Director: John Gulager
Length: 1h 23m
Synopsis: At a lake far from the one we last left infested with prehistoric piranha there lives Maddy (Panabaker) and her stepfather Chet (Koechner), who owns a soon-to-open extravagant water park. Maddy’s romantic interest, a local deputy (Zylka), is in cahoots with Chet to keep hush-hush the fact that the park’s water is set to come from a newly discovered subterranean lake. In that lake (you guessed it) rests countless bloodthirsty piranha that begin surfacing in small groups but are bound to begin doing so in schools. When signs of their infestation arise Maddy and her secret crush Barry (Bush) try to warn Chet to stop pumping the water and their friends to avoid the park, but their counsel falls on deaf ears. Once the inevitable happens, will anyone make it out alive?
Analysis: Anyone who has seen Piranha 3D should know exactly what to expect from its sequel — or should they? The 2010 remake made a splash amongst horror fans because it was an exercise in gratuitousness that had its tongue placed firmly and permanently against its cheek. What was really surprising, though, was that critics also gave it due credit for doing away with all attempts at pretense, and widely supported the fresh grindhouse feel.
With Piranha 3DD (if the title alone doesn’t give it away) we get more of the same — a lot more. Because P3D had a 1978 predecessor, and that predecessor had a pretense of honest horror, some residue of that was left over that couldn’t be completely expunged. However, this time around there are no such limitations. Director John Gulager and Co. have created a decadent display of depravity that surpasses every benchmark set by the first film, and then some.
Parody is the name of the game. And like how this year’s earlier The Cabin in the Woods sought to lampoon the horror genre as a way to both appease and insult the average horror audience, Piranha 3DD looks to do the same. Instead of focusing on the genre’s penchant for formula, however, this time the joke is about its visual evolution. A number of modern horror movies still like to intertwine gore with sex. But rather than trying to make audiences feel uncomfortable with this antithetical blend they try to simultaneously satisfy primal impulses for both fear and desire. In providing a venue that has an overabundance of gore and nudity, where sex and violence are so explicitly and inextricably connected (you really have no idea), Piranha 3DD highlights the ridiculousness of this aim. And in so doing, it also effectively derides the viewership that would actively seek out such a contradictory concoction.
Although the film is intentionally more humorous than horrific (The Hoff’s presence leaves no room for questioning this), both of these aims share the same basic key to success. That key, simply enough, is the effective manipulation of expectations. Gulager is perfectly aware that his audience is going to be savvy to his intentions, and therefore able to accurately recognize certain eventualities. However, several of these eventualities are not the ultimate endings they are assumed to be, but in fact only lead us as far as halfway through the jokes. What expectations we are presumed to have are met, but the jokes continue beyond this point of satisfaction and force you to recalculate. It is while you are doing this that the real punch lines reveal themselves, and they always land bloodied and absurd.
Of course, we wouldn’t appreciate the movie’s purpose if it took itself seriously. So many sight gags and overt visual puns punctuate the tone of the film with a silliness that, when combined with the faux-horror plot, creates a production quality that captures – intentionally – that “so bad it’s good” peculiarity that so many find so hugely entertaining. This being said, the film is not without excitement. There are plenty of laughs for sure, but there are also a few moments of genuine uncertainty, and this gets back to the manipulation of expectations. Because we realize that the film is capable of anything, including the most extreme of witticisms, the benefit of the doubt must be given for each uncertainty we encounter. This allows us to react to the film naturally, laughing or gasping as when appropriate.
Piranha 3DD ingratiates itself with its target audience with its preposterously schlocky opening sequence, and from then until the end it’s tough to imagine it will lose any favor. Even the criticism at the heart of the movie won’t be enough to elicit displeasure because those who would see it are most likely aware of the senselessness of their taste. What’s more, they are equally unapologetic. Although the audience is the butt of the joke, and will probably recognize this fact, they’ll be willing to laugh heartily all the same. Because, after all, laughing at this movie only means laughing at yourself.