In 2010, there were few films that piqued my interest as much as Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D. The promise of a tongue-in-cheek 3D remake of a b-movie classic, loaded to bore with blood, boobs, and…err…more boobs, and helmed by the man behind High Tension and the underrated Hills Have Eyes remake, well, in my sick little world, that was the very definition of “must-see”. I didn’t get to theaters to see it, but I knew that it would hit 3D Blu-ray soon enough and I’m only a tiny bit embarrassed to admit that this was a big reason why I decided to take the plunge and get myself a 3D television set. Lame? Sure; but after seeing Kelly Brook performing a full-frontal nude underwater ballet in 3D so realistic she may as well be floating in the middle of my living room, oh so very worthwhile. Oh, and it’s also a pretty goshdarned fun movie, to boot.
Piranha opens with a funny little homage to Jaws (there are actually several in the film), with Matt Boyd (Richard Dreyfuss) fishing in the middle of Lake Victoria, whilst singing the same song Hooper, Brody, and Quint sang on the Orca after exchanging bite stories. He tosses an empty beer into the water, and we watch as it sinks slowly, hitting the bottom just as sudden seismic creates a chasm that opens up to a long hidden sub-lake, and its carnivorous denizens. Boyd is summarily shredded by a school of prehistoric piranha.
Meanwhile, back in town, Lake Victoria prepares itself for the annual onslaught of horny teenagers and college students arriving for Spring Break. Sheriff Julie Forester (the still-incredibly-hot Elisabeth Shue) has her hands full for the week and is counting on her teenage son, Jake (Steven R. McQueen) to watch over his little brother and sister while mom keeps the horndogs and perverts under control. Jake, however, has other plans, as sleazy porn producer, Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell) has hired Jake to serve as his guide on his T&A tour of the lake, where “Wild, Wild Girls”, Danni (Kelly Brook…yikes!) and Crystal (Riley Steele…double yikes!), plan to live up to their moniker. Like any self-respecting teenage boy, Jake bribes his siblings to cover for him while he joins Derrick and the girls, but things are further complicated when Jake’s crush, Kelly (Jessica Szohr) invites herself along for the ride, putting a damper on Jake’s hormonally charged plans. While Jake and the gang make for scenic sites for sexy situations, Julie accompanies underwater seismologist Novak (Adam Scott) and his team of divers to the site of the tremor where they soon discover (in most brutal fashion) that the predatory fish have made their way into the lake. Now, as the lives of thousands of Spring Breakers hang in the balance, Julie and Novak must rush clear the lake before the piranha crash the party.
Piranha 3D never, for a moment, takes itself seriously. Everything about this film is completely over-the-top, from the insane amount of gore to the sheer amount of skin on display, this is an exercise in excess that will force a smile out of even the most jaded of viewers. Fans of the female form will rejoice at the amount of bouncing breasts and bare buttocks on display here, while gorehounds will be in second heaven with the seemingly endless carnage of the film’s third act, where literally anything that can be bitten in half, chewed off, serrated, or stripped down to the bone is done so without a hint of restraint. It’s all held together by a surprisingly smart script, a great cast (which also includes Christopher Lloyd as the local marine life expert, Ving Rhames as Julie’s tough-yet-tender deputy, Fallon, and Eli Roth as a wet T-shirt contest host), and very polished direction by Aja. Yes, the titular creatures look a bit cartoonish at times and, as is the case with the bulk of 3D films I’ve seen thus far, some of the CGI work is a bit suspect, but this is a film that knows it’s cheese, albeit an runny, expensive, especially smelly French variety.
Sony chums the waters with a pair of 2.40:1 transfers, one in 3D, of course, and the other in traditional 2D. The 3D transfer is surprisingly bright and vivid, with a convincing sense of depth and dimension, and some very effective “eye-poking-action” (I’m trade marking that). This is a traditional 3D film in that much time is spent emulating the 3D b-movies of yore, with lots of stuff exploding toward the camera, body parts floating in your face, and things shooting out of the screen at you in intentionally cheap and gimmicky fashion. It all works pretty damned good, too; amongst the best I’ve seen, actually, but, much like the 3D flicks it pays homage too, much of what makes it so much fun in 3D looks super cheap and surprisingly…well…bad in 2D. I also found the 2D transfer to be a bit murkier and more washed out in terms of vibrancy, which is odd as it’s usually the other way around. I mean, it’s perfectly watchable, but, when compared to the 3D transfer, it’s no contest. Then again, this is a movie that’s really meant to be seen in 3D, so you can’t fault it for not looking great otherwise.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track is a rich and atmospheric track, with a nicely balanced mix that features organic and clear sounding dialogue, thumping bass, and a host of directional effects that make for an experience that’s as aurally immersive as it is visual.
Upon first glance, it doesn’t seem as though Sony gave this one much by way of extras, but, once you get past the initial menu, you’ll discover that’s far from the case. In addition to a fun commentary track with Aja, producer/collaborator Gregory Levasseur, and producer Alix Taylor, we are given a mammoth making of documentary that runs longer than the film! Presented in ten easily digestible bits, Don’t scream, just swim - Behind the scenes of Piranha 3D offers an exhaustive look at everything from the inception of the film to post production, with loads of interviews, FX dissections, and much, much more. Rounding out extras are BD-Live functionality and trailers for other Sony releases.
Piranha 3D is a wild and wacky throwback to 80’s horror excess, with more gratuitous gore and nudity than I’ve seen in ages. It’s 3D presentation is amongst the best I’ve seen for home consumption, but, while perfectly watchable, the 2D version doesn’t pack nearly the visual punch. Still, the beauty of the Blu-ray is the fact that you get both, so those who’ve yet to upgrade to 3D can buy this, enjoy the film and bountiful supplements in 2D, and not have to worry about purchasing another disc if they choose to make the step to 3D later.