Hooper from Jaws is an old retired man who spends his days fishing and putting back a couple of beers. One day however he accidentally causes a crack under his fishing hole in Lake Victoria. As the water spirals downward into the crevice a horde of pre-historic piranha swim forth devouring him as they turn their sights to the rest of Lake Victoria where the annual Spring Break debauchery caused by thousands of young drunk kids commences. Sheriff Julie Forester has enough problems with keeping all the drunks at bay but after discovering the half eaten body she is forced to call in an aquatic research team to figure out what's going on. Her son has other plans as he embarks on helping Derrick Jones the founder of Wild Wild Girls maneuver Lake Victoria and find secluded spots to film his raunchy internet videos. As the mysteries of the Piranha become unlocked, Sheriff Forester has to convince the many party going boats on the lake to disperse for their own safety as well as find her kids who have themselves been trapped on the lake by the Piranha. Of course drunken sorority and frat kids don't listen and the Piranha feast on the platter before them turning the lake red with blood!
The premise alone is completely ridiculous but Aja is so meticulous with every aspect of constructing this movie that it all balances while still giving us an amazing summer horror film which honestly you can't get anymore. Being such a throwback movie he gives us an amazingly old school cast. When I say Hooper from Jaws unleashes the Piranha, they change his name, but Richard Dreyfuss dresses up exactly like he did as Hooper and opens the film dying by the mouths of the Piranha after surviving the shark. Elisabeth "Adventures in Babysitting" Shue comes out of nowhere as a total badass Sheriff mom who, when she's not busy taking down douchy frat bros with ease, is maneuvering around sinking boats and saving people while electrocuting Piranhas. Jerry O'connell aka Vern from Stand By Me grew up to play the slimy drug addled Derrick who he himself is hilarious but on a dime can turn and become as much as a psychotic threat as the Piranha themselves. Christopher Lloyd goes from being a doctor of physics and becomes a doctor of marine biology who instructs our protagonists about these monstrous extinct Piranha they face in such a great eccentric performance on the level of Doc Brown! Then of course there's Ving Rhames who by the end of the flick out badasses everybody with a 3D last stand shoving a boat propeller in your face tearing through the Piranha as they eat away his legs. Is he alive? Dead? We don't know but regardless he gave those fish a bad damn day. Then of course there's tons of contemporary actors in here, Paul Scheer the comedian, Adam Scott from Krampus and Steve Mcqueen's grandson plays the Sheriff's son who goes from shy nerd to hero! Aja assembled a star studded cast that gave so much validity to these characters that in another directors hands could have been nothing more than uninteresting plot advancers but instead each have traits of their own that give weight to the absurdity and comedy to the violent gratuity.
Aja wanted so badly for the Spring Break element to be real and feel like a grandiose party that could never be achieved that he personally interviewed and cast hundreds of actual actors for extras hoping each actor would give their background character personality and uniqueness filling the screen with all kinds of insanity. He cast each actor based on their dance moves and ability to act drunk against their later reactions of screaming and dying to perfect the finale of the film. To further this he got his set production department together to design each section of the party boats on the lake assigning a different theme to each boat with one for nerds, a St Patty's day themed boat, cheerleaders and even went as crazy as a boat of guys wearing diapers. Being a man who loves coming of age raunchy teen comedies from Animal House to Porky's, having those elements combined with a bloodbath of a horror movie was just utter bliss. His attention to detail is astounding all the way to the location of the lake where he was inspired by the mountains which were jagged and reminiscent of Piranha teeth to illicit a feeling of the horrors to come.
Our main characters are very likeable and set up their skills very nicely in the beginning. Through glory shots of partying and debauchery carefully constructed set up copious amounts of victims all given rhyme and reason. The Piranha's attacks are very nicely done and super fun in 3D. In for once harmonious combination of CGI and practical FX guidance under Greg Nicoterro and KNB FX group we are delivered a body count and massacre unheard of in film and the amount of rotting corpses and makeup appliances put toward this sequence has probably not been topped in KNB history to this day. Chaos ensues in one of the most horrifying and utterly satisfyingly gory sequences ever. Along with casting actors as extras, stunt men and woman were also cast to create this chaos. Not only are the people devoured by Piranha but through the characters own stupid drunken shortcomings they all accidentally kill each other, ramming boats through one another, clamoring over one another, piling on the wet T-Shirt contest stage and breaking it to where it falls over into the mouths of hungry Piranha as well as sending cables down to slash through unsuspecting victims. You have to just take a minute and watch in awe at how perfectly shot everything is all the way to the survivors being carried to the beach as they're missing limbs or being torn apart as they get there. To make it more epic, Adam Scott gets on a jet ski and starts zooming around saving people as he shotguns Piranha in the water.
The 3D aspect is so campy fun, it's not this immersive universe, it's simply crazy stuff jumping out at you or scenes of gore jumping out of the screen, such as Piranha feasting on a perverts Penis or watching a porn star get ripped to shreds as we see her breast implants float by. Aja brings us a D list exploitation film made as if it was a prestige film of the highest degree with all the camp, gore and nudity you could possibly want from a film like this. I'll be completely honest we don't deserve a film as insanely well made as this for its subject matter and Aja delivered what I miss from back in the hey day of horror, fun campy popcorn horror that delivered. Not a remake as much as it's another chapter in the Piranha series and it's easily my favorite.
17 Days til' Halloween! Halloween!
17 Days til' Halloween! Silver Shamrock!