Review: ‘Piranha’

Even if the rest is immediately forgettable, the massacre scene isn’t.

After a tragedy involving a local fisherman (Richard Dreyfuss) occurs shortly after a ground tremor, the local sheriff (Elisabeth Shue) of a small lake resort community is tasked with finding the cause. Meanwhile, a local teen (Steven R. McQueen) is roped into playing tour guide for an out-of-town soft-core porn king (Jerry O’Connell) while playing hooky from babysitting his younger siblings (not to mention missing out on all the barely legal skin being exposed at the local Spring Break celebration.) Of course, something hungry is lurking just below the surface of the seemingly harmless lake, a whole lot of something with a whole lot of teeth.

It’s a remake, it’s in 3D, and it’s horrific. With just enough plot to jump start the carnage, this feels like a grindhouse teensploitation film but is dressed up to look like like an Adam Sandler comedy. Starting with a sample of things to come, Richard Dreyfuss comes on board to parody his own infamous blood beach movie before everything settles down into plot, setting the scene for the later payoff. With plenty of nudity but no actual sex to bide the time, it’s all about the massacre scene, and it delivers exactly what horror aficionados want.

It’s weird to see a film like this starring bigger names and polished to future Blu-ray transfer quality. The look of the overall film is very crisp, very unlike the run and gun low budget films that inspired this remake. It’s hard to say if it hurts or helps, but maybe the horror genre lends itself to shaky cameras and poor lighting. Seeing the computer-generated 3D super piranha drifting in front of the camera or mass attacking a group of unsuspecting teens, it feels like a cheat rather than see a puppet prop being wiggled in the water. As it is, every glistening scale, every razor sharp tooth, and every disembodied member is yours to cherish.

While the dramatic moments are filled with set ’em up and take ’em out characters, the real payoff for the wait is the blood bath scene. The aftermath of the carnage is true spectacle, including more than a few bits that will have you scratching your head they look so realistic. But to be honest, this is the real reason to show up for the film, 3D or not, and if it isn’t your reason, you should probably save your money.

(a two skull recommendation out of four)

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