Year of Release—Film: 2010
Year of Release—DVD: 2011
DVD Label: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
I will freely admit that there are times, more often than not, that the ol’ Unimonster’s not looking for a great movie (or even a good one, for that matter). I just want to be entertained. Sometimes that means giant bugs, sometimes it means ‘80’s Slasher Films. And sometimes it means large-breasted young women; gratuitous nudity, violence and gore; and tasteless humor. Sometimes it means a movie such as Alexandre Aja’s remake of the 1978 Roger Corman-produced classic PIRANHA.
Less a remake of the original than a, to use the term currently in vogue, reinvention, Aja foregoes the “man tampering with nature” plot of Joe Dante’s original, in favor of a natural cause for the assault of millions of carnivorous fish on a lake full of partiers.
It’s a pleasant spring day on
. An elderly fisherman, Matthew Boyd (Richard Dreyfuss, in a nice little tribute to his role in JAWS thirty-five years previously), is in a rowboat, drifting along, line in the water. A small earthquake shakes the area, opening up, deep below the water’s surface, a huge fissure. A whirlpool forms near Boyd’s boat, drawing it in as thousands of strange fish swim upward from the fissure. The angler is tossed into the raging water, only to be torn to shreds as the fish swarm around him. The lake quickly returns to its normally placid state, the only indication of anything extraordinary having occurred being the now-empty rowboat—and Boyd’s arm, bloody, flesh stripped from the bones, upthrust from the water. Lake Victoria, Arizona
In another part of the lake, hordes of college kids are descending upon the small community. It is Spring Break, and Lake Victoria is renowned as a party destination. Everywhere one looks are drunken college boys and lovely college girls, all ready to have the time of their lives. Through this mass of humanity a young man on a motorbike can be seen, carefully navigating his way around knots of dancing, stumbling partiers. This is Jake (Steven R. McQueen), and as much as he would like to join in the festivities, he’s on a mission: to collect his little sister from her music lesson.
He finds her waiting for him in the company of Danni (Kelly Brook), a stunningly beautiful young woman. As fate would have it, she is a Wild, Wild Girl—one of the stars of a series of videos that feature naked, nubile women behaving, well… wildly. The brainchild of a weasely character named Derrick (Jerry O’Connell), one of the videos is being produced during the Spring Break activities. Derrick hires Jake to act as location scout for the production, a guide who knows his way around the lake.
That night, Sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue), who happens to be Jake’s mother, is investigating Matt Boyd’s disappearance. His boat has been found by Fallon (Ving Rhames), one of her deputies, but there was no sign of the missing man. As Julie reaches from the dock to the boat, she falls in the water, coming up with the body of Matt Boyd.
The body appears to have been in the water for several days, rather than hours. It’s obvious to both officers that whatever did this to the old man—it wasn’t something to which they were accustomed. Julie’s first instinct is to close the lake, a lake that, in a few short hours, will play host to a hundred thousand Spring Break revelers. A hundred thousand potential victims—of something unknown to the Sheriff.
The latest in a string of hits for “splat-pack” member Aja, following on the heels of 2008’s MIRRORS, PIRANHA’s strength lies in its total abandonment of any pretense of being a worthwhile or meaningful film. It’s pure exploitation, 100-percent no-holds-barred ‘70’s-era Drive-In movie. It fulfills every tenet of Joe Bob Briggs’ requirement for a good Drive-In Movie: Boobs, Blood, and Beasts. The script, by Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg, is adequate—don’t expect Shakespeare and you won’t be disappointed. Aja’s direction has improved with each outing, from HAUTE TENSION, to THE HILLS HAVE EYES, to MIRRORS, and now with PIRANHA. He has a firm grasp of what modern Horror fans want to see, and the ability to bring that to the screen.
The DVD release is nice, thin on bonus features but that, unfortunately, is becoming the trend, as distributors save the bonuses for Blu-ray releases. The one bonus is a good one, however—Don’t Scream, Just Swim: Behind-the-Scenes of PIRANHA 3D. At a runtime of 91 minutes, it’s actually 3 minutes longer than the movie it examines. It’s full of the ‘making-of’ details that I love, and is enjoyable in its own right.
PIRANHA isn’t going to please everyone; in fact, even a lot of Horror fans may find it over-the-top. But sometimes you’re in the mood for over-the-top—sometimes you’re in the mood for Boobs, Blood, and Beasts. And PIRANHA delivers, in spades.