Piranha 3D knows exactly what kind of movie it is: a cheesy, bloody 3D gore-fest with lots of gratuitous violence and nudity. If you liked Steven Speilberg's 1975 epic Jaws, but found its character development, plot, and structure too much without enough bloody gore, than Piranha 3D will tickle your fancy. The film keeps a conventional, straightforward, tone without being too knowing or self-aware. It then splashes a ton of ridiculous, over the top B-movie troupes and cliches beautifully from shlocky effect shots exploiting the 3D employed or finding excuses to insert graphic content.
French director Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes) gets creative with some sight gags and inventive kill shots involving sexy teens at various stages of undress. Aja takes the worst of American pop culture and exploits it to absurd degrees, amping up the bloody messiness and gore from typical scary movies. While being another horror remake, Aja embraces the trashy fun, perversion, and exploitation of the genre.
Speaking of Jaws, Richard Dreyfuss, inexplicably sort of reprises his role from Jaws with an opening scene homage to the genre. Without much fanfare, we are introduced to the razor thin plot where killer, ancient man-eating piranhas, millions of years old and preserved underground are unleashed during spring break and commence feeding on teenage party goers.
There is little to no exposition, plot or character development. The only thing resembling character is Elisabeth Shue as the town's sheriff and the mother of a teenage son desperate to get in on the spring break debauchery. Jerry O'Connell, doing his best Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild impression, hams it up as a nefarious smut peddler. O'Connell is almost too good and convincing as a self-involved douche bag.
The criminally underused Adam Scott does gets a few hero shots as a seismic investigator. Aja packs way too many characters played by actors like Ving Rhames and Paul Scheer for such a short, otherwise fluid film. And it suffers from typical issues with not caring about these characters especially when they inexplicably disappear from the narrative altogether. Although, I did enjoy the many cameos.
There is careful detail with which Aja positions the camera underwater or above ground to create tension and suspense seamlessly. The film is frequently thrilling and adheres to many core rules of the horror genre very well. One piranha set piece shown in the trailer is ambitious in its sheer audacity of blood, guts., and sheer violence
The audience is always aware of where things are going as Aja plays to expectations honoring the genre. We learn very quickly which characters are essential and which exist to be killed off. There are plenty of old fashioned 3D tricks and effects. Different items and objects are directed at the screen for kicks. And yes, there are boobs in 3D; a lot of them.
Piranha 3D has a steady pace. I was never bored, even during slow first act. Something is always happening. At 88 minutes, it is fairly tight and well paced. I want to call it is a guilty pleasure, but I found it generally just pleasurable. It stands up well to other B-movie horror flicks it honours. It works as well-made, appealing fare. Aja and company took the cinematic flourishes of the horror genre and crafted an extremely explicit yet entertaining ride.