Animal horror movies, or how someone once put it “animal documentaries”, are like slasher-movies: you don’t need an elaborate plot, character development (even if interesting characters is a bonus) or extra gimmicks or originality. It’s often enough to have a group of people in an isolated place or many people in an open space who are decimated by a wild beast/creature. Primal fun, so to speak. Now piranhas are a vicious breed (as Joe Dante’s original already showed), so how do these movies fare in the modern age and does 3D add more excitement and fun to them?
(USA 2010, director: Alexandre Ajas)
Alexandre Ajas seems to be the enfant terrible to many people when it comes to remakes. A lot of them hate him as he can’t tell a story and takes too many liberties with his source material, others find his reimaginings better than the original ones. I belong to the latter category, especially since he really knows how to use gore effectively. There’s never any washed-down compromise he makes in order to please everyone. That’s also the case with this movie. To begin with, Dante’s flick wasn’t in any way influential or did something completely original. It always felt like a more trashy version of Spielberg’s Jaws, but with less talking and more killing. It wasn’t a very good movie either as it took some time until the little beasts went on a rampage. In the remake you don’t have to wait, it already happens in the first couple of minutes. Then unfortunately it is let down a bit by some rather annoying characters and gratuitous nudity, although one has to be fair to say some is done in the context of the location (a rave party at the end of the American semester) and some is just so over-the-top (an underwater ballet) it’s almost brilliant in execution.
But we’re not here to discuss the merits of boobs, bums and what have you, but the piranhas themselves. And they are a vicious bunch. It’s safe to say that the last 30 minutes or so show a carnage seldom seen in animal horror and pretty bloody even in Ajas’ terms. So, yes it delivers more than the original does, and it even has Christopher Lloyd in a cameo as a nutty animal shop owner!
When it comes to the 3D effects, they are a bit of a disappointment. They’re without a doubt no selling point. I watched it on 2D and it works without the glasses pretty well. Only two scenes (one silly and one a bit too long and too obvious) stick out, so do the underwater scenes in their depth (not only in the nude ballet). The only problem one has is that the red/green-glasses solution doesn’t look very good. Especially in dark places it’s difficult to make out some details (but this was already a problem with the real glasses in the cinema!) and there’s no point in watching a horror flick without seeing red blood, is there?
(USA 2010, director: Eric Forsberg)
There are some movies which are so bad that you shake your head how this could have been released (like Troll 2), but which are entertaining nonetheless. Mega Piranha is one such movie. It has all the right (or wrong) ingredients: very bad acting (the main character only seems to have two facial expressions, the former 80ies singer Tiffany doesn’t even seem to know what acting is), awful special effects (some disguised in very dark scenes at night), not to forget a soundtrack and cinematography which are completely missing the point. Its fast pacing and changing of story (?) segments and scenery reminds you of Michael Bay productions, but they seldom fit in together. Characters and places are introduced in snapshot-fashion and text describing their position or purpose. It’s unbelievably fast, stupid and so hilarious you can’t help but laugh. Unlike other The-Asylum-productions the delivery of the lines, the action scenes and everything else is done in an over-the-top style it’s not getting boring. Of course it’s utter nonsense and doesn’t in the least compare with Ajas’ remake, but then it’s a completely different story with bad actors and very bad special effects.
The same can be said about the 3D version. So far only available in Germany, it looked suspicious as it wasn’t shot in 3D. Again only using the red/green glasses (unlike the option on the UK BD of Piranha to switch to the 3D-BD) I first thought they just mixed up the colors so that you had to use them in a different way (like some other publishers did with the very bad 3D-versions of A.P.E.). Still you only get a slight hint of depth in some scenes. But what makes the 3D version really bad is that details are lost (a weird mixture between BD and DVD picture quality) and the framerate isn’t consistent. So they messed up big time. Avoid the 3D version at any cost, give the B/C-movie a chance, though!