Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reel Rhino Review: PIRANHA 3-D aka Snakes in a Lake

Yes, I am laughing at my witty title...if we can't laugh at our own jokes, I guess we can't expect anyone else to laugh at them, so I am off to a good start!

Yes, this is SNAKES ON A PLANE for 2010 and I loved the fun time Samuel L gave us on that infamous flight from Hawaii to LA back in 2006.  I also loved the pseudo-Spring Break I spent today at Lake Victoria.

Piranha 3-D is the latest offering into the horror/comedy genre that I love so very much.  I will never forget the first time I saw THE EVIL DEAD and my favorite follow-up, BRUCE CAMPBELL VS THE ARMY OF DARKNESS and also Peter Jackson's DEAD ALIVE!  

I am not nearly as big of a fan of the torture porn that has found a niche today.  There is a strong distinction between the MAN v. Beast/Zombie/Slasher/Serial Killer fun in more traditional horror fare and the MAN v. (bound) MAN scenarios that we get in Hostel and others like it.  I will say, though, that I do love ELI ROTH'S CABIN FEVER.  Great movie!  Cabin Fever 2, I heard not so much, but I will be checking it out soon.  

SAW was a great first entry into that series, but the follow-ups got less creative and more commercial in terms of jamming out a yearly title.  I do have high hopes for Saw 7 aka Saw 3-D.  "They" say it is going to be a much better effort than 2 through 6, but we shall see.  At the very least, "they" also say it will definitely be the last.  I'll be writing more on SAW in a few weeks,

On to Piranha 3-D...what a great time at the theater!  The piranha themselves were decent on-screen villains, but their "digitality" was screaming each time they showed up.  Of course they looked like digital creations, because they were, but were they used too much?  It is a little debated fact that one of the things that made JAWS so iconic was that it was a shark movie that barely showed the shark.  I promise, less fish on-screen with the level of gore we had here, and no one would have been disappointed.

Piranha's practical effects are some of the best of recent years and the volume of blood in this movie rivals the Crazy 88's fight scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1.  I believe I heard at some point that there was LITERALLY a tanker truck of blood brought onto the set.

The practical effects blew the digital effects out of the water and the digital-heavy sequences were actually near distracting.  I saw this on the hallowed (sarcasm implied) AMC ETX system.  I am not yet sold on this and I continue to prefer the IMAX set-up by a landslide.  

Piranha 3-D was directed by Alexandre Aja, the budding auteur behind Mirrors (blech!), The Hills Have Eyes Remake (better), and High Tension (BEST! ~ 2003 French Horror ~ it is excellent!).  Unfortunately, in my book, his quality level has decreased over time, that is at least until this entry into his resume.  Aja does Piranha justice here and for all of his filmography, it can definitely be said that he is one helluva creative filmmaker.

Looking back through time, the original Piranha from 1978 was directed by Joe Dante and 1981's Piranha Two: The Spawning was in part directed by James Cameron.  Perhaps this speaks to the career potential of Aja and I tell you, I hope that it does.

The cast of Piranha 3-D is high quality for genre filmmaking.  Start off with a not-so-secret cameo by Richard Dreyfuss, lampooning his Matt Hooper character from JAWS.  This was a great start to a fun movie.  Tag-on the short but sweet presence of Doc Brown, CHRISTOPHER LLOYD and that trailer-quotable line: "Piranha hunt in packs. The first bite draws blood. The blood draws the pack." 

Elisabeth Shue plays Sheriff Forester and her son Jake is played by Steven R. McQueen.  Jake is about as close as we get to a protagonist, which is odd because his 17 yo high school character is in the midst of one of the biggest romps of full body nudity and R-rated gore since the infamous naked scene in My Bloody Valentine 3-D.  We mostly follow Jake through these remotely intertwined segments and he and his mom come of as our Mother/Son hero pair.

The cast is rounded out Ving Rhames, Jessica Szohr, Dina Meyer, Kelly Brook, and a wonderfully sleazy Jerry O'Connell in a parodied role essentially the embodiment of Joe Francis, creator of Girls Gone Wild.

While they were all great, my favorite was Adam Scott, recently of Party Down and Parks and Recreation fame as well as the straight-guy brother character in Step Brothers (who could ever forget that hug at the end with Farrell and Scott awkwardly embracing one another buddy-man-love style. 

Adam Scott strikes me as a guy who could really turn the corner from funny-man to honest-to-goodness action star.  He's a good looking guy who took his few action sequences here and did a great job!  I can see him stepping into Indiana Jones or National Treasure-esque hero that is the semi-nerdy reluctant hero type.  For now, Parks and Rec will be where we get our Adam Scott-fix.

The story here is simple.  Sheriff Forester is preparing for the first day of the big Spring Break weekend at Lake Victoria, which is Lake Havasu in disguise.  Hijinx definitely ensure and parts of this play more like soft-core porn with full-frontal covered in detail from the gals and in one memorable scene, from one guy as well!

Her prime deputy, Fallon, is played by Rhames and he has several memorable scenes, including one of the most comedic one-liners delivered in the flick, spoken by someone else in response to something he does.

Again, the story.  The story is simple.  SPRING BREAK meets GIRLS GONE WILD meets JAWS.  An earthquake rips a crevice open in the surface of the lake.  And of course there was a prehistoric predatory beast lurking in a huge underwater lake that is now connected to Lake Victoria.  All of those spry young party-goers are in for quite a shock.

The set-up is simple, the execution is excellent.  There are a bevy of build-up kills that tempt the pallet, but once this thing kicks off for real, all rules are out the window and let the blood flow like wine!

The plot unfolds primarily at two, at the Lake Victoria harbor where the party is really hitting full-stride...and two, the "Wild Wild Girls" boat which is out and about around the lake.  The outing is led by O'Connell and his local-guy guide Jake, who reluctantly jumped in to try to impress Kelly, his "she's not my girlfriend" girlfriend.  He had told his mom that he would babysit his little brother and sister.  Of course, the youngin's get into their own hot water and all of their paths cross at points later in this bloody adventure.

Story is not what matters here.  The blood and gore are everything that this movie is all about.  Done effectively and efficiently, there are some scenes that have earned themselves places in the HORROR HALL OF FAME.

I loved watching this movie, but I only liked the movie itself.  I loved the practical effects and not-so-much the digital ones.  The tale that spun it all together was weak, but really, does it matter with a movie like this?  A solid 3.5 horns out of 5 and life is good with this homage to campy horror!

There is definitely room for a sequel, but the big question is, should there be one?  One of the biggest mistakes played out by great camp is that the concept is taken two far.  Minus the potential for TROLL 2: PART 2, most campy horror should be left alone after a successful first go.  Cases in point, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, the original Piranha, etc... 

A side note about the 3-D.  I saw this in Real-D and I was impressed some of the time.  Other times, the effect made much of the broad sweeping shots look like unimpressive poorly shot matte paintings.  Perhaps they were, but giving depth-of-field can drop background focus and it happens here to almost a fault.

The movie is short at 89 minutes.  This is a super smart move for a flick like this.  Many movies that aspired to be more would have benefited from a little slice and dice in the editing room.  Leave the 2-hour plus efforts to the Christopher Nolan's of the world.  Also, this film earned every bit of its R-rating.  This was how horror exploitation was intended to be. 

I wouldn't have done anything differently and Aja can hold his head high.

Up against The Switch and Nanny McPhee, it actually looks like The Expendables will take the weekend.  Piranha came in 5th for Friday, but it is only playing 3-D and it is a hard R, both points that will hurts its overall weekend.  Vampires Suck and Lottery Ticket, the other two newbies this week, actually rocked second and third.  God help us if VAMPIRES SUCK grabs a top-five spot.  It is the type of movie that doesn't even rise to the level of badly made TV-movies. 

Piranha 3-D = 3.5 horns for the flick, but an honorary 5 horns for a great time at the theater.  A good time (or sad time, or scary time, etc.) is really all you can hope for any time you make the trip to the cinema.  A good time was had and the Reel Rhino can rest happy.

Till later, take care...RR

PS...I often love the evolution of a movie poster.  JAWS was the innovator, Piranha (1978) parodied the oh so recognizable JAWS spot, and again in PIRANHA 3-D, we again see the tribute.

No comments:

Post a Comment