Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer of Scares: Piranha 3DD (D)

Despite only being my second entry into the freshly conceived "Summer of Scares" running feature, I'm already beginning to rethink whether the benefits obtained from viewing these hypothetically terrifying features will be greater than the costs involved. I developed the idea mostly because very few horror movies had been reviews on the site (The Cabin in the Woods and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil were the only two, and both were more dark comedy than actual horror) despite it being a genre I'm very interested and compelled by, and believed the more diverse set of reviews, the better. It also helped that by coincidence, I'd watched both indie horror flicks Keyhole and the Australian shocker The Loved Ones within a three day period. However, all this setup leads me to the question; what necessarily makes a horror movie a horror movie? Is it the brutality of violence, the lengths a director is willing to go for shock value, a screenwriter's desire to play to the genre's conventions, simply focusing on a disturbing subject? While this definition changes individually, to me, the answer to this question is that the film must be unsettling to a certain extent. Blood, gore, jump scares, kills, and psychological torture are the bonuses; being troubled by the film itself is what includes it into the genre. It's because of this definition that I'm slightly rethinking the feature, or at least its criteria: Piranha 3DD, John Gulager's ludicrous, tedious sequel to the 2010 unexpected surprise success, despite containing a decent amount of decapitation, fails to meet even my fairly low expectations for the genre.

Before essentially ripping this movie apart like the crudely CGI'd piranhas featured in the film, let me make this very clear: Please don't believe I'm grading this movie the same way I'd critique any heavy drama, or big-budget action adventure. I understand I'm reviewing a movie whose very name is a pun on a bra size, and probably has the budget of the average direct-to-dvd torture porn, and am treating it as such. Though I didn't necessarily love it as much as the consensus, I also found its predecessor to be enjoyable on whole, and occasionally riveting in the most pulpy way imaginable, so you know I'm not an absolute buzzkill. Okay, after getting this tiny, but necessary acknowledgement of our circumstances out of the way, we can begin.
Replacing the original bizarre, but memorable cast of Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Kelly Brook, Jerry O'Connell, and Paul Scheer, with a group of generic college aged stereotypes and David Hasselhoff, the film immediately gets off to a bad start before the failed scares even begin due to the lost likability of its cast. Other than Hasselhoff, the only two recognizable actors not playing cameos are David Koechner (Anchorman) and Katrina Bowden (Tucker and Dale vs. Evil), who are wasted by an abysmal script which forces them to play their mediocre stereotypes as "The Douche" and "The Good Girl". Bowden especially has proven she can be excellent in dumb horror almost parodies from Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, but as stated before, is absolutely wasted. The only two who leave the film unscathed are Scheer and Rhames, who briefly reprise their roles in a set of cameo performances. A two minute, entirely improved scene between the two involving a lazy river is probably the highlight of the film.
In a movie like this, it seems difficult for the piranha related violence to come off dull and unenjoyable, but it's true. It not only fails to live up to its predecessor's Saving Private Ryan styled beach invasion, which would be understandable considering director Alexandre Aja's ambition toward the sequence, but can't even prove to be entertaining. Mostly reheated leftovers, Gulager simply cuts to various shots of people on water slides while being attacked, and most of the violence remains out of view. Only Koechner's death proves to be anything that hasn't already been done bigger and better by Piranha 3D.
In order for a film to qualify as horror in my opinion, all it has to be is unsettling, which this film cannot succeed at. A horribly failed attempt to aim for the lowest common denominator, hopefully between this and Keyhole, the bad luck for the "Summer of Scares" feature was a fluke, and we'll be back on track for the films of the future.

Grade: D
Level of Terror: None
Note: This movie wasn't seen in 3D(D), but I don't think the glasses will do anything more than bring mediocrity to the third dimension. However, if you've got a hankering for crudely CGI'd piranhas in your face that cannot be contained, go for it. Just don't say I didn't warn you for the film in general.
Bonus Note: Sigh, just discovered that this movie had a $20 million dollar budget. My new theory is that this movie was one gigantic scam against the Weinstein brothers, because there's no possible way all of it was spent for the film.
Just One More Note: Oh yeah, Gary Busey is in this movie. He plays a hick farmer who lights a cow's fart on fire, and later bites the head of a piranha. Do I smell an Oscar, anyone?

1 comment:

  1. Good review David. I thought this movie was so bad and even though I knew what to expect, I felt like they weren't even trying with this one. Thankfully, I didn't even need to go out and spend my money on this crapola.