“Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina.” – Katrina Bowden
And to think that’s not even the worst line spoken in this movie. Piranha 3DD, or apparently Piranha DD depending on the version watched, is as rushed as they come. After a successful formula of boobs, teenagers, and hungry fish (this post-1978 original), Lionsgate dumped this thing into theaters without so much as a whimper. Domestically, it didn’t even make half a million dollars, and despite utilizing an outrageous amount of stock footage, Piranha 3DD cost $20 million to make.
Funny thing is, Miranda Cosgrove auditioned for the lead role in this quickie follow-up, and lost to Danielle Panabaker. Cosgrove doesn’t know how lucky she was. Piranha 3DD feels as if it never had a script, and had even less time to piece together a workable narrative in the editing booth. At 83-minutes with a whopping 12-minutes of credits, it doesn’t seem like anyone considered content before moving forward either. It’s sort of like Gremlins 2 in a kitchen sink approach, but at least the Warner sequel had some heart.
Here’s how sloppy this junker is. Christopher Lloyd reprises his zany scientist role from the first film. Approached by this new cast of characters (only one returns, Ving Rhames) who believe they’re under the gun from the violent fish threat, he takes them over to an aquarium. Instead of offering them a solution, he decides to put a piece of steel in the water with a trapped specimen, which the fish breaks through. His point? The fish are strong and the kids might have a problem at the water park. Genius.
That water park is the “Big Wet,” complete with a full nudist adult section… because it’s marketing, and water certified strippers exist in enough numbers to work the grounds. So there. Because every killer fish movie needs to follow an identical path carved by Jaws, this uber dud has any authoritative figure ignoring the obvious warnings. Cue David Hasselhoff as an impromptu, uncaring lifeguard, Gary Busey as meat, and a bunch of teens who came into the film pre-cooked.
Ludicrous is the goal, and that opening line to this review is in reference to a sex sequence in which a piranha manages to survive inside a girl. Given that context, you can probably see where this one is headed. Vinga Rhames, now minus only his legs despite clearly being devoured last time, hooks up shotguns to his prosthetic limbs. He bought the shotguns with money he saved on socks. That’s the actual explanation.
Director John Gulager was probably chosen for his great work on Feast, a horror comedy that actually worked, although the less said for the sequels, the better. All that really means is that he was the right choice but up against a wall of marketing that dictated he probably had less time than he did on the indie Feast. Despite the implication at the end of the film that the fish can now walk (!), this series is “dead in the water.” For the record, that pun was better than most of this movie. It’s that bad.
Piranha 3DD mirrors the first almost directly in terms of look. Super saturation bursts the primaries from whatever confines they were trapped in, and without any knock to the flesh tones. Despite heavy tans and plenty of summertime sun, there’s no attempt to bronze these actors in post-production. Even some animated films could be challenged by this level of color.
There’s also extensive fine detail, close-ups on the high end topping out any other digital production. Unfortunately, photography isn’t consistent. Puffy, soft, and ill-defined shots stick out with alarming regularity. The whole thing becomes a wash without a solid foundation.
Underwater footage is pretty abysmal too. Despite taking place in the crystal clear waters of a freshly opened water park, much of the final attack looks suspiciously like the lake used in the previous film. Noise is heavy, banding is prolific, and black levels are murky. There’s also the issue of dramatic artifacting which doesn’t seem to be this encode. There’s clearly a multi-camera set up at work, and one of them drastically cuts down the resolution plus fidelity. The chunks of information rival early DVD.
Some of the land footage will be hit with the above problems too, from noise to quick doses of compression. While less frequent, the element remains. Piranha 3DD is a tough one to judge for the extensive, immediately appealing dose of color combined with the generally high detail. Everything seems to be dragging this one under though, and it takes too much of the fun out of it.
In 3D, most of the above issues are a mere bother. The photography sets up an incredibly deep frame so your eyes will need some adjustment time. Once past the initial burst, sit back and enjoy. This 3D disc is so outrageously overdone, hardly a minute goes by without something taking a swipe at the camera. Even the little things are genuinely deep, such as a close up on hands holding a cell phone in the back of a car. You’re right there in the mix as someone watches a video.
Brightness is spectacular, so the dimming effect of the glasses is about nill. Underwater shots are a reprieve from the assault, with fish, bubbles, and strewn limbs passing by. While actors will occasionally appear a bit like cut-outs, most of the time the huge leap from foreground to background is enough to win the day. The finale is an absolute blast though, with strewn bodies, tons of angry fish, panicky bikini babes, and underwater footage that sells the idea of going under.
You’ll never hear a modern film with this much underwater footage sound so bland. Where rushing water effects are almost always a given, this mix has none. Front-loaded to the extremes, there’s so little happening you’ll begin to wonder if your speakers have gone bad. Even schools of piranha stick to the stereos, never bothering to pan overhead. Panicked tourists looking for some nudist fun? Nope, not much there either despite gallons of splashing water.
It’s not until Ving Rhames unleashes his shotguns that something happens, a bit of bass to offset the humdrum, static audio environment. The score feels placed in at the last minute and barely exists when the action becomes heavy. Better yet, some dialogue taking place near a lake comes complete with an in-studio echo. Not fun.
When you barely break $300,000 box office, you certainly don’t spend money putting together a Blu-ray release. Actually, you probably consider ditching Blu-ray all together. Hence, there’s nothing here.