Pirahna 3D: The Goriest Hollywood Film I Have Ever Seen

What do you expect when you see the title Pirahna 3D sticking out at you from a poster? If you’re a fan of the “killer monster genre (which I unashamedly am), you expect two things and two things alone: tons of gory violence and tons of female nudity. Now, after the Snakes on a Plane fiasco, where the premise was far greater than the actual product, my expectations were tempered, despite my inner geek seeing the potential, especially in sure-to-be-hammy appearances by Richard Dreyfuss and Christopher Lloyd. Not only were my expectations met, they were blown out of the water. Pirahna 3D has so much gore and nudity in it that I am stunned it got an R rating. Now, is the film genuinely exciting or scary? For the most part, no. However, its gleeful flaunting of its exploitative shock value is infectious, and its centerpiece, a pirahna attack during a wet t-shirt contest, is the work of a director who clearly refused to let any audience member be disappointed. For fans of the genre, Pirahna 3D is a feast.

After an earthquake opens up an underground cave, and Old Man Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) mysteriously vanishes– in a funny epilogue to the Jaws character which opens the film– both the sheriff (Elisabeth Shue) and scientists (led by Adam Scott) want to know what’s in that cave. After scuba diving scientists come back gnawed to death, they find the culprit– a breed of prehistoric pirahna. As more and more people end up dead, ideally the lake could be totally evacuated before anything truly awful happens. Unfortunately, it’s spring break, and the creator of the Wild Wild Girls video series (Jerry O’Connell) has brought his hottest girls (Kelly Brook and Riley Steele) and a boat to help get the party started and host an epic wet t-shirt contest. They hire the sheriff’s son (Steven R. McQueen) to assist them in finding the good spots on the lake for filming, and through circumstance, the son’s crush from school (Jessica Szohr) ends up on the boat as well. Can the lake be evacuated before the pirahna attack? They sure hope so. And we sure don’t.

Director Alexandre Aja brings a wit to the film that’s necessary for maintaining a certain level of excitement. In a world with the bare minimum amount of thought (a world Hollywood often resides in), there’s really only one way in which people die– pirahna swarm and then eat them. After a while, this would grow repetitive and boring. Instead, Aja kills people in a myriad of creative ways, none of which I would dare spoil here. Also creative: the manner in which Aja exposes women’s breasts in the film. We don’t just have a random skinny dipper or the random wet t-shirt contestant. We have topless parasailers. We have an underwater nude lesbian ballet that lasts for so many minutes that I can imagine Aja giving the middle finger to the MPAA as it passes before my eyes. We have women getting their bikini tops chewed off by pirahna before they themselves are eaten. Is it cheap, immoral, exploitative? Perhaps, possibly, and definitely. Yet it stays fun.

Jerry O’Connell gives his best performance since Stand By Me as the obvious Joe Francis clone, and because he’s scum, he obviously dies a gloriously painful death (he loses a certain appendage important to him… but we see it again later, in the biggest laugh-out-loud moment of the film). Kelly Brook, aside from being stunningly gorgeous, actually is surprisingly charismatic as an actress– I imagine that this isn’t the last time this model is in a film. Shue, Scott, and McQueen are all blandly enjoyable, but the movie absolutely could have used more Christopher Lloyd, who reads all of his lines as if he will never have another chance to read lines on the silver screen again. Despite Lloyd’s humorous hamminess, the true star of the film is Aja and his devilish pirahna. Sure, the film doesn’t scare or excite, and the 3D is fairly hokey. The bottom line is you didn’t go to this movie because you thought it’d be scary or exciting or have state-of-the-art effects. You wanted camp, gore, nudity, and laughs. This movie gives you those things in a startling level of abundance.

P.S. The inevitable set-up for a sequel is one of the more ingenious and hilarious sequel set-ups in recent film history. Kudos for not merely doing the underwater tracking shot that happens upon a baby pirahna or pirahna egg, but instead going for the gold.

~ by russellhainline on September 5, 2010.

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