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 - #70: Stand by Me

Another clear influence on Stranger Things, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) portrays American kids from a lost era in which they could go on an adventure away from home. Nowadays if children go missing for more than an hour parents try to locate them using cell phone apps, but in the story written by Stephen King four boys in 1959 Oregon go walking in the woods during a long weekend to look for, of all things, a dead body. Their lives are sometimes at risk, they have no way of communicating with their parents, but they will definitely have a story to remember for the rest of their lives.
For many North Americans adults this movie fondly reminded them of a time in their childhood despite the inherent danger. Not so for me since, first of all, there was no time in my childhood when I could possibly go out of the house for more than three hours without my mom getting in her car to go look for me. The there is the fact that I spent a good chunk of my childhood living in Chile and Peru, an…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #316: Trainspotting

In the 1990s Hollywood directors were the kings of cinema, whether it was for big summer blockbusters or smaller independent films. Guys like James Cameron or Michael Bay would blow up the screens while Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino put the emphasis on snappy dialogue that created relatable characters for the moviegoers. Then in 1996, as if to scream “we can do this too,” Danny Boyle released Trainspotting in the United Kingdom.
Based on a novel by Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh, the movie took the world by storm despite having no explosions, a cast of actors who were relatively unknown and a budget that today could barely pay for the catering of a Transformers movie. Furthermore this is not the story of young people going to college to enter a life full of promise, but about young heroine addicts meandering through the streets of Edinburgh. Despite introducing these characters during an energetic montage set to Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge in …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #364: Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers (1994) is not so much a movie as an American nightmare come to life. Loosely based on a story by Quentin Tarantino, starring some of the wildest actors in Hollywood at the time, and boasting a level of violence that unfortunately inspired copycat crimes, it is the textbook definition of controversial. In all fairness there are important messages amidst all the violent mayhem, but director Oliver Stone throws so much content at the screen that these messages can sometimes get lost in the carnage.
Even though the movie came out more than two decades ago it still has a legendary status, which I learned about while reading a chapter in a book about Tarantino’s career. The book, Quintessential Tarantino, contained a lot of interesting facts about the making of the movie and also spoiled the ending, but reading a few words that describe a killing spree is very different than seeing it portrayed on screen. A few years ago the director’s cut became available on Netflix, wh…