Just before Spring Break, when hordes of horny young folks flock to Lake Victoria to party, an underwater earthquake releases a horde of prehistoric piranha. The weekend ends in carnage.
Joe Dante’s Piranha was the freshest of many Jaws imitations which swam along in the late ‘70s, so it’s apt that this opens with a splendid Jaws gag as fish finally get a revenge they were cheated out of when Spielberg changed the end of the book. Dante took a smart John Sayles script, appealingly oddball actors and gory fish effects, and spun off a loveable programmer – but Piranha is scarcely sacred text, so this doesn’t seem like the affront to a classic many recent redos have been. In lieu of Sayles’ anti-militarist plot, the new Piranha imitates the 1983 teen hijinx picture Spring Break, filling the screen with beer-drinking, bikini-ogling and wet t-shirt action.
If nothing else, the new Piranha is worth it for a 3D nude underwater lesbian ballet - as Kelly Brook (bless!) and porn star Riley Steele simultaneously hold their breaths and each other’s breasts to the tune of that opera aria (the Flower Duet from Lakmé by Delibes) familiar as the sapphic sex theme in The Hunger. With a barely minimal explanation, mutant cannibal piranha from the Pleistocene start munching on everyone in sight! Actors are pretty much superfluous, but Sheriff Elisabeth Shue does one great stepping-from-one-upturned-boat-to-the-next stunt, Christopher Lloyd sells the lunatic icthyology lecture, Ving Rhames takes on fish with a shotgun, and Jerry O’Connell’s prosthetic penis features in a scene without precedent in legal films. Some spectacular work comes from extras splattered in ridiculous, appalling, often hilarious fashion – the end credits include a shout-out to the Society of Amputee Surfers, who perform above and beyond the call of duty.
Inevitably, it’s in 3D. Not smooth Avatar-Pixar-type 3D, but a wonky process closer to Victorian stereo-opticon or those plastic slide-viewers, which is somehow apt as director Alexandre Aja (in the third of three remakes in a row) thinks of crass things to do: tits and bums are thrust out of the screen, a girl (and a fish) puke into the camera, body parts and shreds of fish splatter all over the stalls, and there’s almost-pretty underwater exploration. It has some suspense, but mostly it’s content with chaos. Let’s hope the producers have the rights to remake James Cameron’s debut feature, Piranah 2: Flying Killers, next.
Remember the film you hoped Snakes On A Plane would be – this is it! By any sane cinematic standards, meretricious trash … but thrown at you with such good-humoured glee that it’s hard to resist. It’s a bumper-sticker of a movie: honk if you love tits and gore! Honk honk honk.