Every once in a while, there comes a film so obnoxiously silly and deliriously entertaining that, despite all your pretentious claims to watching only the “good films”, you want to indulge in it for all it’s worth. Alexander Aja’s Piranha is one of those films. A mad dose of blood, gore and nudity, Piranha is one of those films that is very much aware of its silliness. However, it chooses to celebrate that in all its bloody glory rather than pretending to be different or intelligent. Its intelligence lies in that self-awareness. It more than makes up for its lack of originality by paying homage to some of the greatest films within the creature-horror subgenre, some superb cameos, its campy, B-movie style and a willingness to dish out blood and gore by the buckets.
The story: An underwater earthquake connects Lake Victoria to a subterranean ancient lake which has been a breeding ground for a particularly ferocious species of Piranha. This also happens to be the time when the Spring Break is in full session (and you know what that means). Instead of enjoying the time, 17 year old Jake (Steven McQueen) is forced to babysit his young brother and sister by his town cop bad ass mom (Elisabeth Shue) but bribes his way out of the task when he gets an opportunity by a film-maker (Jerry O’Connell) to be a location scout for the making of Wet Wet Girls (…or was it Wild Wild Girls? Anyhow, you get the picture). However, his fun is spoilt when his best friend and the girl he loves (Jessica Szohr) decides to join him and the crew on the boat. The stage is set. The babes are in the water. Let the bloodbath begin!
This is the first film of director Alexander Aja that I have seen. It makes it practically mandatory for me to see the rest of his repertoire. The film is horrifying in its gore and yet, hilarious in many places. The humour is clearly intentional and it’s hard not to laugh at Jerry O’Connell’s perverted porn film-maker act, the silly one liners and the ridiculousness of the violence. Having said that, this is one of the goriest films I have ever seen and you do need an iron stomach to digest it. But unlike movies like Hostel, the violence is too fast , less painful (and more humorous) here making it easier to watch. Nevertheless, if gore and nudity is your cup of tea, Piranha is as good as mainstream films get.
The cameos: the choice of Richard Dreyfuss in the opening scene (and the references to Jaws) is an inspired choice. The use of Eli Roth in the wet t-shirt contest (and his subsequent disposal) is absolutely brilliant. Christopher Lloyd’s inclusion as Mr. Goodman, the fish expert is another nice touch. And finally, you see Ashlynn Brooke and Gianna Michaels being fed to piranhas which is a delight to watch.
Much like The Heartbreaker, Piranha is as good as it gets within its genre. Embracing the formula, Piranha is gleefully campy, gloriously violent and deliriously fun. Its liberal dosage of gross humour, violence and nudity may not appeal to all. However, for adolescents, fans of the genre and people that can stomach the gore, this is going to be one hell of a ride.