Piranha 3D is the type of film where you can watch the trailer and pretty much figure out whether or not you’re going to enjoy watching it. It’s a cheesy b-movie horror-comedy, and if you like that kind of film, you’ll have a good time with it. If you aren’t already in favor of these kind of intentionally trashy films, Piranha 3D isn’t going to change your mind. Me? I was laughing during the first scene.
Said first scene shows us a man out on his boat fishing, drinking beer and singing some sort of sea shanty song. He drops his beer bottle into the lake, and we watch it — after it has magically been turned into awful CGI — float to the bottom. An earthquake is triggered, and man-eating piranha decide that they’re going to ruin this man’s day. Because this is a horror movie, that man isn’t going to play any part in the rest of the film, although his death establishes our primary enemy — even though that threat is given to us in the title. I laughed because of the terrible CGI that was used on the beer bottle, but I actually thought the piranha were rendered quite nicely; it’s not hard to tell where most of the budget was spent.
It becomes spring break, and because we’re on a beach, it’s party time. Unfortunately for Jake (Steven R. McQueen), he has to babysit his siblings, as his mother (Elisabeth Shue) is the town sheriff and has to supervise all of these parties. While picking up his sister, he meets a girl who he goes to school with and may or may not have been romantically linked to previously, Kelly (Jessica Szohr), who has a jock boyfriend who we’re supposed to hate. He also meets porn star Danni (Kelly Brook) and a film director, Derrick (Jerry O’Connell) who invites him to be their tour guide while filming. Despite being on babysitter duty, Jake accepts and ends up on a boat with Derrick, Danni, Danni’s co-star, Crystal (Riley Steele), and Kelly, who tags along just for fun.
We’ve already seen our threat, so all we need now is to introduce it to the partying teenagers. That happens, and that’s where I’ll leave you: A bunch of piranha are attacking all of these students. Granted, I’ve taken you about halfway through Piranha 3D‘s runtime, but I feel that since that’s the actual plot, it’s essential that I mention where it kick’s off. I won’t state who dies, so that I won’t spoil anything major for you.
The deaths are quite gruesome though; the piranha seem to know exactly where humans are weak and how to exploit those weaknesses, and as a result, the death toll rises quickly and with massive amounts of blood being shed. Since the piranha are evil, they’ve been given massive teeth that are capable of ripping skin off flesh within a matter of moments. And since the majority of the people in the film are in their swimsuits (sometimes they’re not even covered that much), we get to see that flesh ripped from their bodies in great detail.
I laughed quite frequently at Piranha 3D. Whether that was always the intention, I’m not so sure. This is a film that wants to spoof of the horror film genre, specifically previous Piranha films and the Jaws series, but there are times when it seemed to take itself too seriously and during these points, when I laughed I felt like the film didn’t do its job. Don’t get me wrong, it does manage to have some scary scene, but for most of the time, even when it wanted me to take it seriously, I was laughing.
Sometimes, I was laughing with it. It’s a horror-comedy, after all, and since it’s spoofing previous water-based horror films, it wouldn’t be doing its job if I wasn’t laughing or at least acknowledging what it was trying to accomplish. When it uses a cliché, I found it funny. When it decided to use awful CGI, I figured that was intentional as well. There are also moments included solely to make you laugh, such as when a piranha decides to eat a specific body part of a human, but it ends up spitting it out because it wasn’t to the piranha’s taste.
In that one moment of the film — where we watch a piranha choose to be selective about what it digests and we see its face after making that choice — I realized that the piranha in the film actually had deeper characterization than any of the people. I’m not sure if that’s such a good decision, but it seems to be the one made. We’re not going to care about the piranha since they’re tearing people apart and are set-up as the villains, but if we don’t care about the people, we’re indifferent about them as they start to die. Some of them are actually not all that nice, and we want to see them meet their end. Thankfully, we usually get that wish fulfilled.
I told you earlier that I took you to about halfway into the plot. That’s true, but the part I’ve described up to is actually the best part of the film. After the beach assault begins, I sort of lost interest, likely because all of those teenagers getting eaten were nameless faces in the crowd who decided to ignore the sheriff’s orders to get out of the water. It’s their choice to get eaten, and as a result, I almost felt like they deserved it. It also becomes just a generic “let’s kill everyone” film; nothing special happens after the mid-way point.
Overall, I had some fun with Piranha 3D, and I would suggest watching it if it sounds like your kind of film. If you don’t like gory, cheesy b-movies, this won’t help persuade you, but if you do, then you’ll probably have a good time. If the characters had more depth to them, I might have cared when they started getting ripped apart. As it stands, I enjoyed it more before the piranha were released on the crowd — the dialogue was more enjoyable to listen to — but after that, blood and guts fly everywhere. If you like that, you’ll have a field day. If you don’t, stay far away from this film.