Review: “Piranha 3DD”

Matt Bush and Danielle Panabaker star in John Gulager's "Piranha 3DD".Like the recent “Cabin in the Woods,” John Gulager’s “Piranha 3DD” proves that merely drawing attention to the cheap shortcomings of the horror genre does not equate to intelligently parodying them. Both films seem less interested in actual parody than the suggestion of parody — as if by consciously spewing garbage, the filmmakers will be able to engage in the fun of doing so without it hampering their reputations.

That said, “Cabin in the Woods” was a decent horror film in spite of this silly pretense; “Piranha 3DD” is not. Much of which has to do with intent. Whereas “Cabin”-makers Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard sought an excuse to play around with the anything-goes theatricality of the horror genre, Gulager simply wanted to engage in bottom-of-the-barrel, Skinemax-style smut. Early on in “Piranha 3DD,” a male character masturbates using a pool water-jet, moaning “She’s so wet!” Gulager’s mocking tone asserts that he intends this not as a straightforward joke, but as a self-aware spoof on the horror genre’s often awful attempts at male humor. Without any external commentary on said awful attempts, however, the scene becomes one itself.

“Piranha 3DD” is billed as a follow-up to Alexendre Aja’s far superior “Piranha 3D”–you can guess what the extra D stands for–but it is purely a sequel in the direct-to-video sense, spinning off the premise to feature an entirely new setting and group of characters. (Inexplicably, the movie has found its way into a select number of theaters, probably just to show off the 3-D effects.) The only returning actors are Christopher Lloyd and Ving Rhames, whose short cameos, in addition to those of Gary Busey and David Hasselhoff, undoubtedly cost the production the bulk of its $20 million budget.

This time around, the ancient piranhas have found their way into a water-park — conveniently, the country’s only water-park that features an “adults only” section for skinny dipping. Whereas the Aja original at least provided a spirited delivery of its tawdry T&A–the plot involved a porn shoot gone awry–this movie, true to its name, just throws boobs at the viewer left and right. The nudity is not accompanied by any sense of sexuality–in fact, the film’s only sex scene is played for comedy–and as a result fails at even base arousal. The abundant bare breasts are simply treated as chunks of meat (or, perhaps more accurately, silicone.)

The movie’s treatment of its horror elements is equally perfunctory. Gulager never orchestrates any tension leading up to the piranha kills; instead, he allows one attack after another to simply happen. Most of the time, there aren’t even close-ups of the piranhas in action; the third-act is made up largely of wide-shots of the blood-soaked pool, as if the viewer is supposed to imagine what’s taking place underwater. Either the filmmakers didn’t have the budget necessary to achieve the vivid deaths that made Aja’s original memorable, or they simply didn’t want to put in the time and effort.

Clocking in at 70 minutes sans credits–given the filmmakers’ juvenile sense of humor, it’s amazing they didn’t opt for 69–“Piranha 3DD” is hardly even a movie. It represents the bare minimum that was required for the studio to cash in again on the success of the original. Had director Gulager and the screenwriters attempted a studied parody of the genre (or a stylish, committed piece of trash in the vein of Aja’s film), then perhaps they would have achieved a modest entertainment. Alas, the “Piranha 3DD” they chose to make is little but a legal way to steal $10 from moviegoers’ wallets.


“Piranha 3DD” is currently available in 3-D in select theaters and in 2-D on Amazon Instant Video.