Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Review : Piranha 3D

French director Alexandre Aja's last three pictures have all been straight horror movies. The first, Haute Tension (released in the UK as Switchblade Romance), being particularly hardcore - it features a great central performance from Cecile de France and the godfather of extreme French Cinema, Philippe Nahon (check out Gaspar Noƫ's Seul Contre Tous), as the homicidal maniac chasing her. It's a masterclass in hitchcockian suspense up there with the best of John Carpenter and Brian De Palma, let down only by a dumb twist in the closing minutes.

The success of Haute Tension meant that a move into American horror was inevitable, and Piranha 3D is now his third remake in a row (I guess that just comes with the territory!). Of the previous two, The Hills Have Eyes is serviceable but offers nothing over Wes Craven's original, and Mirrors (from Korean director Sung-ho Kim's film Into The Mirror) manages a few decent scares but is largely forgettable.

Piranha 3D is a different kettle of fish (sorry) altogether. A remake of the John Sayles scripted Joe Dante comedy/horror from 1978, it offers little in the way of social commentary that the original at least winked at. But what it lacks in nuance it certainly makes up for in nudity and gore.

Lots and lots of nudity and gore.

In 3D.

Joe Dante's film was made to cash-in on the phenomenal success of Jaws, following it's basic plot almost to the letter. And whilst Aja doesn't stray from this path either, his film has as much in common with Dante's later success, Gremlins, which more accurately sets the tone for this Cormanesque comedy horror.

It's almost impossible to shoot any predatory underwater sequences without bringing to mind Spielberg's film, and Aja confronts this head-on in a prologue featuring Richard Dreyfuss, dressed basically as Hooper, sitting in a boat singing 'Show Me The Way To Go Home' (The famous Roy Scheider chinese dolly shot on the beach is also on display here too).

Any film that stars Christopher Lloyd as a crazed icthyologist and features Eli Roth being decapitated has got to be worth something, and the whole film has such a gleeful disregard for political correctness that it's hard not to get swept along. Yes, it's silly and a little slow to get going, but once we're into the final act there's also a genuine sense of tension, punctuated by some particularly imaginative kills.

The CG work with the piranhas themselves isn't always brilliant, but there's always enough else going on for it not to be too major a distraction, and the 3D works surprisingly well. Those actors able to, perform with their tongues placed firmly in their cheeks, and as an unreconstructed throwback to 70s exploitation cinema it delivers enough blood, nudity and severed limbs to satisfy until the inevitable sequel.

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