I knew Piranha 3D had potential right from the start. A lone fisherman is in a boat on a lake, listening to a radio. There’s an earthquake, unleashing vicious creatures from the deep. The boat is caught in a whirlpool; he’s tossed overboard and torn to pieces.
It’s a crackerjack scene, tense and gory. The actor is Richard Dreyfuss and the song on the radio is “Show Me the Way to Go Home.” It’s a wonderful bit of in-jokiness that would’ve been at home in the original Piranha. Dreyfuss sang the song in Jaws. Piranha was criticized for being nothing but a Jaws rip-off.
Piranha 3D is an exploitation movie to the marrow and has a fittingly simple storyline to go along with its rather low ambitions. A bunch of young people are enjoying spring break at a lake – bikinis, beer. Piranhas have been unleashed. When the two meet, it’s a dream come true for gore-hounds.
I suppose there are two ways one can look at the movie. The film-buffy sort of way – you know, subtext and all that – or as a “grindhouse” picture – ogling over all the nudity and gallons of blood. Joe Bob Briggs – remember him? – would’ve loved this movie.
It opens with a frustrated teenage boy slipping into his bedroom to visit a website similar to Girls Gone Wild. But his mom, also the sheriff, keeps interrupting him, worried about his exposure to the site and the possibility of his two young siblings wandering in. What would Freud say about a mother who is also a cop?
Anyway, first chance he gets, the boy, supposedly babysitting, pays his brother and sister to stay at home. He takes a boat ride with the producer of the website, his cameraman, and a few “actresses.” Of course, the kids don’t stay at home and soon mom is preventing her entire family from becoming fish food.
The crew and those actresses aren’t so lucky though, and the same goes for hundreds of gone crazy partiers splashing back and forth between kegs and the lake. You know what they say. Abstinence is the only surefire way to survive a horror movie. This movie has lots of victims.
So, the movie says, “Listen to mom and don’t do naughty stuff,” first on a small and then on a grand scale. How about that “grindhouse” view? Well, it’s essentially the same only replace the moralizing with, well, a lot of naughty stuff.
There is a quite beautiful underwater ballet between the two actresses, sans bikinis – and then the hungry fish show up. From then on, “beautiful” and “ballet” are two words that no longer crossed my mind.
Once the mayhem begins, we get a true epic of flesh chewing. One fine nasty bit is when a parasailing girl descends into the lake with two legs and ascends with two less legs. Also memorable is the look on the website producer’s face when he realizes that two piranhas are fighting over his prized possession.
Hmm, I think the “grindhouse” view sounds more entertaining, but it really doesn’t matter. Take your pick. Either way, you get to enjoy one heck of a knockout sequence of spring breakers getting devoured by lots of prehistoric piranhas and you get treated to a fine Richard Dreyfuss cameo.
“Show me the way to go home/I’m tired and I want to go to bed/I had a little drink about an hour ago/And it went right to my head…”