Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Piranha 3D (Alexandre Aja, 2010) Blu Ray Mini-Review

Spring break gets a killer bite... it's fishploitation galore in Piranha 3D (2010)

You have to remember, in an age where every iconic horror franchise is being rebooted or remade, that the original Piranha (Dante, 1978) is hardly a sacred cow, and even upon release was acknowledged as a cheap knock-off of Jaws (Spielberg, 1975). The difference between the two is that Piranha was produced by Roger Corman, and therefore belonged to the cinema of excess. Blood and boobs were the name of the day, and they are once again in this high-octane, albeit more cynical fishploitation flick. The draw for contemporary crowds is obviously 3D, but home movie systems are still stuck in the 80's as far as the limb-thrusting tech is concerned, and Aja's employment of the gimmick comes off more Jaws 3 (Alves, 1983) than Avatar (Cameron, 2009). The cinema experience may have been state-of-the-art, but Piranha 3D on Blu-Ray - for those without stereoscopic capabilities - is presented with blue 'n' red anaglyph glasses, and the quality is awful. I was only able to get 10 minutes into the movie before stinging eyes and agitated ears (that paper is rough!) meant that I couldn't take any more, but the image was completely drained of colour and personality anyway, detracting from John R. Leonetti's gloriously sleazy photography. 2D is definitely the best way to see this schlocky little picture, because despite how derivative Piranha 3D is, it's actually pretty fun...

The first 45 minutes are overfamiliar, although proceedings do kick off with an awesome gag wherein the aquatic underworld finally sink their teeth into Richard Dreyfuss, 35 years after he escaped that killer shark in Jaws. From there it's largely OTT plot mechanics as Jerry O'Connell's porn producer Derrick Jones takes naive teen Jake (Steven R. McQueen) on a boat trip with busty babes Crystal (Riley Steele) and Danni (Kelly Brook), who at one point engage in an underwater lesbian opera; it's a feast for the eyes, but please never let these ladies act again. Brook is introduced in self-aware fashion when the young Laura (Brooklyn Proulx) comments on her "nice boobs." Thanks Mr Aja, but we all know she isn't there for her awards calibre thesping. That red bikini is a neat little number though...

Where the movie really comes alive is in its final 30 minutes, when Aja delivers in spades what we're all really there for. Sun-soaked cleavage shots are all well and good (and there are plenty of 'em) but we're here to see kids getting devoured, not getting off. Christopher Lloyd (in a high-wire cameo) explains that this breed of piranha died out over 2,000,000 years ago and as such have survived in their underwater pit by eating each other... but now they're out for fresh teenage flesh. Limb ripping, head lopping and blood spurting is wildly indulged in, but Aja ensures that sex even finds it way into the devouring when a promiscuous teen has her naked torso ripped in half and Derrick's penis gets regurgitated by a displeased piranha. The rule seems to be this: if you're not naked you're being eaten. Piranha 3D is schlock cinema, pure and simple, so as movie rules go that one's fine by me. Aja's film takes flesh gorging to beach party extremes, and Elisabeth Shue makes for a surprisingly effective action heroine in the final act. Her career may not have become what it once promised to be, but isn't that the sign-off line for every great B-movie actress? I suspect, sadly, that it is.

The Disc/Extras
Awful 3D but a pretty sharp image, serving Leonetti's photography nicely. The option to watch in 2D should be savoured. Extras are slim but include an Aja commentary, deleted scenes and a making of doc. A decent package if you can pick it up cheap.

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