I make no apologies for my love of Piranha 3D, just as I refuse to feel bad for appreciating Snakes on a Plane. Call them guilty-pleasure films if you must, but there’s something to be said for a ridiculous, mindlessly enjoyable film in which creatures attack en masse.
Piranha 3D’s story is fairly simple, as it should be. Set in the fictional vacation town of Lake Victoria, a shift in the earth below the lake releases hordes of giant, prehistoric piranha that are hungry for human flesh and readily willing to devour the bodies of any and all spring-breakers partying in the lake.
While Jake (Steven R. McQueen) and his crush, Kelly (Jessica Szohr), escort the hilariously douchey pornographer Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell) on a boat around the lake to help him find the best locations for his Girls Gone Wild-esque Spring Break videos, Jake’s mother, who also happens to be the town Sheriff (Elisabeth Shue), is uncovering the piranha situation and attempting to get the drunken, sex-crazed spring-breakers out of the water. Of course, that proves to be a challenge, as is often the case when dealing with young people in horror movies. Isn’t it the rule of scary movies that overindulgence in sex and alcohol and a general disregard for the law leads to being massacred in some fashion or another? If so, Piranha 3D sticks to the code, as those misbehaving college kids get their due when the fish attack. Meanwhile, Jake, Kelly, and his new porn-making pals aren’t far away and have no idea what horrific threat is swimming around in the water beneath their boat...but they’re about to find out.
Rounding out the cast is Ving Rhames, playing the heroic deputy. Kelly Brook plays one of the actresses in Derrick Jones’ films. Adam Scott plays the on-hand seismologist diver. Christopher Lloyd is the town marine biologist, who offers some insight on the fish. And Paul Scheer plays Derrick’s right-hand man, porn cameraman and sometimes boat driver. There’s also a fantastic cameo by Richard Dreyfuss at the start of the film that pays a fitting tribute to the original “Don’t go in the water” classic, Jaws.
Director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) brings back everything that was great about those classic horror flicks from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Piranha 3D is delicious fun for those of us who can appreciate the simplicity of a good, old-fashioned gore-fest. More importantly, the movie never tries to take itself too seriously or be more than exactly what it is. There are plenty of moments to laugh out loud, as well as plenty that’ll probably turn your stomach. The special effects (with or without the 3D) work nicely for the most part, and if you’re looking for some horrific-looking bodily injuries, you’ll get your fill here. The film pulls no punches, delivering one bloodbath after another as the fish keep finding more food and never seem to tire of feeding.
Those with weak stomachs -- and/or those who take offense to seeing bared breasts, lost appendages, chewed-up skin and lots of blood -- will want to skip this one. For everyone else looking for a bloody good popcorn flick, Piranha 3D is worth checking out.
The screener copy we received was for the Piranha 3D Blu-Ray 3D, which is not to be confused with the regular Blu-ray, and this is important (I’ll get to that in a little bit). Watching the film in 3D requires a 3D-capable television. I don’t have one of those, so I can’t attest to the quality of the 3D film on Blu-ray. However, I did see it in the theater, and the 3D experience was great for this film. In fact, I remember the piranhas looking even better in 3D than they do in 2D.
Playing the disc forces you to watch a bunch of previews that have to be skipped trailer by trailer. I can’t stand that, as I tend to be impatient when it comes to getting to the good stuff. You have the option to play the film in 2D or 3D, as well as to view the bonus features, one of which is an excellent filmmakers' commentary featuring director Alexandre Aja and some of the other people involved in making the movie. Aja is French, but his English is great and I didn’t find the accent difficult to follow at all.
The commentary is interesting, but the real meat of the bonus features comes in the form of “Welcome to Piranha” featurettes. These are a collection of behind-the-scenes looks at various angles of the making of the film, from the developing of the story, to casting, the special effects, the location, deciding to shoot in 3D, and just about every other aspect of the film. While some of the cast, crew, producers, and special effects people participate throughout, it’s Aja’s participation, and most importantly his enthusiasm for the film, that really makes these featurettes so interesting.
Being European, Aja expresses an interesting outsider perspective on the concept of Spring Break, which is something that apparently doesn’t exist in Europe (at least not in the same way it’s done over here). Utilizing the annual ritual often celebrated by college students across the country becomes as important to the heart of the story as the fish do. That’s just one snippet of information you’ll come to understand while watching the featurettes. You can watch them piece by piece or use the convenient “play all” feature to enjoy all of them together like one big documentary on the making of the film.
Going back to the issue of the two separate Blu-ray editions (3D and regular/non-3D), you should know if you’re considering purchasing this film that the Blu-ray 3D’s bonus features are limited to the ones mentioned above. While the commentary and the “Welcome to Piranha” featurette are great, the regular (non-3D) version also offers deleted scenes (with optional commentary), deleted storyboard sequences, and Piranha 3D trailer and TV spots, in addition to the three bonus features featured on the Blu-ray 3D.
So, if you have a 3D TV, I recommend getting the 3D version, as this is a great movie to watch in 3D. If you don’t, however, save a few bucks and purchase the regular Blu-ray, as it offers a few more bonus features that don’t come with the 3D version. Either way, the film looks fantastic on Blu-ray and is certainly worth owning for horror film fanatics and anyone who can appreciate a fun, gory bloodbath of a movie.