“Invitation to Dance - It’s a Dance. And sometimes they turn the lights off in this ballroom. But we’ll dance anyway, you and I. Even in the Dark. Especially in the Dark. May I have the pleasure?” --- Stephen King :::::::::::
MY CRITERIA FOR DISCUSSION ENCOMPASSES THE HORROR GENRE AND BEYOND, SO I USE THE TERM "NIGHTMARE MOVIES". SPOILERS CAN OCCUR WITH OR WITHOUT WARNING. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
Wow! Alexandre Aja’s 3D remake (his second after the excellent The Hills Have Eyes) of Joe Dante’s Roger Corman-produced Piranha (1978) is sensational! It’s a spectacular piece of super-trash, an adult cartoon; hard candy for the horrorphiles. If you like your gore extreme, if you (shamelessly) dig gratuitous female nudity, if you appreciate a slick, severed-tongue-in-cheek indulgence in All-American pop culture dumbness directed by a young talented European, Piranha (2010) is the flick for you.
Elizabeth Shue as Julie
There is very little of John Sayles original screenplay that Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg have incorporated into their script. There’s still a lake and there’s still mutant fish (well, sort of). The original resort and summer camp has been changed to Spring Break celebrations. And that’s about it. The original movie featured popular B-movie actors from the 60s and 70s (Barbara Steele, Bradford Dillman, Paul Bartel, Dick Miller, Kevin McCarthy, Heather Menzies), so Aja has filled the remake with several well-known character actors, such as Richard Dreyfuss, playing Hooper from Jaws (1975), Elizabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, Dina Meyer, plus a cameo from Eli Roth (as wet t-shirt host), and Jerry O’Connell channeling Joe Francis, the mogul behind the Girls Gone Wild porn site.
Steven R. McQueen as Jake and Jessica Szohr as Kelly
The premise to the remake is stupidly simple: earthquake beneath Lake Victoria, Arizona, opens a huge crevice on the lake bed which when explored by Sam (Ricardo Chavira) and Paula (Dina Meyer) reveals a massive cavern and thousands of prehistoric piranha spawn. Unsurprisingly, neither of the marine biologists survives, but one of the ferocious fish is captured and taken to Mr. Goodman (Christopher Lloyd) who is more than a little fascinated.
Wild Wild Girls Danni (Kelly Brook) and Crystal (Riley Steele)
Meanwhile adolescent opportunist Jake (Steven R. McQueen), skips babysitting his kid brother and sister to accept an offer from porn director Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell) to play location scout on the lake, on board a cruiser with voluptuous Wild Wild Girls Danni (Kelly Brook) and Crystal (Riley Steele). His own love interest, the spunky, but aloof Kelly (Jessica Szohr), takes matters into her own hands and joins the raunch expedition. With Spring Break mayhem on the lakefront, Jake’s sheriff mom, Julie (Elizabeth Shue) and deputy Fallon (Ving Rhames), have their hands full. That is until the piranha situation is fully revealed, and then the mayhem turns to full-blown carnage. Yeah!
Derrick (Jerry O'Connell) gets salty with Crystal
Piranha is shameless exploitation of the “finest” order. It combines the nudity of Spring Break (ta-ta’s galore) and Wild Wild Girls shenanigans (full frontal underwater ballet, I kid you not!) with no-holds-barred horror violence (featuring special make-up effects dudes Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger’s best work ever). There's classic children in jeopardy, and horrendous rampaging speedboat carnage, plus a couple of classy shots indeed: a severed penis sinking, then gulped down and regurgitated by a piranha, and Kelly vomiting up tequila and champagne into the camera in 3D! This is one of the movies of the year, no butts about it. And for tidy work, the movie’s last shot is a sly nod to the original’s Z-grade sequel.
Dying to get wet
The cinematography is worth noting; a vibrant colour palette that gives the movie a gloriously bubblegum look. There wasn’t a single girl in a black bikini, or guy in dark board shorts. There’s violet, pink, orange (Spring Break DJ is spinning orange vinyl), blue, lime, yellow, … and red. Oh, yes, there’s a lot of red. There’s all that tan skin, and then there’s all that tattered flesh; ripped, torn and gnawed bodies. It’s so freakishly over-the-top that it becomes less genuinely shocking, and borderline hilarious. Maybe that's why the movie has managed to escape an MPAA rating of NC-17. Either that, or the executive producers (in this case the powerful Weinstein brothers) bought the R-rating. Apparently that happens. There certainly hasn’t been an R-rated movie like this before. And I say, bring it on!
Deputy Fallon (Ving Rhames) gets pro-active
Piranha won’t be everyone’s cup of tequila. The trashy, exploitative elements may rub some folk up the wrong way, but hey, it’s meant to be savoured in this way, with a lick of salt, a wedge of lime, some popcorn, and whatever else you can purloin or imbibe, if you get my irresponsible drift. This is an unbridled, big-budget (actually not huge, around $US22m) grindhouse flick in 3D (well technically it was shot in 2D and converted), and a gleeful return to form for Alexandre Aja after the dreadful Mirrors (2008). Strip off, jump in, the water’s real warm!
Jessica and fish, up close and personal, in a scene not in the movie
Here’s the trailer (with not a single drop of blood in sight!):