The back of the case says, “Sea, Sex and… Blood!” It takes place on a lake, so no ‘sea;’ there’s no actual sex, but a fair amount of nudity; as for the blood? yes.
This remake of the Roger ‘King of B Movies’ Corman’s film of the same name from 1978, shares little similarity in plot, but does explore the same theme of topless young ladies being nibbled by angry fish.
The setting is Lake Victoria, a tourist-trap town overrun with college kids on spring break. Jake Forester is a high school student that wants to join in on the fun, but is cock-blocked his mom (also the town sheriff, played by Elizabeth Shue (giving the role far more credibility than it requires)), who gives him the onerous task of babysitting his little siblings.
His responsibilities fly out the window when he meets Derrick Jones, played by Jerry O’Connell (Sliders), or more specifically, Derrick’s busty model, Danni. Derrick, a sleazy, Girls Gone Wild-type of video producer hires young Jake as a location scout.
All of this would be leading up to a silly teen sex comedy, were it not for the prehistoric piranhas that were released from an underwater lake by an earthquake.
There are two main arcs to the movie. The first focuses on the sheriff-mom slowly unraveling the mystery of what’s killing people on the lake, and then discovering just how big the problem really is. There’s a good build up of tension, and just the right mix of kills and fake-outs to keep you guessing at any given moment. This is the gore focused arc
The sub plot with Jake and Derrick Jones is basically the breast focused arc. There’s a poorly developed side story about Jake and a girl-next-door, who he insists isn’t his girlfriend (but we’re all supposed to know that he loves her) except we’re really given no reason to think that he does care about her, or any reason why he would. What really makes the Derrick arc is Jerry O’Connell. He so commits to the role, that it’s down right compelling. He’s not just an erratic pervert, he’s also manipulative and violent; he could have made a decent villain if it weren’t for the piranhas.
This is one of those movies that delivers exactly what it promises. The gore effects deserve special mention, a combination of makeup and cg create some stunning, and believable images of half eaten bodies. It’s probably the area most improved over Corman’s original.
There was actually not as much nudity as I would have expected. There’s a lengthy naked swimming scene shot underwater, but it’s so processed it kind of looks like computer animation, which detracts from its effectiveness.
Director Alexandre Aja manages to make an exploitation movie that doesn’t feel sleazy. It really captures the feel of Corman’s ’70s – ’80s films, and the lighthearted fun that made them so watchable.
Piranha is much better than it needed to be, and much better than most directors would have done it. The production values are great, and the cast is made up of people hired for their acting ability (the film opens with an awesome cameo, by the way).
I watched the 2D Blu Ray, which looks and sounds very nice. It includes a bunch of features and a commentary.