CONTAINS SPOILERS AND WHINGING
We've been waiting for this one a long time - a decent 18-rated horror movie that shows what can be done with modern digital 3D. Scar was sort of vaguely okay but not very good, as was My Bloody Valentine (though better). Unhappily, though, while it is a perfectly decent splattery horror movie, it only shows the limitations of the conversion process from 2D to 3D, and would probably have been better had they just shown it flat.
The basic thrust of Piranha is the same as Jaws and the legions of cashins, ripoffs, pastiches, parodies and hommages - everything from Shark Attack to Snakehead Terror. Thanks to the opening earthquake (that does for Richard Dreyfuss sitting in a fishing boat singing "Show Me The Way To Go Home") a subterranean lake empties its stock of prehistoric piranha into the waters of the tourist attraction due to host a massive Spring Break party with loads of drunken teens swimming, diving, boating, skiing and generally doing things in the water. Only sheriff Elisabeth Shue and deputy Ving Rhames can stop them - but Shue has her own problems as her idiot son has abandoned his little brother and sister and gone sailing with some allegedly hot chicks and a porn auteur....
On the plus side, it's a lot of fun and it certainly delivers the blood, gore and body parts. Once the piranha attack there are heads, arms, entrails, legs and a certain male appendage all over the shop and floating in front of you. And it is generally entertaining and surprisingly well cast for such a grisly piece - there's also Christopher Lloyd hamming away, reunited with Shue from the Back To the Future sequels. On the minus side, however, the 3D conversion just doesn't work. Well, it kind of works in places, and they're mainly the CG effects which are in the computer and can thus be viewed from any angles. But you can't take a 2D image of, say, Elisabeth Shue and turn it into a three-dimensional object; all you can do is electronically move the 2D image in front of processed backgrounds to give the illusion of depth within the image but without giving depth to anything within the image. It's distracting more than anything else and they really needn't have bothered. My Bloody Valentine was shot in 3D and it looked a lot better.
The trouble with Piranha is that, for the first time, we've not had the choice to watch in 2D. Even though it may have been conceived in 3D that's not how it was shot, yet Entertainment Film Distributors have released it solely in sub-standard 3D, despite the TV trailers claiming "Also showing in 2D" and despite both versions being submitted to the BBFC just one week before the release date. It's rather like spending a year colourising Casablanca, then only letting you see the version they've daubed all over and charging you extra for the privilege. Maybe there wasn't enough screen space available, but what do they expect if they choose the same weekend as the new Angelina Jolie movie AND the new Sylvester Stallone movie - smack in the middle of the school holidays, when the screens are full of family fare? That's disappointing and in this instance I do resent the £1.50 extra charge without the option. Happily, the gleefully excessive blood and gore gets it through, but it definitely would have worked better flat. Meantime, I guess I should see the Joe Dante version again.