Death lurks just beneath the surface in Piranha, an intentionally B-grade horror film from gore-master Alexandre Aja. More concerned with blood, guts and the shaking asses of college girls than legitimate scares, Piranha nonetheless delivers on expectations, whatever they are.
In Piranha, it's spring break time at a popular resort town where college students from across the country gather to wear next to nothing, dance, drink and have sex. For Sheriff Julie Forester (Oscar-nominated Elisabeth Shue), she soon realizes she has more than drunks on her hands: an underwater earthquake has unleashed a horde of flesh-eating piranhas.
The rest of the plot really doesn't matter, does it?
For Aja, Piranha (marketed as Piranha 3D in theaters) is both a departure for the director simultaneously fitting. His other horror flicks - High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes, Mirrors - are serious and dark; Piranha never takes itself very seriously for obvious reasons. And yet the movie's saving grace is its absurd gore, and that is where Aja thrives.
Piranha isn't a perfect movie nor does it have the traits of a cult classic. But it is consistently entertaining and insanely over-the-top, down to the explicitly cartoonish fish.
The movie has a decent amount of nudity, though not as much as you'd expect given the many, many scenes focused on scantily dressed women dancing on boats. But there's plenty of that, wet T-shirt contests and more - and plenty of people getting chewed to death by thousands of razor-teethed fish.
There's no point dwelling on the acting or writing (though with stars such as Shue, Ving Rhames, Richard Dreyfuss, Christopher Lloyd and Jerry O'Connell, it does feature some legitimate talent) - the movie lives and breathes on its gore.
When the full-on fish attacks arrive - highlighted by an orgy of death as hundreds of swimmers are assaulted simultaneously - Piranha really kicks into high gear and doesn't let up until the final second of the picture. There are several great death sequences scattered throughout.
Piranha could have been funnier or more exciting, but Aja has made a surprisingly entertaining movie that hits on enough right notes to make it worth your while. As long as "worth your while" involves women in bikinis and flesh being eaten from living bodies.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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