Pirahna 3D

Lots of violent deaths and one mangled penis; WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE??

If ever there was a movie that proves everything flawed in the MPAA rating system, it is Pirahna 3D. Despite the fact that this has been a banner year for some pretty shocking material in film already (Chloe Moretz nearly getting beaten to death in Kick-Ass, the entirety of The Human Centipede), Pirahna either raises or lowers the bar yet again. This is a movie that goes over the top to such a point where the top is no longer visible, and dares you to even talk about the top, because hey, there’s a smorgasboard of boobs on the screen.

This isn’t just spank material for a new generation of horror fans, though. Even though, it very much is. This can’t be stressed enough, really. It’s also an incredibly sharp riff on post-Jaws creature horror films and on the horror genre itself. Alexandre Aja, who’s directed both one of the best (High Tension) and one of the worst (The Hills Have Eyes) horror films of the past ten years, proves himself surprisingly adept at playing some truly brutal scenes for dark laughs, and at playing self-awareness with enough of a wink that it works with the film, but seriously enough that it’s not obnoxious.

The film establishes itself as high-minded camp early on, with possibly the best opening scene of 2010 so far. I won’t say anything, except that if you’re a Jaws fan this is already essential viewing. An earthquake under lovely Lake Victoria has opened a connection to an underwater chasm dating back millions of years, which unleashes a legion of violent, cannibalistic piranha. Unfortunately for town sherriff Elisabeth Shue, Lake Victoria has been invaded by spring break partiers who won’t get out of the water. Steven McQueen and Jessica Szohr (Gossip Girl) provide the requisite teenage romantic tension, Ving Rhames shows up to blast fish out of midair with a shotgun, Christopher Lloyd dives into the Captain Exposition role with gusto and Jerry O’Connell has probably the best role of his career as a riff on Joe Francis, filming his series “Wild Wild Girls” on the lake when the madness begins.

Unlike Snakes on a Plane, another high-concept film that played its scenario far too straight for what it should’ve been, Pirahna 3D is calibrated for the perfect mixture of hilarity and grossouts at every turn. British pinup Kelly Brook takes her requisite T&A role and does a relatively surprising amount with it. Plus, I mean, she makes out with a porn star underwater to the tune of Flower Duet. The 3D is really only used for two things, and one of them is more nudity than you see in most Skinemax films. The first 40 minutes consists of virtually nothing but a serious test of the MPAA’s rating guidelines. There’s also a sequence involving a parasailer or that mixes gratuitous nudity with some truly sick gore effects, and does it to strangely comic perfection.

The second half pushes the boundaries of the R rating even harder. Once the piranha figure out that Spring Break is a perfect feeding ground, Aja conjures up some of the most innovative and warped kill scenes of any horror film I’ve watched in the past few years. The 3D really comes into play in the film’s final half hour, as the brutal gore (and make no mistake, it is brutal) pops, in such a way that many of this year’s poorly rendered 3D cash-ins seem even worse by comparison. I’m very serious when I say that Pirahna 3D may be the best use of 3D in a theater since Avatar.

The other beauty of this film is the use of real gore effects. While it’s definitely cheaper to CG detailed gore nowadays, there’s something romantic about the use of expansive makeup to accurately depict a leg chewed down to the bone, or a horde of college kids rushing en masse out of a lake, gnawed to oblivion. If this review hasn’t been amply clear, let me reiterate that Pirahna 3D is in no way, shape or form a film for the squeamish or the easily offended. Also, you’re probably better off if you appreciate the female form. But man, if you get on its wavelength, you’d be hard pressed to have more fun in a theater the rest of this year.

3/4 stars

Posted by Dominick Mayer on Aug 20, 2010 @ 7:19 pm

Pirahna 3D, Kick-Ass, Great Gore