Friday, June 1, 2012

Worth Mentioning - Gross, disgusting, yuck!

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody doubles down on killer fish in three dimensions.

PIRANHA 3-D (2010)

Steven Spielberg's Jaws hit in 1975 and really kicked off the "aquatic animals attack" genre. Of the inital flood of imitators, one of the best, and the one to which Spielberg gave his personal seal of approval, was 1978's Piranha, produced by Roger Corman and directed by Joe Dante from a script by John Sayles.

A sequel followed in 1981, an Italian production that marked the troubled directorial debut of James Cameron, who doesn't really claim the film as his own, but he will admit that he worked on the best flying piranha movie ever made. Corman produced a remake for Showtime in 1995, which was basically just the character scenes reshot and intercut with the original movie's piranha effects, reused for budgetary reasons.

In the mid-2000s, another remake went into development, and this one was to be in 3-D. Alexandre Aja ultimately directed the film for Dimension, but he doesn't consider it to be a remake of the 1978 original, it just happens to share the same title and ravenous aquatic creatures. It really is its own story. While it's probably legally a remake, it could just as easily be Piranha Part III.

This film takes a different approach to the title creatures. In the previous films, the piranha had been genetically altered. This time, they're a prehistoric version of the species that have been trapped in an underground lake for millions of years.

Their first victim is an unlucky fisherman, played by Richard Dreyfuss in a very fun cameo/nod to Jaws. His character is named Matt Boyd, but he dresses just like Dreyfuss's Jaws character Matt Hooper, and he's singing "Show me the way to go home" as he fishes in Arizona's Lake Victoria. An earthquake hits, a fissure opens in the bottom of the lake, connecting it with the underground body of water that contains the piranha, unleashing them into the modern world.

The timing for this couldn't be worse, as the piranhas' escape coincides with spring break, when thousands of college kids descend upon Lake Victoria to engage in some hedonistic, drunken debauchery.

Aja fully embraced Joe Bob Briggs's beloved formula of "blood, breasts, and beasts" with this film and in doing so directly appealed to my tastes. His previous works had been dark, gritty, and serious, for this he just let loose and had fun. And he made a really fun flick, with some cool use of 3-D and filled to the brim with the 3 Bs.

Of course, for the beasts we have the prehistoric piranha. For the breasts, there are at least three porn stars in the cast - Riley Steele, Gianna Michaels, and Ashlynn Brooke - as well as model/actress Kelly Brook and countless spring break partying extras. Hostel director Eli Roth shows up as the host of a wet T-shirt contest. And the blood... This film contains lots of awesomely nasty deaths, climaxing in an orgy of gruesomeness when the school of fish reach the heart of the water-based partying.

The first time I saw this movie, I took my mom to the theatre with me, and her review of the film was: "Gross, disgusting, yuck!"

In the addition to the previously mentioned nudity providers, the cast is rounded out by Elisabeth Shue as the town sheriff, Ving Rhames as her deputy, Christopher Lloyd as the local pet shop owner/fish expert, Adam Scott as a seismologist diver, Jerry O'Connell as the head of a Girls Gone Wild-style porn company, Steve McQueen's namesake grandson as the lead/the sheriff's son, and Jessica Szohr as his love interest.

This was one of the most purely entertaining movies of 2010. Of the fifty-six movies I saw theatrically that year, Piranha 3-D was the only one of them that I saw twice. If the general audience shared my taste, it would've been one of the top films at the year's box office. So I was disheartened when it opened at #6 for the weekend with just $10 million. Dimension perked me up a bit by almost immediately announcing a sequel... and P3-D did end up making over $80 million worldwide on a budget of $24 million, so it actually did pretty well.

PIRANHA 3-DD (2012)

The sequel was released today, but unfortunately it was not given a wide theatrical release. It's playing on just seventy-five screens, so the way it's being delivered to most interested audience members is through VOD. I rented it from Amazon this morning.

3-DD comes from director John Gulager and writers Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (the team behind the increasingly insane Feast trilogy), along with Dimension's go-to man for sequels, Joel Soisson.

It's been a year since the events of 3-D. Lake Victoria is a ghost town and all aquatic life in the lake itself has been wiped out by the piranha eradication process. But that hasn't stopped some of the piranha from migrating through underground rivers to the waters of nearby Merkin, Arizona.

The action kicks off with the sort of bizarre scene you'd expect from the Feast guys - a couple of farmers (played by a cameoing Gary Busey and John's father, the great Clu Gulager) wade into a stream to retrieve the corpse of a cow. As they move the cow, piranha eggs fall out of its orifices, and the build up of gas in the corpse is released through hellacious farts. Busey flicks on a lighter to relieve the stench, which ignites the gas of a real rip-roarer and causes the cow to explode, raining baby piranha down on the men. Then the adult fish show up to feast. When Busey's cameo was announced, I said that if he's in the movie, they have to put his own chompers to use and include a moment where he bites into a piranha. The filmmakers were thinking the same thing and have provided such a moment.

We then discover that the piranhas' migration has put them in the same vicinity as a waterpark called The Big Wet, which is about to open for the summer. Established in 1981, The Big Wet is going through some big changes this year. The new majority owner has decided to turn one of the pools into an Adult Pool, with stripper lifeguards, nude swimming, and a "Cooch Cam" placed to catch crotch shots as women use the ladder to climb out of the pool. His co-owner stepdaughter is not happy at all with this idea, but has no say. They were willed the place by his late wife in a 51/49 split. To celebrate the grand re-opening, David Hasselhoff has been scheduled to make a guest appearance.

Soon it becomes clear that the piranhas are going to find their way into the waterpark just as the pools are filled with people.

It's a great set-up, and it has the blood, breasts, and beasts all covered. There are cool sequences along the way, the standout being when a baby piranha finds its way up into the vagina of a skinnydipper. When the girl tries to have sex with her boyfriend later on, there are disastrous results.

Christopher Lloyd's character returns for some more manic exposition, and late in the film a couple more characters from 3-D show up: Ving Rhames, whose character lost his legs in the previous film, and Paul Scheer, who was the "Wild Wild Girls" cameraman in 3-D. Scheer's character was meant to die in the first movie, but the effects required for his death were too troublesome and costly to complete, so he just disappears from the movie after the boat he's on crashes. Apparently Rhames and Scheer's characters have become therapy buddies between films and have decided to visit The Big Wet together to try to overcome their piranha attack-induced fear of water.

For the new characters, there are several notable actors, including Danielle Panabaker (Friday the 13th '09), Katrina Bowden (Tucker & Dale vs. Evil), Matt Bush (Rob Zombie's Halloween II), David Koechner (Final Destination 5) adding another jackass to his filmography, and Meagan Tandy.

I was totally with the movie for much of the running time. Around the moment when a character let loose a mouthful of vomit, I was wishing that I was watching this in 3-D at a theatre. Then, the piranhas get into the waterpark, the mayhem begins... but it's not as awesome or disgusting as I hoped for, and not nearly as cool as the scenes in its predecessor. People are getting chewed up, Ving Rhames has a shotgun on his prosthetic leg, and just as the movie should be reaching a whole new level of greatness, it let me down instead.

The end credits begin at the 70 minute mark, and at that point I was content with just watching the movie on Amazon. The credits are 13 minutes long, padded out with bloopers, extra jokes, even a moment that should've been included in the waterpark sequence.

I was disappointed in the end, but I'll still buy a copy when it's available on DVD/Blu. I liked most of it...

P.S. Feast guys, why isn't Jenny Wade in this movie?


  1. I love the Piranha movies for the most part. I quite enjoyed the 2010 flick - as my review will attest:

    and because they shot the sequel here in my hometown...guess whose blog broke the first set pix on the interweb?

    Thanks for letting me know the movie only opened on 75 screens (what is this? 1974?) - I was wondering why it wasn't available here of all places! I will hold off watching it on my phone (a legal option) or VOD - as I want to see it in 3-D. Or 3-DD.


    1. That post with set pics is how I first found your blog. Very cool.

      - Cody