At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Piranha “2010”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Horror-Comedy/ Stars: Elisabeth Shue, Steven R. McQueen, Adam Scott, Jerry O’Connell, Jessica Szohr, Kelly Brook, Riley Steele, Ving Rhames, Dina Meyer, Christopher Lloyd, Richard Dreyfuss, Ricardo Chavira, Paul Scheer, Cody Longo, Sage Ryan, Brooklynn Proulx, Devra Korwin, Eli Roth, Ashlynn Brooke, Bonnie Morgan, Genevieve Alexandra, Gianna Michaels, Franck Khalfoun, Jason Spisak/ Runtime: 88 minutes

Well here we go again dear reader! Time for us to once again take a spin on the ol’ wheel of remake, reimagining, or reboot and let’s see where we wind up. Well today it looks like the ol’ wheel, after a few faulty starts, has decided to rest comfortably upon iconic film helmer Roger Corman’s delightfully corny as Kansas on the 4th of July low-budgeted gem Piranha from 1978 and surprisingly I feel it should be said that out of all the films the world of movie magic could line up to be remade this is actually not a bad choice (shocking I know). I say this not because the original film is one that you might think of as a “terrible slice of cinematic pie”, actually it is not too bad for the kind of cinematic pie that it is. Rather it is because not only is there quite a bit of creativity to be mined from a film like this one, but also because I feel remaking films that might not be as well know instead of going after films that everyone knows, I’m looking directly at you as I type that 1998’s Psycho, should be the path that Hollywood should take more strolls down if they’re going to continue to toss creativity on the proverbial bonfire. Indeed by doing this not only will seem novel to the everyday film watcher, but you won’t have as much outcry as you normally would and instead people will be able to see your film as both amusing and just wanting to make a little money or in this film’s case layering the film with both beautiful people and buckets upon buckets of blood and body parts in equal measure. Suffice it to say then that the 2010 take on Piranha is one that, with the help of a game cast and crew, takes what came before and goes as far as it can with it, or at least as far as the MPAA will permit, and in the process gives us an amusing and slightly cheesy throwback-style horror flick that anyone without a strong stomach need not sit down and attempt to watch in the slightest (trust me: you’ll thank me later).

The plot is as follows: Piranha takes us to a locale in the great state of Arizona known as Lake Victoria where Spring Break is not just a party; it’s a way of life. Indeed this is a town where the welcome sign should just read “Welcome to Lake Victoria! Hot girls, fast boats, and buckets of booze served up daily!” Indeed suffice it to say that when our story begins, the annual beer chugs, the wet t-shirt competitions, and all other delightful acts of debauchery all seemed revved up and ready to go and in the process swarm the town with both cash to spare and enough drunk teenagers to fill 5 drunk tanks….that is of course before the beer bottle. By that I mean when a local fisherman accidentally pushes his beer bottle overboard, the soft thud of the bottle on the lakebed inadvertently triggers a chain reaction that releases scores of blood-thirsty…what else (?) piranha from a long hidden underwater lair. To that end, we see them viciously devour our poor fisherman friend and quickly set their blood thirsty gaze on the moronically inebriated spring breakers who for the most part look like they are cast members of the latest Hostel film (a tad bit ironic especially when you realize the director of Hostel is also the host of the town’s wet t-shirt contest). Whilst all of this is going on, we also see the head of the police force in town, one Julie Forester, has assigned her son Jake to keep an eye on his younger siblings even though he would rather join in the festivities instead and maybe spend some time with his crush Kelly who’s just come back from college for the week. Yet whilst Jake is successful in lovingly bribing his siblings to stay home and out of any kind of mischief, he finds some of his own when he and Kelly find themselves stuck on a party boat with a degenerate filmmaker by the name of Derrick whose filmmaking specialty is that of the….sleazy variety if you get my drift. Suffice it to say all of our delightful cast is about to come under siege from a bloodthirsty fish with an attitude and I think it is reasonable to assume that families won’t be the thing that is mercilessly torn apart by the time this film is done…..

Now it should be noted right off the bat that film helmer Alexandre Aja’s 2010 take on this property is one which with a zealous glee takes part in several time honored elements of horror cinema including a flimsy narrative, wild and crazy young people, and buckets upon buckets of blood and gore and actually operates more as an exercise in over the top debauchery from beginning to end and yet that is exactly the point of the film. Indeed as raunchy and debauchery-filled as it may be, this film is one which sets forth with the idea in mind to engage and entertain those who are either old or mature enough to comprehend the joke and go with it. Yes there is no spoiler to let you know that this movie is giving those who watch it no more and no less than sex and violence and those who engage in those things most assuredly get their fill of both in equal measure. Indeed when scantily clad females aren’t suggestively dancing in full view of the camera or when well-endowed women aren’t swimming around in their birthday suits as it were, the film is throwing our way a series of assorted half eaten corpses and body parts to such an astonishing degree that the potent vileness of what we are seeing is balanced out by a playful vibe. Yes some of the special effects work is comically bad, but it is obvious that a fair amount of this film’s budget went into making the gore look as real as they could. Suffice it to say then that Piranha, as purposely comically as it should be, is really only for those of you out there with stomachs of solid iron. Suffice it to say you have been warned.

Thus in case you haven’t put it together by now, this version of Piranha is, at its core, completely devoted to selling interested movie goers all the sexual content and gore they could want and basically tossing everything else that the majority of films try to work in like an actual plot or characters that we can actually care about overboard for the titular fish to feast on. Indeed none of that “artsy material” winds up here and honestly it’s not like it was needed at any rate. I say that because this film is one that is religiously devoted to pushing the envelope and then some and when judging the film on that this is a true triumph. Yes what little narrative construction there is in this film was integral, but even the most elemental narrative components would have managed to be an obstruction to what the audience is really here to see even if it would’ve helped the film stay on steady ground whilst also giving movie goers a respite from the chaos. That being said, this film still somehow takes way too long to rev up, but thankfully the middle and end of the film more than pick up the slack. Tragically, despite that this film does fall prey to operating with a fake degree of tension in certain points such as when Jake’s little sister cuts her foot underwater and the blood brings on the bloodthirsty titular fish. This is because no matter how far the movie might be willing to go, it’s never in question that it won’t stoop to show us as audience members a child being eaten alive, so all of the tension is effectively canceled before it even has a chance to get going. Be that as it may be, you can’t completely claim the film doesn’t try. In fact, for what this film does this is actually a triumph in some ways especially when you realize that despite some issues with tempo early on, this is a film that runs its gauntlet in, credits included, a couple minutes shy of an hour and a half which I feel is a spot-on runtime for a film that really is little more than a speedy yet filthy little voyage into a world that can best be described as a Saw movie meets the very….lively shall we say atmosphere and sleaze factor of a Girls Gone Wild tape.

Perhaps then the most surprising thing about this seriously depraved in the best ways possible slice of cinematic pie is not just the cast that they managed to get in this, but the fact that they actually give performances in this that are genuinely, if not downright astonishingly, good. Indeed in the role of Julie, we get a wonderful performance from Elisabeth Shue who manages to bring just the right mix of humanity, mama grizzly, and just plain action heroine to the role. Indeed this could have easily been a one-note kind of role, but Elisabeth Shue takes the role and really makes it her own. We also get delightful support work from such noted thespians as Adam Scott who, despite his comic persona, actually does a fairly dang good job in this, personal favorite Ving Rhames who, in the role of Deputy Fallon, is amazing plus gets one heck of an exit from the film to Jerry O’Connell who is delightfully slimy and despicable in the role of Derrick and I do have to admit: he does get his comeuppance in a manner that is sickening yet oddly satisfying especially when taking into account just how much of a jerk he’s been through the whole film. Oh and yes I guess I should also point out that the 2 teens at the bloody heart of this story do actually decent work and do have pretty decent chemistry with each other. With that being said though, the two most amazing performances are ones that are played by none other than Christopher Lloyd and Richard Dreyfuss. Yes you should know that their roles in this aren’t that big, but the fact that these 2 distinct icons would agree to be in a delightfully schlocky fest like this and actually have fun whilst doing it really does lend this film an astonishing degree of credibility that it might otherwise be sorely lacking.

All in all regardless of what you may have thought about films like this one before and after this one came out in the long gone year of 2010, I can honestly say that there really truly is nothing even remotely fishy about this film (save perhaps the absolutely horrendous pun I just made in regards to this film, but I digress). Indeed make no mistake dear reader: Piranha is a demonically amusing little film that is vacant on both a theme and pathos level, but it is very difficult to criticize a movie for having no taste when depravity is this much to begin with. Suffice it to say then that Piranha is a film whose endgame is to completely gross you out whilst throwing in enough attractive bodies along the way to ogle at. Indeed it’s a teenager’s version of Heaven and the headache of protective parents everywhere. Yes mainstream cinema really at times doesn’t get much less classy than this, but if you are the kind of movie goer who loves a good booster shot of said depravity whilst not possessing any hard feelings about what it is you are watching then I think it is safe to say that Piranha is most definitely the film for you. On a scale of 1-5 I give Piranha “2010” a solid 3.5 out of 5.