About halfway through Piranha 3D, you might find yourself thinking about how painful it would be for the entire bottom half of your body to be gnawed off by a hundred blood-thirsty prehistoric fish… but as long as that’s the only thinking you do over the course of the movie’s 90 minutes, you’ll be perfectly happy.
Piranha 3D is almost exactly what you expect– a campy, blood-splattered joyride, full of naked women, silly one-liners, and carnage (lots of carnage). Interestingly enough, the one thing it’s not is scary. There’s not really an ounce of suspense, no real ‘gotcha’ moments, and nothing to make you sit on the edge of your seat. It’s just a fun little way to end the summer, and between the surprisingly recognizable cast and the huge winks and nods to Jaws, it’ll keep you entertained.
Before anything even gets going, we’re treated to a cameo (and accompanying sing-along) that tops even the recent appearance by Stallone’s old business partners in The Expendables. It’s the perfect start for Piranha 3D, and it lets you know right off the bat that you’re in for a real treat.
When the action ramps up, we learn that it’s spring break at Lake Victoria, and thousands of nubile coeds are in town for a week of alcohol-fueled debauchery. Unfortunately, at the exact same time, a tremor causes a crack in the bottom of the lake, allowing thousands of man-eating fish to spew forth from the deep.
But these aren’t your average run-of-the-mill piranhas. These are 200-million-year-old, big-as-your-head, lightning-quick, razor-sharp death machines. And they don’t even need to smell blood to come running and chew you to bits. When our cameo star turns up dead, town sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) and her deputy (Ving Rhames) consider shutting down the lake for the whole week, but the economic interests of the town win out. (Sound familiar, Jaws fans?)
Meanwhile, a Girls Gone Wild(-ish) crew is in town, filming said nubile coeds for their latest video. Jerry O’Connell (seriously… is this a great cast or what?) plays the director of the video, and he hires Forester’s son Jake (Steven R. McQueen– yes, his grandson) to be his location scout. Jake, meanwhile, is supposed to be babysitting his two young siblings, but he pays them off to stay in the house and keep quiet… which they don’t.
So before too long, the characters are scattered all over the lake, and all are equally in peril. Of course, following the simple, age-old rules of horror movies, you know pretty early-on who’s going to die and who’s going to make it, but that doesn’t make Piranha 3D any less fun. The creativity comes in the way these people die. In the extended bloodbath scene (hey, every great ‘horror’ flick has one), hundreds of, yes, nubile coeds meet their untimely end in any number of ways, including the ‘caught in the boat propeller’, the ‘sitting the inner tube and getting it from below’, and the ‘gnawed in half while naked-parasailing’.
See? We’re not really talking Oscar-caliber screenwriting here. Give credit, though, to Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg (Sorority Row), who know how to put together a halfway-decent script, and to Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes remake) who directed this blood-soaked confection with has his tongue planted firmly in his cheek.
Yes, Piranha 3D could have been a little more suspenseful, but as it is, it’s perfectly fine and well-worth it, especially if this is your cup of tea. Just make sure you check your brains at the door.