This 2011 sequel to Alexandre Aja's successful Piranha remake jettisons most of that film's fun for pure dumb thrills, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Dispensing with any sort of thought out logic, the movie instead concentrates on gruesome set pieces of people getting violently attacked by the killer fish. Why else would you want to watch a movie about piranha for after all?
Christopher Lloyd returns as the expert on prehistoric killer fish to make some sort of connection to the previous film, as does Ving Rhames.
What works well are the actual fish themselves, largely very detailed puppets that look way better than any CGI creation. It's got a great sudden surprise ending too.
Piranha Double D was released theatrically in 3D, although the DVD edition does not have this feature.
The massive success of Steven Spielberg's 1975 killer shark thriller Jaws led to a feeding frenzy of similarly themed films. Like chum filled water, theatres were gorged with the likes of Mako: Jaws Of Death ('75), Tintorera...Tiger Shark ('77), the inevitable Jaws 2 ('78) and of course the notorious The Last Shark which Universal successfully blocked from ever being screened or released (I own two different copies, don't ask...).
In 1978 legendary "B" movie producer Roger Corman tweaked the concept slightly so that his response became Piranha directed by Joe Dante. Piranha stars Bradford Dillman (Escape From The Planet Of The Apes) as a local drunk who along with Heather Menzies accidentally release a pack of vicious piranha which have been genetically engineered by the U.S. Army to be more savage than usual. Once the unlikely pair realize what they've done (and seen the gruesome consequences) it's a race to get to a kid's summer camp downstream before the ravenous fish do. They don't quite make it and a literal blood bath ensues.
The best thing about Piranha is that while the gore is full on, the film doesn't take itself too seriously. It plays as both a Jaws homage and satire. The main attraction of the recent DVD release is that unlike the 1998 20th Anniversary Edition, this is presented in a new wide screen transfer and has a tank load of new special features. Included are the excellent "Making Of Piranha" documentary, some radio & TV spots and a fantastic gallery of international posters and lobby cards.
Piranha II: The Spawning from 1981 was the eventual sequel that pushes the horror angle and jettisons the humour (although its hard to take killer fish who can actually fly on land too seriously). Under the direction of future Titanic and Avatar auteur James Cameron and starring Lance Henricksen, Piranha II isn't a bad little underwater horror flick but its definitely missing the charm of Dante's original.
The Corman approved 1995 TV remake of Piranha starring William Katt is pretty faithful to the orignal, perhaps too much so. Footage of the fish attacking is actually recycled from the 1978 film.
Which brings us to the 2010 remake in name only, Piranha by French director Alexandre Aja (High Tension). Aja completely changes the story and amps up the carnage considerably.
Instead of a kid's swimming camp in danger, we have a horde of rowdy spring break revellers indulging in all sorts of debauchery (clearly a less sympathetic group of victims).
The source of the flesh destroying creatures this time is not scientific mutation but a prehistoric strain of super aggressive fish recently unleashed via an undersea tremor. If you can get your head wrapped around that, check the explanation for the continued existence of this ancient killing machine: cannibalism.
The primary set piece of the movie is the scene when the piranha, after some sampling of the local flavours, go forward with a full scale attack turning a shoreline party into a relentless massacre. To say this is one of the the most violent and brutal scenes ever filmed is a huge understatement. Body parts are severed, bones are shattered, skin is torn, blood splashes everywhere and screams fill the air during this completely over the top slaughter.
There are two things the 2010 Piranha has in common with its 1978 namesake. First, an undercurrent of humour is always near and second, a sequel is already in the works.
Pass the popcorn (and the Dramamine...)
Robert Lawson 2011.