By: Addison Wylie
It’s not as easy to make a movie that’s “so bad, it’s good”. Isn’t that right John Gulager?
Gulager is the director of Piranha 3DD, the earth-shattering awful sequel to the peoples’ guilty pleasure Piranha 3D and, boy, does he have a lot to learn. Not only in regards to how to create a film movie goers could laugh at and laugh with but he has to figure out the basic understanding on how to make a watchable movie.
Piranha 3DD is so bad that even people who didn’t enjoy the first gratuitous outing (me included) will be begging for director Alexandre Aja to return to the series.
In my review of Piranha 3D, I said that Aja’s film was a mishmash of different types of direction. He was trying to make a straight forward horror movie but also trying to make it “the ultimate guilty pleasure”. Therefore, a lot of the acting and a lot of the direction was a mixed bag of sorts.
But, after watching the messy sequel, I can see that Aja at least had a plan. It was a flawed plan but a plan nonetheless.
With Piranha 3DD, Gulager has made a note that Aja’s thinking made a lot of audiences happy and that he intends on sticking with that format. However, he and his three screenwriters (Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan, and Joel Soisson) refuse to advance the material. With sequels, the quality of the film is supposed to get better. That’s why the same filmmaker or different filmmakers take another crack at the scenarios and characters. By taking the same expired formula and leaving it be (and also utilizing the similar shallow 3D filmmaking) makes us realize just how stale the movie really is.
However, around the final stretch, the film is taken in an extreme direction, but we’ll get to that soon.
The film has an interesting setting making the end results that much more disappointing. The scene of the crime this time is a waterpark but there are more complications before the inevitable piranha attack
Maddy, played by Danielle Panabaker, is a co-owner to this waterpark but is alarmed to see it named “The Big Wet” as well as the vulgar changes made by her step-father Chet (played by the usually funny David Koechner). The new changes include stripper lifeguards, a nude pool, and a “cootch cam”.
And with the mention of the “cootch cam”, let me rant for a moment.
Piranha 3D may have been bad but Aja was never overreaching for his scares or laughs. Piranha 3DD does that and more.
It’s constantly pushing sex in our faces in every scene and it’s never titillating or joyously naughty. Sexual content in horror movies is fun because it’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing; it sneaks up on us. By offering copious amounts of smutty nudity, we grow immune to it. Even prepubescent boys may find themselves yawning after the umpteenth montage of the topless stripper lifeguards sliding down watersides.
But, where the film really missteps is towards the giant piranha massacre.
The piranhas make their way into the waterpark pipes since Chet is pumping water from an underground river where the killer fish are hiding out. Once the fish start making their attacks, the film turns into a flat-out “comedy” working in awkward instances of absurd humour.
The bloody climax doesn’t work and this is why:
#1: Badly done special effects and gore.
In Piranha 3D, during the gruesome attacks, we were laughing while squirming and also marvelling at the creativity behind each kill. The scene where a young woman gets her face torn off by a boat motor was a definite memorable moment that made us feel all three of these things.
In Piranha 3DD, nothing makes the kills noteworthy. The piranhas go in, bite, and that’s it. When we do see the carcasses floating in the shallow end of a pool, every body looks like pounded hamburger meat. It’s underwhelming to say the least.
And, what’s with the design of the piranhas themselves? I want to believe the cheap looking little monsters were paying homage to the earlier work of Ray Harryhausen but I don’t think the film is smart enough to tribute since it’s failing to become it’s own product.
#2. Tries too hard
Again, Gulager and company try way too hard to make us laugh and to remind us that no one on set is taking this seriously. The actors mug, scream out ridiculous lines, and fumble around. It’s about as funny as it sounds.
And, I can’t remember the last time a movie tried so hard to make us chuckle. I understand that the subject of killer piranhas inhabiting a waterpark is ridiculous but to get the jokes to reflect the ridiculousness of it takes the wind of the movie’s sails. Again, the wolf when out of its disguise is just a boring ole’ wolf.
For instance, if you have David Hasselhoff in your movie where he plays himself playing a lifeguard for the park’s grand opening, there’s no need to constantly remind us that he played a lifeguard on the well-known Baywatch. He’s become famous for portraying that role and lampooning himself so many times before. It’s not like Piranha 3DD is the first movie to parody the actor’s past. Just because the movie is moronic doesn’t mean its audience is.
Lastly, this barely squeezes in at an appropriate runtime. For how much I hated the movie, that sounds like something I should be thankful for. The faster this is done, the better. However, the end credits are determined to be its own movie.
What starts off as a normal gag reel turns into a compilation of behind-the-scenes clips. What’s supposed to show us that the cast and crew had fun making the movie becomes something that shows us that the cast and crew made a movie. This reel consists of outtakes where the actors make simple line flubs, a montage of different ways Hasselhoff took off his sunglasses, an extended music video of Hasselhoff using a trash picker as an electric guitar, and different ways the clapperboard was used before each take. The only credit sequence to rival this overlong one is the one that followed 2002’s The Master of Disguise. But, at least that one was colourful!
Are you laughing yet? Does Piranha 3DD sound worthy of your hard earned cash? Better question, can I walk into the next theatre and have Agent J and K neuralize me?