While Alexandre Aja’s remake of ‘Piranha’ wasn’t a huge hit domestically; it was a hit internationally wound up doing about $83million in business worldwide. Big enough for a sequel and after a few delays (due to the filmmakers wanting to shoot just before the summer as not to completely freeze their actors during a winter shoot); ‘Piranha 3DD’ finally comes out.
Set one year after the massacre at Lake Victoria; the once bustling Spring Break destination has become a wasteland after the lake was poisoned and partially drained to wipe out the piranha. With the threat apparently extinguished, the Big Wet Water Park (with some adult activities) is set to open to summer crowds, eager for a break from the heat. But, having lived for millions of years in underground lakes and rivers; the piranha are perfect survivalists and more than eager for new hunting grounds…
While “From the Director of The Hills Have Eyes” was a strange marquee inclusion for the first film; “From the Writers and Director of Feast” is a perfect moniker for this film. On the script are ‘Feast’ trilogy and ‘Saw IV-VII’ scribes Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton; with ‘Feast’ producer Joel Soisson.
The How as to the Piranha reaching a water park some distance away from Lake Victoria is explained in a very ‘suspension of disbelief’ kind of way. And those with any “that’s stupid” comments: you’re watching a film about prehistoric piranha who’ve inbred and cannibalized their way through the millennia…get over it.
While Dunstan/Melton went dark and nasty with their ‘Saw’ entries and their own ‘Collector’ series; they get back to their roots with ‘Piranha’. And who better to direct than the maverick madman of Project Greenligh Season 3: John Gulager. With ‘Feast’ Gulager proved himself a more than capable director and quickly hopped on the list of “what can this guy do with a bit of cash?”
Well, this is the answer to that question. Breezy, irreverent, funny, and with a healthy dose of T&A and B&G ‘Piranha’ doesn’t overstay it’s welcome and provides a healthy relief from the dourness that has populated horror as of late.
Aja, to his credit, instilled a lot of tension and horror into his film. While he did revel in some of the absurdity of the premise; ‘Piranha 3D’ is a horror film first and a comedy second. It toed the line between succumbing to the crazy and becoming too serious for it’s own good.
Gulager and Gang on the other hand move the rope more to the crazy side and while ‘3DD’ still dances into terrortory; this is a film that functions more as a blood-splattered raunchy comedy blended with a horror film. The film dips precariously close to purposeful self-awareness and only surrenders in the final minutes to the crazy. By then the momentum has built up enough and the ground is solid enough that exhaustion will set in.
A lot of the criticisms of this film have revolved around this aspect; ‘3DD’ is crazy and by the end does surrender and go hog wild. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun and that’s something that’s been missing from a lot of genre films as of late. The genre seems to split between dark/grimy-gritty and self-aware/purposively bad and while I do enjoy both; I’m tiring of them. I want something fresh, clean, and simple for revitalization.
The reason why the low budget films of the ‘70s and ‘80s worked so well was because the filmmakers took what little money they had and did the very best with what they had. They didn’t set out to make a film that’d be viewed by audiences, as ‘so bad it’s good’; they set out to try to make a legitimately good film. A lot of horror-comedies as of late have tried to mimic that experience by making a film that through ‘Nostalgia-Vision’ could be enjoyed as an homage to those low budget genre films we know and love.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case here; Gulager and Gang took the elements that worked from the first film: fish, T&A, blood, water, etc. and then used it as a jumping off point for taking the sequel in a different tonal direction. You can say it’s like James Cameron making ‘Aliens’ a war film to Ridley Scott’s art house horror with ‘Alien’.
To anyone who’s seen ‘Feast’; you know the kind of humor that you’re going to get. It’s deliciously raunchy and crosses the taboo lines a few times for solid laughs. Though I’m sure I got a few ‘wtf’ looks from some other folks in the theater when I lost it with two wonderful taboo breakers.
Whereas Aja chose to shoot on 35mm and post-convert; ‘3DD’ instead shoots in native 3D and the difference is very obvious. The first film sported a good conversion and did surprise me that it was one; however ‘3DD’ is another point towards why native is better than conversion. Recently ‘Avengers’ was a point on the fairly empty board of quality conversion; but ‘3DD’ is another point to the crowded natively shot board.
DP Alexandre Lehmann has captured some of the best 3D photography in a genre film in recent years; there’s barely any shots that feel flat and there is a nice depth to pretty much everything. This is a film meant for the big screen and even if you have a 3D TV like me; I urge you to hunt it out in theaters and enjoy how it’s meant to be enjoyed before watching it at home.
There’s some nice plays with depth (the trailer shot of David Koechner watching the slaughter is great) and despite being in a more confined area; there’s still the feeling of size that might otherwise be absent.
But, what we all want from a 3D genre is stuff flying at the screen. My only beef with ‘Underworld: Awakening’’s 3D was there wasn’t enough guns and limbs coming at me; but it still looked great in IMAX. For those thirsting for severed limbs, teeth, and yes…boobies coming out at ya, there’s absolutely no shortage of that here. After being spoiled with IMAX 3D; I was whimpering on the inside as while the RealD 3D looked fantastic, colors were bright and everything popped; I would have happily laid down more to see ‘Piranha 3DD In IMAX’. And of course the pervert in me (and in us all) would like to see well…more DD in IMAX 3D.
Fantastic 3D photography and like a lot of 3D films of old; this will be an annoying watch for those at home with only 2D capabilities or who don’t care for stereoscopic. For those with 3D capabilities; I’d be madder than hell if the Blu-Ray transfer is anything but stellar.
One of the most publicized aspects of ‘3DD’ was that Ving Rhames, despite obviously croaking in the last film (once again, it’s a film about prehistoric piranha, get over it), Gary Busey, and David Hasselhoff were going to appear in the film. I’ll get to them in a tick.
After taking on Crazies and Jason; Danielle Panabaker plays Marine Biologist (more believable than Denise Richards being a nuclear scientist) Maddy who comes to find her slightly sleezy step-dad Chet, played by David Koechner has turned her Mother’s water park into one sporting “water certified” strippers. While I didn’t care for her in ‘Friday the 13th’; Panabaker is very likeable here and while she isn’t playing tough like Elizabeth Shue; Panabaker does show she’s up for taking on a swarm of hungry fish.
Comedy staple David Koechner of course turns out quite a few laughs and is the right amount of sleaze without becoming filthy. Despite the fact his desire for the almighty dollar causes the slaughter, his character pulls off one of the funniest (to me anyway) kills of the film with such dignity that it should appear on “Best Kills of 2012” lists.
Matt Bush, playing one of the park employees and Maddy’s friend, is the likeable everyman who desires the hot girl. He’s the guy every average Joe can relate to and even hope to become; which of course means having his moment of heroics. ‘Shark Night 3D’ alumnus Chris Zylka appears as the town sheriff (abiet quite young) and plays the third point in the triangle between Panabaker and Bush; which thankfully is only touched on throughout the film and doesn’t become the main focus.
Of the main supporting crew, ’30 Rock’ and ‘Tucker & Dave VS Evil’ Katrina Bowden is a nice draw and is given one of the best scenes in the film and without a doubt one of the greatest lines ever to be uttered in a genre film. If you’ve seen the trailer you have an idea of the scene; but Bowden’s punch-line hits the nail so perfectly on the head it’s a “why hasn’t anyone else said this yet?” and hopefully will become very quotable in ears to come.
And now, the cameos that were made quite large in the trailers. Gary Busey’s role is the smallest of the lot; who, along with Clu Gulager plays a pair of farmers who try to drag a cow carcass out of a lake. In proving that lighting farts is not laughing matter; Busey starts off the film with a massive cow-fart fireball before becoming dinner. Christopher Lloyd returns, having about the same screen time as last, to deliver some exposition as well as to set up a sequel at the end.
And the two big ones are of course Rhames and Hasselhoff. With help from Paul Scheer (returning from the first as well), Rhames (legless) tries to get over his fear of water by coming to the park. Scheer and Rhames play off each other quite well and Rhames is able to play a scaredy cat quite well; a role we rarely see him play.
Playing himself, well a parody of himself, Hasselhoff is a great pleasure to watch. While it might seem to some as a gag taken too far; the Hoff more than holds his own while poking fun at himself and paying a winking homage to his ‘Baywatch’ days. And to the European fans out there who consider him on par with Michael Jackson; he does get to use his pipes for a pair of light-hearted songs.
The staple of basically every Dimension genre production (honestly is there a Dimension horror film he hasn’t worked on?) is makeup mastero Gary Tunnicliffe. While the first film reached nauseating levels of blood and gore; there is a subtraction here; though it’s still a bit stomach churning. I really don’t think I need to say more about Tunnifcliffe; his masterful work speaks for itself in volumes. Wonderful prosthetics, lots of red stuff and nice fleshy bits; great quality stuff all around.
The CGI fish are also quite solid as well, the VFX is roughly on par with the first film. While there are some practical fish mixed in for dead critters and some closeups; computers do the heavy-lifting and honestly I’m cool with it. CGI should be used only when doing it practically isn’t feeisble or looks too unbelievable; here is a case of the former.
The weakest part of the CGI is when there’re a few decapitations and flying heads; mercifully the shots are short and while they’re not painfully bad, they are more noticeable against the practical effects. Even so, it’s a small, minor grip that shouldn’t be lingered on. On the whole the CGI, while not the work of ILM, is solid all around; though I know more than a few ‘Practical Effects Only’ fanatics will dwell on the fact CGI was used.
Overall, ‘Piranha 3DD’ is a blast. It’s honestly one of the best experiences I’ve had in a theater and one of the funniest horror films I’ve watched in a while. If you’re expecting a dark, gritty horror show or purposively bad-campfest; you’re swimming up the wrong river.
‘Piranha 3DD’ is a fantastic film in it’s own right and should please fans who’re just looking for something to enjoy with their friends that won’t put them in a sad mood or drunk. The only downside is the release of the film; playing only on about a hundred screens and VOD, unless it gets a wide release overseas and makes buku bucks on video; I doubt it’ll recoup it’s $20million budget.
Which is quite depressing as the setup for a ‘Piranha 3DDD’ (what else ya gonna call it) is a great advancement for the series and if a part IV ever came around; Cameron’s infamous claim about his ‘Piranha II’ could be in jeopardy. I’d love to see a sequel with Gulager & Gang; but cause of release, I doubt that’ll happen.
This is thegoldensimatar signing off saying there’s nothing at the end of the credits; but a lot of funny stuff during them.