For the upcoming DVD release, the 3 in Piranha 3DD is dropped from the title (unlike the Blu-ray which does include the “additional” dimension) but that’s not to say that the absence of the technology is going to make much of a difference. The non- inclusion of the 3D with a film of this nature isn’t going to make you love or loathe this anymore than you otherwise would have already. You should kind of expect going in if this is a film for you or not. Much like Alexandre Aja’s 20010 remake, the emphasis is clearly placed on the exploitive elements of a film like this. An acknowledgment of the title is enough of a reminder of this. Not to sound overly crass, but boobs, blood, and debauchery are the focus here. Not a lot of attention is placed on the script nor on the performances of the young cast members for that matter. Thankfully, at a swift hour and and ten minutes (not including the twelve minutes of credits and outtakes following the film), director John Gulager doesn’t waste too much time getting to the stuff that audiences have come to see. The question is though whether or not it’s worth jumping into the pool. Let’s dip our toes in the water.
The film – taking a cue from the beginning of the first remake – begins immediately with their first ‘B’ movie cameo. Gary Busey shows up in a scene that could’ve been played better, but sets a standard for the low-brow comedy that is to come. From there we follow Maddy and her obnoxious step-dad Chet as they prepare their newly inherited swimming park that came about following the death of Maddy’s mother. This intro to Chet and the “renovated” pool showcases more topless women and skin than almost the entirety of Aja’s remake. Keep in mind that this is still within the first ten minutes. Following the massacre that took place two years ago, the once thought to be destroyed piranha are now awakened and are swimming through underground lakes and rivers. A number of Maddy’s close friends fall victim to the vicious fish which leads her and two possible love interests to track down Mr. Goodman (Chrostopher Lloyd) – a now Youtube celebrity – and discover what’s going on. His research shows that the new evolved fish can now break through metal and are heading straight for Maddy’s hometown’s sewage line. And you can bet that they will be showing up right in time for the grand opening of the new water park.
I feel the need to preface that I wasn’t blown away by Aja’s Piranha. Aside from the epic blood-bath that takes places at the beginning of the third act, I found the film quite tiresome during the endless party scenes that made up the first hour of the film. Considering the French director previously blew me away with his remake of The Hills Have Eyes (not to mention High Tension), I was actually shocked with how little attention was paid to even basic film necessities like editing and shot compositions. The real star of the 2010 remake was Greg Nicotero and KNB’s exceptional make-up and prosthetic work. What they were able to achieve during that gory set-piece is nothing short of breathtaking for a horror fan and is the only reason I own that film on DVD. Now, Joe Dante’s original is a different story as that film has a low-budget charm while also incorporating some solid directing work by the now legendary horror director. Gulager’s treatment of the subject doesn’t really have the heart that Dante’s has nor the same level of special effects that Aja’s film has, but it’s still a fun and over-the-top entry that knows exactly what it’s doing. At times the lack of a proper budget for the film makes its way onscreen, but Gulager knows how to make it work after sharpening his teeth over the years on the Feast trilogy. Even though some CGI shots looked to be recycled from the previous film, a special attempt seems to be made to incorporate more physical effects and the results are appreciated. I’ve always been a lover of good old-fashioned prosthetics and animatronics, and several scenes - including a tense one involving two girls trapped on a dock surrounded by leaping piranha - really try to display an 80′s feel.
Danielle Panabaker and the rest of the young cast did the standard teenager in distress act. Not as much attention is paid to them as the cameos that are sprinkled through the film. David Hasselhoff is practically winking at the audience in every scene. He’s obviously having a joke at his own expense, but yet it also feels kind of sad as you most likely are really seeing the true side of the former Baywatch star. Ving Rhames brings a surprising amount of laughter to his scenes as he’s forced to face his now fear of the water following the events of the first film. Unfortunately some of the jokes leading up to his unexpected sequence involving other actors and weak screenwriting fail to really make a big splash.
For a film that seems to be one elongated intro leading up to a splatterfest finale, Piranha 3DD doesn’t have as satisfying of a return as you would think. Yes, the closing massacre is without a doubt bloody and severed limbs are seen floating in the pool, but several of the money shots seem to be missing or cut short . . . well . . . due to money, I’m sure. Gulager knows how to shoot a good-looking film and manages to deliver a sequel that doesn’t succumb to the look and feel of most direct-to-DVD sequels. The movie works better as a campy throwback and barely escapes being degradingly sleazy. Killer fish movies come in all different shapes and sizes. By no means is this bottom of the barrel Syfy movie fodder. If cheap thrills and gratuitous nudity is your ideal summer evening then you may want to reel in this one and give it a nibble.