Piranha 3DD

Piranha 3DD


Reviewed by: David Graham

The remake cycle that has dominated American horror over the last 10 years has dredged up some real stinkers, but Switchblade Romance director Alexandre Aja showed form by following up his successful The Hills Have Eyes redo with a brilliantly trashy take on Joe Dante's crusty old Jaws spoof Piranha. Amping up the blood and boobs to ridiculous proportions, his 3D throwback was an unbridled blast that aimed shamelessly low and hit its targets with crowd-pleasing veracity.

A sequel seemed inevitable, but its genesis has proved troublesome, with slipping release dates and the threat of being dumped on DVD putting a dampener on the film-makers' promises of improved 3D, bouncier bosoms and celebrity cameos from the likes of Baywatch legend David Hasselhoff. Feast trilogy creator John Gulager seemed a good fit for such brazen nonsense, but his lack of cinematic experience is sadly all too clear in the finished article; Piranha 3DD is a floating turd of a film that deserves to sink without trace.

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Homecoming queen and orphan Maddy (Danielle Panabaker) is disgusted to find that her step-dad has sullied the reputation of the water-park that represents her legacy by replacing the lifeguards with 'water-certified' strippers. This may be the least of her problems though; a strain of prehistoric piranha who devastated Lake Victoria may have found their way into her little town's water supply. Looking for support from her circle of friends, Maddy must try to prevent the park's grand re-opening from turning into another water-bound massacre. A certain celebrity guest and now water-phobic cop survivor may also prove a help or hindrance for our plucky heroine...

Aja's predecessor took its sweet time building anticipation for a feeding frenzy finale, adopting an old-school Eighties approach towards its narrative before literally letting rip with some startlingly vicious grue. Gulager abandons all of this, diving in headlong with scenes of peril that somehow come off as toothless and soggy. The badly-animated piranha scoot about, hardly ever taking a nibble from their nubile prey, while the disposable cast fail to make any kind of impression. Even Kelly Brook worked a level of charisma entirely absent from this charm-free follow-up, while the relative lack of fish-food extras and woeful indie-rock soundtrack means the requisite party atmosphere never materialises.

The plot completely ignores the cliffhanger ending of the previous film, no doubt because the budget wouldn't stretch to giant flying piranha, while Gulager's jerky direction and the embarrassing editing seem to be deliberately trying to paper over the lack of action. What little there is turns out to be depressingly derivative - rip-offs of Teeth's infamous vagina dentata scenes rub shoulders with recreations of Nightmare On Elm Street's bathtub menace (already paid tribute to in the far superior Slither) and the script even steals the punchline for an obscure Freddy's Nightmares episode, where a seemingly harmless finishing line cordon beheaded Lori Petty's hapless athlete.

There are a couple of juicily crowd-pleasing decapitations to compensate, while the wackier characters occasionally come out with memorably absurd zingers ("Bring me my legs!"), but the former is too little too late while the latter have to share screen-time with too many cast-iron clunky exchanges (sample dialogue: "I love the water!" "Yeah - it's, uh, really wet"). Even the presentation of the titular bra-busters and the use of 'real' 3D as opposed to Aja's post-conversion effort are weak compared to what's gone before.

Returning scene-stealers Christopher Lloyd and Ving Rhames are effortlessly enjoyable, chewing more styrofoam scenery than even their toothy enemies, while some of the bad taste humour elicits uncomfortable guffaws, but more often than not the film is just cringeworthily dumb. Anchorman star David Koechner is sadly underused as a sleazoid replacement for Jerry Connell's misogynistic porn director in the previous instalment, while The Hoff - as his world-weary alcoholic womanising self - sums it all up when he declares, "Welcome to rock-bottom" with desperate irony. He shouldn't have left Bikini Bottom for this hopeless drivel.

Despite a few cheeky jolts, Gulager's grasp of tone and execution of would-be suspense set-pieces (something Aja excels at) are extremely cack-handed. The horror quotient is also severely lacking; there's plenty of dyed red water but precious few bodies bobbing about in it and not a whole lot going on underneath or otherwise.

Piranha 3DD may have plumbed the depths of the 'so bad, it's good' school of cinematic under-achieving, but it's even a flop at failure. There must be something in the water for anyone to think this passes as entertainment; hopefully audiences will pass on it and put paid to notions of any further sequels. Even James Cameron's disowned 1981 debut and Dante follow-up The Spawning is preferable to this pop-culture pollution.

Reviewed on: 12 May 2012
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A school of bloodthirsty piranha attack a water park.
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Director: John Gulager

Writer: Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton

Starring: Danielle Panabaker, Ving Rhames, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Lloyd, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood

Year: 2012

Runtime: 83 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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