Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Piranha 3-D" (2010) - movie review

I used to have a SLP mode VHS tape when I was a kid with Joe Dante's "Piranha" taped off of USA (with ads edited out thanks to the cabled remote control on my top loader) and James Cameron's "Pirahna II:The Spawning" taped from hooking my families 2 VCRs together (with the strobe copy protection ef...fect!) and a rental copy from "Crown Video" (shout out Hillsboro!) that I watched more times than was probably healthy for a 10-12 year old, so when I heard about this remake a while back I immediately screamed into the interwebs about the rape of my child hood, but I gotta' say, I was more than pleasantly surprised. It was hard to know what to expect, because while I really, really liked director Alexander Aja's "Hills Have Eyes" remake, I was bored silly by his more recent cliched snoozer"Mirrors". He pulled out the stops with "Piranha" though - Yeah, like everyone else you've talked to that's seen it, I thought it was freakin' hilarious. Funny cameos, a nice entertaining pacing, cool
monster designs, and some great comedic gore and splatterpunk gags courtesy of
KNB FX. A straight up fun time at the movies (in fact, probably more so than My Bloody Valentine, although other than the 3D the movies have little in common so it's an unfair comparison). Nice job of straddling the line of comedy without falling into lame, self aware horror movie fanboy crappiness. Hit all the marks and story beats that this kind of movie needs to, but still put enough of a fun original spin on it that it keeps your interest the entire ride.

As for the 3D, it was pretty damn good most of the time too, especially considering it was one of those flicks were they added the 3-D after the movie was done. I was a tiny bit worried during the opening credits as my eyes were blurry and started to get that "strained/too many video games" feel that I kept getting about an hour and a half into Avatar, but once it was about 2 minutes into the picture my eyes either adjusted or whatever the problem was went away (It also may have been cleaning off the popcorn butter I accidentally got smeared all over my 3-D glasses).
The B Movie T&A 3-D gags, as well as some of the gore and monster stuff did a really good job of using the 3-D for yuks, which was the main purpose of the 3-D, although a couple of really cool underwater sequences and piranha swarms also took great advantage of the format and used it for pure "damn that looks cool" 3-D shennanigans.

I was really slappin' my knee during most of the flick, as was the rest of the audience, making me wish I would have snuck in some vodka to spice up my giant 5$ Bark's Rootbeer. Jerry O'Connel , and the dude from Human Giant/30 Rock that played his sidekick were both pretty freakin' funny, and had some of the best lines as far as jokes went. The two straight man leads (Elisabeth Shu as the obligatory tough, single mom small lake town sheriff and some guy as a marine-fish-geologist scientisty dude) did a good job of marching through the movie straight faced like they were in "Prophecy" or "Frogs" or "The Swarm" or some other nature turns against us flick from the late 70s/early 80s. The much bally-hooed opening cameo/sequence (I won't ruin it in case you haven't heard about it) was of course totally genius, and also, I gotta say that it was nice to see Christopher Loyd dial it back a bit, play it subdued and turn in a subtle, tasteful performance for once. A bunch of other quick, funny cameos from some comedians, as well as some from various porn stars showing up throughout the movie to show off their 3-D hooters, and even Eli Roth managed to be pretty damn funny with his cameo as a DJ/wet t-shirt contest judge ("Show me those Danny DeVito's, baby!").
The marina attack scene does an awesome job of capturing the frenzied craziness of the scene from the original, with a festival of stunt men flying all over the sea, air and land, and KNB pulling out all the stops with top notch gore gags galore. They really line em up one after another and it had the whole crowd roaring at the theater I saw it in. Also during all that, they make great use of the super cool creature designs (I love how those prehistoric piranha's look) and the "bubbling blood jacuzzi jets" effect that the original relied so heavily on. That 10 minutes or so of the flick (which includes a great "bringin' it all down" segment with Ving Rames and a motorboat engine used as a horror movie chainsaw) is worth the steep price of admission alone.

One more thing I want to add is that the camp/marina/lake party in the new one looks a lot more fun than the the one in the original, which seemed to be a strange camp were kids endlessly bonk each other on the head with inflatable water toys. As fun as that may be, I have to say that porn star Gianna Michaels para-gliding topless in 3-D is a lot more fun to watch (plus, her gory ending is pretty damn classic).

I actually kind want to see it again, because I know on HBO or dvd it won't be nearly as fun, since they really worked to make the 3-D important to the movie, instead of just a thrown in afterthought/gimmick like most of the new-school 3-D flicks, but so far I would feel pretty safe adding this to the short list of genre/horror flicks made in the last 10 years that I actually liked (along with Slither, Drag Me To Hell, Zombieland, Splice, Trick R Treat and a few others). Goes to show you can still do a good nature attack/monster flick without it turning into a scifi original CG crap-a-thon.

ending score - 8.5 out of 10 fucking Oscars (soundtrack lacked compared to the super fucking classic
Pino Donaggio original and I would have liked the moogy spazzed out "Piranha" sound effect from the original to be used heavily (it would have worked great!), thus forcing me to subtract an Oscar, plus an
additional .5 an Oscar ding because NO FIREWALK! I couldn't believe amidst all that mayhem and stunt work
they didn't work in a single firewalk!!! For shame!)
Other than those minor gripes - go see it in 3-D or you'll miss out on half the fun of the movie! Come on, I know it's spendy in 3-D, but did you really go see that many movies this summer? Just sneak in some treats, or call the popcorn and dots your dinner, like I did.

now playing - Pino Donaggio - "Piranha" ost (on vinyl of course, duh...)

(the VHS tape I mentioned in the start of this review? It's driving me bonkers trying to remember what the 3rd movie on it was... I always stuck 3 movies on those SLP mode VHS tapes I had. I want to say it was "The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters" copied from the old Sunday Morning Monster movie thing they showed on KPDX-49, but I can't say for sure. Boy, that's gonna drive me nuts all day...)


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