There comes a time when watching Piranha 3D that one must ask oneself if this film is just a little too much. Too much boobs, too much blood, too much of balls-out hedonism. This is, of course, a passing concern, as Piranha 3D is shameless summer shlock built to perfection, designed with perfect accuracy to it’s audience. The only thing more perfectly defined than this film are the mounds of breasts that out number the killer namesake fish. For fans of self-aware horror films, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Let it be known, Alexander Aja’s remake of the 1978 cult classic, functions on a wholly separate plain of titillation. When the most artistic scene is a girl-on-girl, full-frontal nude “underwater ballet” (so called in the credits), and horror deaths range from mastication to decapitation, you know you are in for something special. What Aja has created here is a masterpiece to the summer gore flick, a film that celebrates its role in bloody entertainment. We don’t just get nubile young co-eds, we get hundreds of nubile co-eds. While a lesser horror film would toss some blood and nudity for attention, Piranha 3D glorifies in it, wraps it up in a bow and sends it out to the masses.
Aja and crew seem more than willing to take the tradition of summer monster films and amp it up. It follows the traditional pattern that these films seem to follow: Spring break at some popular hot spot, earthquake opens underground lake hiding 2-million-year-old killer piranhas, the hot MILF (Elizabeth Shue) sheriff struggles to discover the cause of random horrific deaths while protecting her family, lots of people die, and totally unexpected hero (Stephen R. McQueen) saves the day and destroys the killer fish. All is well, that is, until the film pointedly indicates that said evil monster has babies/not dead/worse than before/whatever. It’s such a cliched plot, (other than a sub-narrative involving Jerry O’Connell’s turn as a Joe Francis-esque purveyor of spring break smut), that Aja expands past horror tradition. Piranha 3D chews on these tropes, and spits out an experience that is not so-bad-it’s-good, but so-bad-it’s-really-good.
And that’s really where we are left. Sure, Piranha 3D isn’t going to win any awards, but it’s such a self-aware film that does exactly what it needs to to appeal to its audience. Rarely does a film, even base horror films, have their audiences so pegged. From the fantastic cameos of Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dryfuss and Eli Roth, to the barely clothed (and sometimes not) cheesecake of Jessica Szohr, Kelly Brook and Riley Steele, Piranha 3D is cast by a crew of actors so willing for the role that their inevitable deaths leave the audience wanting more. The climax of the film is a slaughter so gory, so over the top, so resplendent in technical mastery of fish, boating, electrical, and wire-based fatalities that only the upcoming Saw 3D might be able to out shine it. There is a lavish amount of attention paid to the way people can die in this film.
While most films seem to struggle with 3D, resulting in often muddled or ineffective special effects, Piranha 3D has somehow the most thoughtful 3D usage I’ve seen in a while. Yes, appendages, killer fish, the traditional spinning-blade, and even, ahem, disembodied primary sexual organs will be flying out of the screen. Any lesser of a film would have faltered under random application of these effects, but Piranha 3D is lifted because of them. It is technically impressive that this film started out as a 2D movie, and shows off some pretty fantastic effects.
A film like this is definitely not going to appeal to everyone. It’s a campy summer gore fest. Expecting anything more and you’ll be disappointed. However, making a turn at the local cineplex expecting a silly horror film that knows exactly what it wants to be and delivers on all counts—and not many a film can promise that—and you’ll be in for a treat. It’s mindless summer gore, and on a hot afternoon, Piranha 3D might be the best trip to the lake $10 can buy.