha 3D

Today I went to see Piranha 3D with good expectations, but left with a bittersweet feeling. The sweet part was the overt the top violence, the Richard Dreyfuss cameo, and the unapologetically gratuitous nudity courtesy of a some real-life porn stars. The bitter part was realizing that I had paid to watch innocent people get butchered for my own entertainment.

Just as the title indicates, this movie is about piranhas who swim at the audience in 3D. It is spring break in the fictional town of Lake Victoria and thousands of college and high school kids have invaded the town for beer, fun in the sun, and sex. This gives Sheriff Julie Foster (Elizabeth Shue) and Deputy Fallon a major headache, but little do they know that a recent earthquake has opened a crack in their lake, allowing million-year old piranhas to feast on anything that moves in the lake.

Also out on the lake that week-end is Foster’s son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) who is giving a tour of the lake to a sleazy producer of a popular porn site called “Wild Wild Girls” (think Girls Gone Wild). The producer (Jerry O’Connell) convinces Kelly, Jake’s old crush from high school to also come on their boat but Jake insists that it doesn’t bother him since she is not his girlfriend. Right.

Thin plot aside, the real show is the people getting attacked by piranhas, the wet t-shirt contests, and two porn stars swimming naked under water. It’s all there, and well done. People die in extremely gruesome ways: limbs are ripped apart, eyeballs are eaten, heads are crushed, and a piranha actually eats its way through a woman’s chest and then out through her mouth. Real-life piranhas are probably not that vicious (or that hungry for that matter) but Christopher Lloyd shows up as fish expert to explain that these particular piranhas are the original ones from millions of years ago. This explanation, coming from the actor who explained how the flux capacitor in “Back to the Future” works, makes the movie worthwhile for any film lover.

So, as far as adhering to the b-movie genre the film succeeds at being what it wants to be. My big problem is the scenes where people walk out of the water bleeding severely from flesh wounds and literally falling to pieces. There are great moments of tension before they get eaten alive, and some people get eaten in funny and inventive ways but I have a really hard time watching dozens of people suffering for my own entertainment. I know, I know, it’s only a movie, the fish are just animated images, and no actor got hurt, they were only pretending to die painfully. But, when those kids were walking away from that slaughter, I wasn’t laughing I was feeling sorry for them.

Over the top violence works better when the violence is aimed at characters who have it coming. This is why a television show like Dexter is successful. Dexter Morgan tries to kill people who deserve to die, hence it is a guilty pleasure for the audience when he butchers a bad guy. So, when Jerry O’Connell’s sleazy character gets what’s coming to him, I can cheer for that. What I have a hard time cheering for is the sight of an innocent young woman getting half of her face ripped off because her hair got caught in a speedboat’s propeller and the douche bag driving it kept trying to restart the engine. Somehow, I just can’t laugh at that image.

I have read that for the sequel the producers will have the audience vote for which celebrity they want to see get eaten by piranhas. I can be pretty cynical when I want to, but isn’t that going a bit too far? I don’t think anybody should hate a person so much that they would like to see them get eaten alive. O.K, perhaps Osama Bin Laden, but the cast of Jersey Shore? Really? If they annoy you that much, do what I do: don’t watch them. No need to fantasize about watching them get brutally munched to death.

Maybe I am being hypocritical since I have enjoyed movies like “Snakes on a Plane” and “Jurassic Park” where people also get eaten or bitten to death. In my defence, the first time I saw “Jurassic Park” I didn’t really enjoy seeing people die, but then again I was seven at the time so I probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place. As for “Snakes on a Plane” I would argue that once the people got bitten by the snakes, they would either pass out or die instantly. Whereas with the piranhas, once they would chew off a girl’s flesh they would keep on biting and biting and biting while she was screaming. By the fifth bite I was hoping the character had bled to death and was out of her misery all ready.   


Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #85: Blue Velvet

Exactly how do you describe a David Lynch movie? He is one of the few directors whose style is so distinctive that his last name has become an adjective. According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of Lynchian is: “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane found in the works of filmmaker David Lynch.” To see a prime example of that adjective film lovers need look no further than Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), which does indeed begin in the mundane before slowly sinking in macabre violence.
My first introduction to the world of David Lynch was through his ground breaking, but unfortunately interrupted, early 1990s TV series Twin Peaks. This was one of the first television shows to grab viewers with a series-long mystery: who killed Laura Palmer? A mix of soap opera, police procedural, and the supernatural, it is a unique show that showed the darkness hidden in suburbia and remains influential to this day. Featuring Kyle MacLachlan as an FBI investigator with a love for …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #90: When Harry Met Sally...

There is an age-old question regarding whether single men and women can be just friends. In real life the answer is obviously “yes,” but in movies and TV the answer always has to be that at some point two single characters will get attracted to each other and move beyond friendship. On TV I find this to be contrived and overused, but some movies can have a lot of fun with the concept, most notably Rob Reiner’s comedy classic When Harry Met Sally…(1989). It may not change your view on love and friendship, but it forever changed the meaning of the phrase “I’ll have what she’s having.”
On paper this film’s premise sounds like another rom-com, but seen by oneself during an evening of Netflix binging it does make you think about deep stuff like the long-term impact of your decisions on your life. A person you meet during a tense trip might turn up again sometime later down the road in the most unexpected ways. If there is one thing I believe in it is infinite possibilities, and Nora Ephron…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #83: Brazil

Dystopian movies from the 1980s are a funny thing since we now live in the future of those movies and if you look at the news for more than five minutes it will feel as though we are one bad day away from being into a dystopia. On the plus side, if it ends up looking like the dystopia portrayed in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) at least we will have lovely architecture to look at while the government is busy telling us how to think. This might not be a movie that will cheer you up, but the production design is amazing, the performances are great throughout, and you get to see Robert DeNiro play a maintenance man/freedom fighter.
I first saw Brazil as a Terry Gilliam double feature at the Universit√© de Sherbrooke’s movie club paired along with 12 Monkeys around ten years ago. Those two films are similar in that they both feature a rather dour future and, as with most Gilliam movies, incredibly intricate sets. However the dystopian future in Brazil is somewhat scarier than the disease-ra…