Starring: Steven McQueen, Elisabeth Shue, Kelly Brook, Jessica Szohr, Jerry O’Connell
“Get the fuck out of the water!” (Julie, Piranha)
Nudity and gore are the key components of many horror films aimed primarily at a teenage audience, but in my eyes the latter always has to be the more prevalent. It seems that Alexandre Aja, the director of the excellent Switchblade Romance and the not-so-good Hills Have Eyes remake, forgets this during the first half of Piranha and instead thinks he’s shooting a porno.
Even the plot sounds like top-shelf titillation. After befriending and falling for English model Danni (Brook), Jake (Steven McQueen, grandson of Steve) dodges his babysitting duties to go with her on a boat, where she’s part of a ‘Wild Wild Girls’ filmshoot. His young, attractive friend Kelly (Szohr) gets caught up in the invite, so Jake has to juggle enjoying the rampant nudity going on around him with assuring Kelly he’s not interested in all this hooey.
This plot basically gives Piranha a good half-hour to cram in as much nudity as possible. A lengthy Spring Break scene shows lots of girls flashing their tits for no reason, there’s a wet t-shirt competition with loads of mammary close-ups and the ‘Wild Wild Girls’ shoot culminates in what feels like a solid five-minutes of Kelly Brook and a genuine porn star swimming underwater fanny-naked and lezzing around while classical music plays. Now, I’m all for a bit of bappage but Piranha took it so far that I found myself in the unlikely situation of thinking “okay, put them away now love, I paid to see killer fish, not smell it”.
Eventually Aja comes to his senses, remembers he’s making a horror film and unleashes introduces the titular piranha fish. This is when Piranha gets properly impressive, especially when the killer fish reach the aforementioned Spring Break scene and carnage unfolds. Piranha has easily some of the most superb (and disturbing) gore effects I’ve seen in a long time, with leg stumps dragging on floors, heads getting squashed by motorboats, faces being ripped off and other such delights. It soon becomes clear that this is a movie obsessed with excess – after satisfying its teenage audience (and boring its older one) with ridiculous levels of nudity, it then goes on to present similarly ridiculous levels of bloodshed.
During this ridiculousness there are a few funny cameos dotted around. Richard Dreyfuss appears in the first scene of the film, reprising his role from Jaws, while Christopher Lloyd and Eli Roth also make fleeting appearances. Don’t let the movie’s advertising – which proudly proclaims that it ‘stars’ both Dreyfuss and Lloyd – fool you however, as combined both actors probably contribute to a total of about three minutes’ screen time.
Originally shot on 3D (this review was based on the Blu-ray’s 2D version), watching Piranha in 2D can be an off-putting experience because of the countless times things are flung right into the screen, no doubt in an attempt to startle 3D viewers. Milkshake cups, piranha fish, breasts and even a severed penis all threaten to knock your popcorn off your lap, and while this would have no doubt looked impressive in 3D as it was intended, in 2D the effect is hokey, ineffective and simply has you saying “ah, that was supposed to be a 3D bit”.
If you’re male and plan on watching Piranha with someone of the fairer sex, be sure they’re not the type to judge your character on the movies you watch because the first 30 minutes will have them convinced you’re a pervert who’s talked them into watching a porno instead. Once it loses its half-hour teenage erection and gets the obsession with boobs and beavers out of its system however, the other 50 minutes provide a fantastic creature feature with loads of gore, heaps of laughs and a fun conclusion.
WHERE CAN I GET IT?
Piranha is available on both Blu-ray and DVD. The DVD comes with both the 2D and 3D versions and comes with two pairs of 3D glasses. At the time of writing it costs around £6 from Amazon, where you can find it by clicking here. The Blu-ray also features both the 2D and 3D versions (in both the cardboard glasses and fancy 3D TV versions), and it’s also £6 right here.