Home Video Review: “Piranha”

Take a great cast, some gorgeous cinematography, an army of Spring Breakers, and a naked underwater ballet, stir in a few thousand man-eating fish and you’ve got the flesh-ripping good time “Piranha 3D.”

There’s no better way to open a film about deadly swimmy things than with Richard Dreyfuss sitting in a canoe, drinking beer—with one shot the tone is set for this tongue-in-cheek horror film about what happens when a school of prehistoric fish are unleashed from the murky depths below a Spring Break hotspot.

“Piranha” is a paint-by-numbers horror movie--it’s got all the elements of an ‘80s era blood fest, from horny younguns to angry monsters, a local cop with endangered kids, a morally sound young hero and heroine… As each character appears, you can determine in less than 10 seconds with 95% accuracy whether or not they’ll survive the film.

Directoo Alexandre Aja and his team conceive of every possible way for a fish to lay waste to a human being, as bodies are stripped, ground up, swallowed, halved—at times it’s really pretty disgusting. And they’re equally imaginative in disposing of the killer fish, employing dynamite, tasers, outboard motors, shot guns and handguns…. It’s quite an arsenal.

If you look past the buckets of blood, bikini-clad girls, soft-core porn shoot and assorted nonsense, you’ll also notice that the film is gorgeous to look at, like, “National Geographic Takes You to Lake Havasu” gorgeous. From the surrounding landscape to the lake’s surface to the deep underwater cave from which the menace is loosed, it’s really quite pretty.

The cast is a great mix of not-quites, has-beens and might-yet-bes, the likes of which you’d expect in a vintage disaster film, with Elizabeth Shue as the town sheriff, Ving Rhames as her deputy, Adam Scott as the geologist investigating the “lake under the lake,” Jerry O’Connell as a coked-up, tequila-fueled version of “Girls Gone Wild” impresario Joe Francis (is that redundant?) and Christopher Lloyd as the weird old scientist.

It’s important to remember that the film is intended to be seen in 3D, otherwise, there are moments that are lost on the average home viewer. While there are a few shots that you’ll regret not seeing in 3D, there are also one or two you’ll be grateful not to have seen in 3D.

As is often the case, the deleted scenes are no great shakes, leaving you nodding your head thinking, “They were smart to cut that out.” But there is one, featuring Paul Scheer, that gives you a pretty amusing peek at how the film’s more gruesome scenes were created. Among the featurettes, probably the best of them centers on how Aja and his team recreated Spring Break at Lake Havasu, using a mix of real footage and throngs of locals.

“Piranha 3D” is equal parts funny, gross, scary and smart, and more than stands up to a 2D viewing.

"Piranha" is now avaialble in Blu-ray 2D or 3D, and DVD

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