Piranha (2010)
Piranha (2010)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 28 min.

Release Date: August 20th, 2010 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Alexandre Aja Actors: Elisabeth Shue, Steven R. McQueen, Jerry O’Connell, Ving Rhames, Jessica Szohr, Kelly Brook, Riley Steele, Adam Scott, Dina Meyer, Christopher Lloyd




t an abandoned, Mesolithic Era Dig Site in the Arizona desert, Matt Boyd (Richard Dreyfuss, cast solely because of his recognizability from “Jaws”) guzzles beer and casually fishes in the bordering lake. When some seismic activity opens up a massive trench, which generates a whirlpool, Boyd succumbs to a school of hungry, nibbling, prehistoric piranha that swim up from the abyss. Meanwhile, at the nearby Lake Victoria beach town, spring break is in full swing, where bikini-clad girls are ready to drink and dance, unaware of the newly released killer fish.

Nerdy, bullied, local teen Jake (Steven R. McQueen) is one of the many would-be spring breakers, made more of an active participant this year when he picks up a spontaneous job offering from the director of the Wild Wild Girls porn website, Derrick Jones (Jerry O’Connell), who needs someone to show him all the hot spots in the area (officially, Jake will be a location scout). Despite the opportunity to be immersed in the leisure of jiggly-bosomed porn stars, he’s really only interested in the wholesome Kelly (Jessica Szohr), a school friend who is, of course, dating the completely wrong guy – a DJ named Todd (Cody Longo). It also doesn’t help that Jake’s mother, Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue), is the sheriff, who demands to be taken seriously, and needs a babysitter for her two other, younger children.

“Do you think a propeller could have done this?” Just like in “Jaws,” a couple of badly chewed victims wash up, causing the sheriff to contemplate shutting down the beach. But with the enormous influx of partiers, and the lack of firm autopsy reports, it will be virtually impossible to keep everyone out of the water. Unlike in “Jaws,” it’s not long before two of the porn stars, Danni (Kelly Brook) and Crystal (Riley Steele), engage in a balletic underwater swim, making out and caressing one another, completely in the nude. Though most of the characters simply enjoy the excess of revealed flesh, Jake begins to question the exploitive nature of pornography, while pretending not to mind the pushy peer pressure that finds Kelly experimenting with increasing promiscuity.

Since so much of “Piranha” focuses on naked bodies (including a wet t-shirt contest and more than one character chanting “boobies, boobies, boobies!”), there’s less time to explore opportunities for suspense. Nevertheless, it’s easy enough to build tension when unsuspecting people become submerged in murky waters infested with man-eating fish. Badly computer-animated feasters decrease the effectiveness, yet mutilated corpses and pockets of comic relief (including Christopher Lloyd as a white-haired, wild-eyed, overacting specialist) round out some expected horror movie tropes. And then there are additional exposed breasts, as if further flashes of undressed torsos are required to offset the action.

Eventually, the drunken revelers are turned into a goopy soup of torn skin and severed body parts (very much like from a zombie film), which isn’t as scary at is is simply, ludicrously gruesome. But since many of these violent sequences depend on CG, they aren’t always convincing; the moments that utilize prosthetics and makeup are briefer but far superior – and quite funny, in a repulsive sort of way. If the majority of “Piranha” wasn’t so comical (and, alternately, moronic), the bloodiness might have been genuinely horrific. By the end, the only memorable thing is the MPAA ratings-pushing quantity of graphic nudity.

– Mike Massie

  • 4/10