Saturday, February 19, 2011

Horror Film Review

Piranha (2010):  I just finished watching this remake of the 1978 classic.  A number of witty and punny opening remarks came to mind, but if I'm honest, this movie doesn't deserve that kind of effort.  With the likes of Elisabeth Shue, Ving Rhames, and Richard Dreyfuss in a horror/monster flick, though, what could possibly go wrong?  As it happens, just about everything imaginable.  Okay...just one.  This movie lacks bite.  (Insert groan here.)

I will admit that the bit with Richard Dreyfuss was excellent.  Let me put it this way, you'll have a serious flashback to another monster fish movie he was in a few decades ago.  Beyond that...chum.  The plot is incidental, but I'll lay it out for you anyway.  Lake Victoria, AZ is a spring break mecca for college kids.  It's warm and there's a big lake.  An earthquake cracks open a conduit to an ancient lake underneath Lake Victoria.  Guess what's been rattling around down there for millions of years hankering to eat something other than its own children? 

Elisabeth Shue is Sheriff Forester.  Ving Rhames is Deputy Fallon.  Christopher Lloyd is in full Doc Brown mode as local fish expert Mr. Goodman.  Jerry O'Connell is a sleazy Girls Gone Wild-esque filmmaker who convinces the sheriff's 17 year-old son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) to show him around the lake.  The sheriff takes some USGS divers out to the middle of the lake so they can inspect the quake's epicenter.  They die horribly, of course.  Then it's back to the pier for the sheriff where the party's in full swing with, what else, a wet T-shirt contest.  The cops try to get everyone out of the water.  The drunk and horny kids ignore them and so the carnage begins. 

This movie is rated R, not PG-13, so they don't screw around with said carnage.  Or boobs.  There are lots of boobs.  In case you're interested in this kind of thing, there's also an extended underwater scene where two totally naked women do a lesbian, touchy-feely swim dance.  You do see everything these ladies have to offer.  There is a short scene with a penis, but even the gayest man on the planet won't be stirred by it.  You can probably guess why.  Lorena Bobbit would love this movie...

The over-long bloodbath at the pier was simply an exercise for the make-up and FX guys to try to out-gross each other.  There's no other explanation for it.  I mean, this is approaching Dead Alive territory with the level of gore.  But the filmmakers made a mistake by playing it too straight instead of going for more camp.  This could have easily been another Lake Placid or Tremors, two nearly perfect tongue-in-cheek monster flicks, but they blew it.  Scenes that could have been riotous fun come off as dumb and pointless.  Sadly, that's a running theme in Piranha that you see most glaringly in the dialogue.  If you want to create a drinking game, do a shot every time someone says, "Get out of the water!"  You'll be stone drunk in ten minutes.   


Acting:  Overwrought and humorless.  No doubt a paycheck movie for the A-listers. 
Story:  A total rip-off of JAWS 2 complete with a climax involving the sheriff racing out to a boat to rescue her children from the monsters.  The only real difference being JAWS 2 was watchable.  Direction:  Boring and lazy.  I think that's the worst possible critique for a horror movie.  Oh, did I mention this was filmed as 3-D?  That means dozens of ridiculous shots of stuff coming at the camera.  Example:  a girl barfing over the railing of a yacht and the puke falling right at you.  Hmm.  Would you pay ten bucks for that privilege?  I paid $3.99 and yes, that's going to irk me for the rest of my life. 
Production Values:  They are very high, I will grant that.  Slick and glossy.  The film would have been better served, I believe, if they'd opted for a more grainy, grindhouse look. 
Gore/FX:  Perhaps the 2nd, maybe 3rd most gory movie I've ever seen.  I will give credit to the make-up guys for their impressive, if not excessive, work.  The piranha are all computer-generated and would be right at home in a cheap, SyFy Channel movie.  Now that I think about it, Piranha really is a SyFy Channel monster movie.  Just without the nudity and cussing. 
Ending:  This 88-minute film couldn't have ended fast enough for me.  When it did, though, it was predictably stupid.  After rescuing her children, the sheriff gets a call from the fish expert who says the piranha they've been battling aren't mature...they're the babies.  Of course, somebody says, "So where are the parents?"  And then...ah, you know. 
Verdict:  Should you see Piranha?  How do I say this tactfully...Oh, hell no.  It's a boorish blend of blood, boobs, and banality.  And, um, barf.  There are those who will contend that it's worth seeing just for the nudity and gore.  Fair enough...if you're a 14 year-old, straight boy.  My advice?  Go watch the original 1978 version again.  Or JAWS 2, Lake Placid, or Tremors.  Or just go outside and watch the grass grow.

My Rating:  0 out of 5

And finally, I will soon be watching The Horde, the French zombie flick that's been in Netflix purgatory for months.  I'm trying to keep my expectations low, but since I know it can't be worse than Piranha, that's proving difficult...

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