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Blu-ray Review: Piranha (2010)

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In the beginning, there was Jaws. It scared the shit out of millions of people. It became a cinematic sensation around the world. And it also opened the floodgates for countless rip-offs from every type of low-budget filmmaker under the sun (or, “under the sea,” as it were). After these “imitations with limitations” (as I like to call them) began to hit theaters, the King of B-Movies himself, Roger Corman, manufactured a tongue-in-cheek parody of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 hit. Entitled Piranha, Corman’s 1978 low-budget wonder was directed by the great Joe Dante and brought us the harrowingly-hilarious tale of killer fish (courtesy of the US Army, of course) that accidentally get released into the waters of a thriving summer resort, Lost River Lake.

To this day, many people still don’t understand that Piranha was not supposed to be taken seriously (my former eighth-grade teacher is one of those individuals, yet the man constantly thanks me for introducing Plan 9 From Outer Space to him every time I run into him — go figure). There were, however, a group of modern filmmakers who understood perfectly which manner they were to behold the movie, such as the men and women behind the second remake of the film (it was remade once before for Cable TV in ‘95), Piranha (2010) aka Piranha 3-D. And, from the very beginning of the remake, wherein we see an aged Richard Dreyfuss sitting in a small fishing boat singing “Show Me The Way To Go Home” and wearing an outfit not unlike the one Matt Hooper wore in Jaws, it’s obvious that the makers of the new Piranha understood the joke.

This time ‘round, though, the military is not at fault (surprising). No, with all of the eco-friendly plots that seemingly abound in the world of science fiction and horror flicks nowadays, the man-eating fishies that feast on the cast of this gory and unabashed moving picture are prehistoric critters that emerge when an earthquake bridges the gap between Lake Victoria (filmed at beautiful Lake Havasu) and the long-lost underground lake that lies beneath it. The fish are quick to assimilate into Lake Victoria, just in time for the hellish college Spring Break vacationers that are partying it up all across the water.

Taking the “hero helm” here are Steven R. McQueen (hmmm, where have we heard that name before?) as the unpopular son of the local sheriff (Elizabeth Shue, who has turned into quite a MILF, I must say) and Jessica Szohr (from TV‘s Gossip Girl) as his would-be girlie-friend. The two wind up on the rented yacht of an ultra-sleazy Girls Gone Wild-esque producer, Jerry O’Connell (who wins the “Best Performance From A Former Sliders Actor Ever” award) and his devilishly-devour able “actresses,” who are apparently descended from pearl divers (two words, kids: underwater lesbian sex!). Naturally, the T&A can’t last forever: and soon, our young heroes are battling tiny terrors from the deep.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Mom and her deputies (including Ving Rhames, the reigning King of B-Movie Actors) try to prevent a bloody beach massacre during a packed wet t-shirt contest (hosted by filmmaker Eli Roth, in a memorable cameo). Note how I say “try to prevent” — they don’t. They don’t even come close to stopping the insane amount of carnage and slaughter that make-up gurus Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero (of KNB fame): a lengthy balls-to-the-wall homage to gore that presents us with the slaughter of many dumb college kids and the civil servants who try to save them. If you’re a gorehound, you will love it. If you’re a porn-hound, you’ll love seeing adult actresses Ashlynn Brooke and Gianna Michaels giving the fish a different kind of taco for a change. And, if you love the ever-campy Christopher Lloyd, you’ll love watching Piranha just to see the him ham it up like there’s no tomorrow.

But, most importantly, if you love seeing skin and all that resides beneath it, you’ll flat-out love Piranha period. Just be sure to bring your sense of humor.

Piranha was originally shown in theaters in both standard two-dimensions and three-dimensions — the latter of which utilized the supposedly revolutional new way of making 3D actually look real for a change. Unfortunately, I was not privy to the massive headache such an event might bestow upon me. But for me and the others out there like me who missed it, Piranha is available on Blu-ray in a special 3-D format. It’s also available in Standard DVD and the “regular” High-Def Blu-ray format; it is the “regular” Blu-ray edition that I am so boastfully reviewing here.

The video presentation of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s 1080p MPEG-4/AVC transfer is an impressive one indeed, with a very solid image on the whole. Colors are overly-bright (almost comic-like in some scenes — all of which is deliberate, I‘m sure): the movie has a slight hint of yellow throughout (it takes place during Spring Break, remember?), and the greens, blues and blood reds nearly leap off the screen and assault you with razor-sharp fangs (hell, they might leap out if you watch the 3D version). The contrast is very well defined, as is the amount of detail. On the audio end, Piranha has a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack. While it doesn‘t quite succeed in utilizing all five speakers thoroughly, it does a damn fine job nonetheless — and should literally rock the house if you crank it up like nature intended it to be heard. Optional English (SDH) and Spanish subtitles are included.

From the illustrious House of Special Features, Piranha starts out with an audio commentary from co-producer/director Alexandre Aja and co-producers Grégory Levasseur and Alix Taylor. Their words aren’t entirely scene-specific (or even movie-specific in some cases), but anyone who enjoys the movie should enjoy giving it a listen. Next up are a few deleted scenes (including a few moments that were seen only in the film’s trailers); a two-hour-plus documentary entitled “Don’t Scream, Just Swim: Behind-the-Scenes of Piranha 3D,” which dives into almost every aspect of the campy flick; several deleted storyboard sequences; and several trailers and TV spots for the film (which include even more moments not seen in the finished product — in classic exploitation fashion, director Aja deliberately shot some footage solely to tease audiences), as well as trailers for other Sony releases.

In short, Piranha is a wonderful guilty pleasure: an homage to the gory exploitation flicks of yesteryear and a fairly-suitable obeisance to its source material (as well as the source material’s source material). If you have a strong stomach, have a taste for campy acting and human flesh, you owe it to yourself (and Jerry O’Connell) to see it.

I just wonder how many “imitations with limitations” this one will spawn.

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.