More frightened of girls than flesh-eating fish, Piranha 3DD offers up its water-cooler scene early when teenagers Shelby and Josh strip and slip naked into a velvety lake on a starlit night.
The two shyly approach each other. And then the girl flinches, eyes suddenly wide. Something underwater ...
“Is that you?”
“I didn’t ...”
“Whatever it is, I don’t like it.”
You don’t like it, missy? Their next date, Shelby insists Josh make love to her. The poor schmo is doing what he’s told, plugging away, when his eyes snap shut. A berserk Shelby screams out what happened next to hospital emergency room workers:
“Josh cut off his penis because something came out of my vagina.”
Like so much adolescent, made-for-guys comedy-horror, Piranha 3DD is so weirdly uptight about women you figure exhibitors should hand out teen health guides as well as 3-D glasses.
The film’s heroine is Maddy (Danielle Panabaker), a nice, normal marine biologist who returns home from school to discover her Southern-fried stepfather, Chet (David Koechner), has turned the family water park into an adult entertainment site with “water-certified strippers.”
Every showgirl is trouble. Elsewhere, Ashley takes boyfriend Travis to her trailer and handcuffs him to the bed. Then accidentally releases the safety break. The trailer rolls back into a lake boiling with piranha. Don’t bother to get up, Travis.
And then there are all the women with cannonball “DD” breasts thundering down waterslides – scenes reminiscent of the sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark when menacing boulders chase Indiana Jones out of a cave.
All the boobsledding takes time away from an already too short (83 minutes) movie that, in its own ticky-tacky way, embodies the 60-year history of 3-D movies: The good girl, Maddy, and her pals discover the piranha and try to figure out how to stop them by going to an oddball scientist with a fish fetish (Christopher Lloyd). Know-it-all doctors and academics were standard equipment with the first wave of 3-D movies, which arrived in the early fifties. And one of Maddy’s pals, the clumsy, stuttering Barry (Matt Bush) announces that he’s had a “crush” on her since high school. How 1952 can you get?
At the same time, the film takes pleasure in referencing seventies catastrophe movies, particularly the original Piranha (1978), written by John Sayles, and Jaws (1975).
Piranha 3DD is also a camp bloodbath in the way of seventies 3-D movies. The format took off again (literally) in 1973 with Andy Warhol’s Flesh for Frankenstein, when a character was skewered and his pulsating heart lofted three inches away from 3-D viewer’s eyes. In Piranha 3DD, director John Gulager snaps off body parts like he’s opening beer cans.
The opening sequence has a drunken fishermen (Gary Busey) being devoured by piranha. Reaching into the boiling inferno he grabs a fish, bites off its head and throws it – wheeee – right into our faces.
There is fun to be had in nonsense like this. Piranha 3D (2010), which might have been subtitled A Night to Dismember, was an enjoyable survey course in B-movie hokum.
Piranha 3DD is overcrowded and pointlessly mean. The stunt casting of David Hasselhoff playing himself, riffing off his infamous 2007 drunken home video, gets in the way of the storyline.
And needless to say, nobody gets the girl. Barry wieners out. Battling 3-D piranha is one thing, but asking out a real girl like Maddy – that’s scary stuff.
- Directed by John Gulager
- Written by Marcus Dunstan, Patrick Melton and Joel Soisson
- Starring Danielle Panabaker, David Koechner, David Hasselhoff, Christopher Lloyd and Ving Rhames
- Classification: 18A
3-D through history
Although 3-D film format patented in 1894, the first big movie arrives in 1952: Bwana Devil, set in Africa (okay, Northern California) with man-eating lions and romance. Film isn’t shy about format’s selling points. The poster shout-line: “A LION in your lap, A LOVER in your arms.”
Lots of 3-D in 1952-54, but format is expensive (requires two projectionists) and public can only take so many Vincent Price movies. (Price made four 3-D horror flicks.) Hollywood passes on deeper, going with wider screens – CinemaScope and VistaVision.
New format, StereoVision, allows for cheaper (and sleazier) 3-D movies – the originally X-rated The Stewardesses (1969) and Warhol’s Flesh for Frankenstein (1973).
U.S. government military space research leads to improved 3-D technology in Reagan era, but movies remain defiantly low-brow: Friday the 13th Part III in 3-D (1982), Amityville 3-D and Jaws 3-D (both 1983).
In 2003, James Cameron releases Ghosts of the Abyss, 3-D documentary of the Titanic, making format respectable. Polar Express released the following year. Is this the end of 3-D Bs?
No way! In 2010 a wave of defiantly cheesy 3-D arrives – Piranha 3D, Yu-Gi-Oh! 3D, Jackass 3D, Saw 3D, Resident Evil: Afterlife and Space Dogs 3D (from Russia).
Special to The Globe and Mail