Director: John Gulager
Notable Cast: Danielle Panabaker, Matt Bush, David Koechner, Chris Zylka, Katrina Bowden, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Lloyd, Paul Scheer, Gary Busey, Ving Rhames, Meagan Tandy, Jean-Luc Bilodeau
Review: Excuse me while I have a special moment of B-movie nostalgia as Piranha 3D was the review that started my little blog that could. Still reminiscent is the giddy laughter and outlandish fun Alexandre Aja achieved with his surprise horror/comedy remake. And the thought of a second? Pure popcorn movie bliss, right? Especially since John Gulager teamed back up with writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan, the same team who spawned “Project Greenlight” Season 3 winner Feast? Feast stands as a top-notch B-Movie homage utilizing witty horror comedy and genre love to win over specific audiences including this hardened vet, despite two sub par sequels. Victorious water slides gushing waves of red blood seemed imminent given the writer’s background (Saw 4-7/Feast 1-3, The Collector). 3DD itself was backed by a promise to blow Piranha 3D out of the water, which already offers a plethora of gore, laughs, and gorgeous Double D’s. Plus we get to see the under water varmints try to “hassle the Hoff?” Yes, in theory pre-production looked oh so promising for Piranha 3DD. But then the dreaded release date change slapped prospective fans with a harsh realization, eventually ending with an uber limited release (86 theaters) accompanied by simultaneous Video On Demand access. Given zero motivation to hike 45 minutes just to pay an overpriced fee for the full 3DD action, I rounded up some reluctant friends and powered up the old XBOX. Prepared for the next hour and a half we were not.
Looks like Lake Victoria couldn’t contain the ferocious piranhas who put a damper on last year’s spring break. Heading upstream the hungry swarm sets its sights on Big Wet, a new local water park run by step-father Chet (Koechner) and step-daughter Maddy (Panabaker). But when piranha are discovered in the lake Big Wet draws its water supply from, Maddy fears opening day will be nothing short of a blood bath. Chet on the other hand has big plans for financial gain, mainly his adults only swimming areas, which cause his focus to be more on the money. It’s up to Maddy and her friends to ensure the safety of park goers and prevent another Lake Victoria from happening, gaining no help from Chet or the higher-ups. Hell, it wouldn’t be much of a film if our aquatic demons didn’t break up Big Wet’s first party though! A few old friends and some new celebrity cameos stop by to offer some fresh flesh to the piranha horde, relying on Maddy to save the day. And you thought a child pissing in the pool would be the worst of your summer fun problems…
“Yes, excuse me, I was wondering what your refund policy covered?”
You can’t fault Piranha 3DD for false advertising, that’s for damn sure. Every single perverted instance Gulager got the chance to showcase some free bouncing 3D-DD action, and I mean EVERY, the cameraman abandoned plot and cued clichéd angelic music for the jiggling jugs. Very nice, and with variation too! I’ve never seen so many struggling actresses willing to bare all just to be eaten alive. Tasteless and bordering the fine line of overkill, Gulager definitely outdid his original counterpart on the sexy scale. But then Gulager faltered where I couldn’t believe: gore. All the Feast‘s were a splatter-tastic mess, but Alexandre outdid John in terms of swimmer body count. I can still picture the female ripping in half as she’s carried out of Lake Victoria, spewing guts into the tainted water. Piranha 3DD brought the severed limbs, chewed up bodies, decapitations, and showered innocent blood on unsuspecting patrons…but Aja’s kills were overall more memorable. Eli Roth’s head getting caved in, Jerry O’Connell’s legs being stumps, the D-Day-esque beach scene? Piranha ties the score by out-doing the violent antics of Gulager’s park of terror. But where Gulager picks up a point with Melton and Dunstan is their sick sense of humor. These guys are turning into gross-out kings, not afraid to sacrifice any character to the piranha horde and expose bodily fluids with zero shame. Again: see Feast. The screenplay is much more juvenile than Aja’s original as well, like a bunch of rambunctious teenagers thinking it would be hilarious if a piranha tried to eat through a guy’s butthole. Childish laughter ensues, comedic gold is thought to be struck. Genius! These moments either sink hard or swim strong, but usually do strike some kind of laughter be it eye-rolling or belly busting. A huge recommendation is watching 3DD with a solid group of buds, because the lesser quality jokes at least provided fodder for our own enjoyable riff track. Enter Piranha 3DD with the correct mindset, aka think back to your awkward pre-pubescent stage, and you will be MUCH better off.
Cast wise 3DD does include some nice surprises for a slapstick horror movie (minor spoilers to follow if you’ve avoided any advertising material). David Hasselhoff’s egotistical appearance makes for a fantastic change in pace, playing a douchey version of himself (I’d assume?) for laughs. We also are treated to another opening celebrity kill in both Gary Busey and Clu Gulager (John’s father who has appeared in over 125 titles), mirroring Aja’s formula. And in true Gulager character manipulating fashion, Paul Scheer and Ving Rhames reprise their roles from the original after their deaths were left rather open-ended. Returning to Big Wet, the unlikely duo try to face their liquid fear starting in the kiddie pool as per psychiatrist’s orders. Oh yeah, Ving Rhames has shotgun legs too. This is the insanity that Gulager brings to the horror genre, where Aja’s film tried to clench onto some reality at least. Panabaker takes command in scream queen fashion, Koechner is Koechner, Doc Brown fights a laughing diarrhea baby, Martinez is a freak, Bowden falls prey to vagina monsters, Bilodeau is elected for the new manhood comprised role a la O’Connell, and Bush plays one of the meekest nerd heroes ever to survive a horror film. Seriously, there was a point my group was rooting for Bush to get axed. Horrible.
In terms of “popcorn movie” status, Piranha 3DD delivers horror on a different intellectual level than Piranha. Yes, that is possible. 3DD adopts more of a “screw the story, let’s kill people” mentality and throws characters directly into piranha filled pools. Fish in naughty places, exploding flatulent cows, 3D puke, and a cornucopia of breasts is what 3DD delivers. Sounds like a B-Movie dream, and absolutely entertains. But after all the pools are drained and the bodies are swept away, something just feels missing. My intelligence wasn’t insulted or underwhelmed by any means, but left is a sense of “what the hell did I just watch” where Piranha left us with “I need more.” Gulager again leaves the franchise off with another open ending, but I’m not 100% positive I want him to try again. Well no, I take that back, I’ll always watch a Gulager film as long as he’s given the chance. But Piranha 3DD is all glitz and glam, providing entertainment in choppy sequences instead of a flowing stream. Worth the watch for true horror lovers, but a lifeless floating carcass to anyone not prepared. 3DD speaks for itself….
Final Rating: 6 water jet screwing employees out of 10
Not sure that perfect beach body is going to help you now….