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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

14/01/2011

Friday. Traditionally my day off, as it is today, although it barely feels like it. A week of distractions and the restarting of my kung fu training left an accumulating list of chores and errands that needed to be completed today and which successfully absorbed the morning and most of the afternoon. Relaxing? No. But it is a relief to have got it all out of the way and the list included vital tasks such as buying a cycle helmet and probably more vitally cleaning out the sadly neglected fish tank before the poor little buggers suffocated in their own grime. It’s the second time this week I’ve done this and conditions in the tank have improved massively, the little fishes perking up significantly. While its difficult to feel much affection for fish, they aren’t particularly cute and you can’t exactly cuddle them, I have grown rather used to them being around and would be disappointed to see anything happen to them. I’d venture so far as to even consider them on the cute side. Unlike the protagonists in last nights Blu Ray hi-def extravaganza Piranha 3D.

Sitting in that disaster genre subset where nature’s creatures turn against mankind that can trace its lineage from The Birds through Jaws, Tremors, Jurassic Park and even Outbreak it is the tale of a previously thought extinct, prehistoric species of voracious piranha that gets released from an underground lake just in time for spring break. There will be spoilers ahead, but it is fair to say that the simplicity of its plot and lack of any kind of surprises renders the term slightly redundant.

An earth tremor cracks open a previously sealed underground lake releasing the deadly fish into the lake on the surface that is heavily populated by idiotic American youths celebrating spring break. Meanwhile, local lad Jake (son of the sheriff) gets hired by a “Girls Gone Wild” style porn producer to show him the local beauty spots for shooting soft porn scenes. There’s about half an hour of the least erotic or amusing nudity ever comitted to film. Then everyone gets eaten by fish. Thats it. Its not even funny. Well, its a tiny little bit funny a couple of times but is largely humourless. Apparently the film makers decided to put together an 18 certificate film for a 12 certificate audience. Oops.

As far as I can tell the basic premise was to get Kelly Brook to get her boobs out and then depict many people being savaged by killer fish. As a gorefest it sort of works and some of the makeup effects are quite impressive. There are lots of half eaten people moments where limbs have been stripped to the bone and organs are left dangling that should satisfy gore fans. I found some of it really distasteful. Normally I have little issue with violence and gore, I quite enjoy a nice splatter flick, but there was something about the combination of the slaughter in the middle of the attempts at pre-pubescent titillation that left a nasty taste in my mouth. It doesn’t have the honesty of a truly extreme horror but it lacks the humour of a more light hearted effort (like Tremors, for example).

The porn producer sub plot is feeble as well. No doubt if challenged on it they would claim to be parodying the “Girls Gone Wild” soft porn industry. Personally it looks an awful lot like they are just joining in rather than lampooning. There is a spectacularly dull and slightly odd underwater girl-on-girl scene that somebody probably thought was a brilliant idea (it’ll be in 3D! brilliant!) and probably seemed like it to any twelve year olds who managed to see the film but it did nothing for me (although this may be because I have seen real boobs – also as it happens in 3D). It is via these thinly veiled soft porn elements that the disturbing crossover of titillation and slaughter occurs. Sort of like a demented, psychopathic issue of FHM.

I can’t testify as to the efficacy of the 3D elements. I don’t have a 3D tv and I hate watching anything in the red/blue 3D effect as it hurts my head. It was obvious where the 3D effects were placed in the film, mostly the result of cheap rate CGI. I do remember seeing a trailer for it ahead of Avatar and thinking the effects shown in the trailer were pretty piss poor, but then I have a seriously low opinion of 3D anyway so I may not be the best judge. I found them really obtrusive but that was probably because I wasn’t watching it as intended.

The thing that disturbed and confused me was the cast. Richard Dreyfuss (in an admittedly miniscule role that served only as a clumsy Jaws reference), Ving Rhames as the Deputy Sheriff (oh how his career has spiralled ever downwards since the glory days of Pulp Fiction) and Christopher Lloyd as the resident fish expert who identifies the species of fish that threatens everyone. Eli roth also makes an appearance (although his presence seems strangely appropriate) and his cameo is cut mercifully short with a rather well put together decapitation. Certainly Lloyd and Dreyfuss should have had more self respect than to appear in a film of this (lack of) calibre? Presumably they thought, as I did, that it would have had the same humour and self awareness that Tremors had or would be a more affectionate homage to the genre rather than a pathetic attempt at teenage arousal. Maybe they didn’t and just took the cash. Who knows. All I know is, if I could do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t bother.

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