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'Piranha' remake a bloody good time

Article Published: Aug. 26, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Piranha' remake a bloody good time

Ving Rhames stars in 'Piranha 3-D.'

Piranha 3-D is like a Roman orgy of cinematic decadence, a gleefully gratuitous gore- and flesh-fest that knows its place and, surprisingly, does not bite.

In tackling the remake of Joe Dante's (Gremlins) 1978 horror-comedy, Piranha, director Alexandre Aja (2006's The Hills Have Eyes) does not hold back, and the weak-stomached and/or timid should beware.

Aja doesn't skimp on the blood, or the nudity, or the ridiculous setup that makes Piranha such a surprisingly fun and effective return to splatter-filled B-movies of yesteryear. The fact it's in 3-D, made expressly for such, adds to the novelty.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, only to be torn out by carnivorous fishes, Piranha wastes no time getting to the point.

When an earthquake opens an underwater chasm in Arizona's Lake Victoria, which just so happens to be the premiere spring break destination, hordes of prehistoric piranha are unleashed upon the lake's unsuspecting denizens and visitors.

That's the gist of it, but Aja goes above and beyond with colorful characters and caricatures whose actors bask in the two-dimensionality of it all. Elisabeth Shue (Back to the Future Part II) is superb as small-town sheriff Julie Forester, with Ving Rhames (Pulp Fiction) as her no-nonsense deputy.

As Forester patrols the consistently out-of-hand spring break festivities, her teenage son, Jake (Steven R. McQueen, TV's The Vampire Diaries), has plans of his own. Shirking the responsibility of babysitting his two young siblings, he instead seeks to impress his crush, Kelly (Jessica Szohr, TV's Gossip Girl), while stealing away to scout locations for the smarmy, debauched Derrick, producer of the video series Wild Wild Girls (think Girls Gone Wild).

As the body count begins to grow and the blood starts to flow, Forester's faced with the daunting task of closing the lake - a warning the revelers fail to heed. They pay for it with a playfully gruesome massacre scene, as our heroes attempt to ward off the hordes of man-eating fish by any means possible.

But when Derrick's party yacht gets stranded in the midst of it all, with Jake, his siblings and Kelly aboard, the tough-as-nails Forester must come to their rescue.

Throw in Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws) in an all-too-knowing cameo and Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) as an eccentric marine biologist, and the stage is set for B-movie fun.

The special effects are just as cheesy, a modern, computer-animated nod to the traditional, but equally cheesy, effects of the original, with Aja's piranhas taking on an almost Gremlin-like quality - even the vicious fish have a sense of humor, it seems.

The cinematography's also to be commended. Rather than succumb to the herky-jerky guerilla-style camera technique so popular in today's remakes, the camera remains steady so viewers can actually enjoy the carnage.

And the underwater scenes are some of the most effectively shot in horror cinema, placing viewers right in the piranhas' path, and with excellent sound editing to boot, making it feel like you're actually below the surface.

Needless to say, there's some 3-D gimmickry in there, like a slushy being thrown at one of our heroes. But there's also one of the most inventive scenes of gratuitous nudity, almost artistic at this point, involving two nymph-like beauties swimming and fondling underwater to the heavenly sounds of composer Leo Delibes' "Flower Duet."

In other words, there's nothing modest about Piranha 3-D. Like its computer-animated beasties, it's a film with teeth, and it isn't afraid to bare them.

Piranha 3-D, rated R for sequences of strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use, is playing at Regal Cinema 7.

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