Director Alexander Aja gets tension. I thought his Hills Have Eyes remake was great and even High Tension, despite its ridiculous twist ending, had some decent scares (just watching the latter’s trailer still gives me chills).
Aja’s newest film, Piranha 3D, is out in theaters today, and promises to take 3D back to its gimmicky heyday. But the film’s release schedule has not been a smooth one and the 3D was an upconversion job. Does the movie deliver on some old school horror thrills? Hit the jump for some of my thoughts and let us know what you think in the comments section. As usual, assume spoilers follow after the break and in the comments.
Piranha opens with a fantastic homage to Jaws, but then slows down for a good 30-40 minutes to set things up before finding some steam again. Nonetheless, Aja throws a bunch of great actors/cameos our way to keep us entertained, including Christopher Lloyd, playing a marine biologist version of Doc Brown, and the lovely Elisabeth Shue, playing a badass local sheriff. By far the cast’s weakest link is Steven R. McQueen, the film’s star. I don’t envy him, as he’s forced to make an impression while juxtaposed with the likes of Eli Roth and Jerry O’Connell, both of whom are viciously chewing on the scenery. It’s a difficult task and I don’t think McQueen is quite up for the challenge.
Still, all of this is forgivable because of the audacious main set piece of the film, a true tour de force in horror cinema. Two thirds of the way through the film, as thousands of piranhas began viciously devouring hundreds of sexy co-eds one by one while crazed bystanders attempted to claw their way to safety (only to exacerbate their plight), my mind boggled at the logistical complexities of putting this film together. As Aja once put it, “The movie takes place during Spring Break and, of course, the studio wanted it ready for the summer, but if you’ve got 1000 people who need to get murdered in the water, you have to wait for the right temperature for the water, for the weather, for everything.” I can only say that the results were worth it.
[For those wondering about the 3D: I found it hit-or-miss. Some of it worked quite well, as characters thrust pointy, violent objects towards the screen. Other shots were so horrible that I could almost see the "seams" of the upconversion. Overall, though, it feels like they tried a lot harder compared with other upconversion jobs such as Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender and it does make a slight difference in your enjoyment of the film, not to mention the kitsch value].
I had a good time and came away with a healthy appreciation for Aja’s boldness. But what did you guys think?