Retro Review: PIRANHA 3DD (2012){0}

It all started with a film called Jaws. And it was good. From that 1975 classic we leap over several truly terrible rip-off movies and focus on Piranha (1978), which was Roger Corman, Joe Dante, and John Sayles ripping off Jaws, with a hearty dose of their own clever gimmickry and amusing ideas. That one led to Piranha 2: The Spawning (1981), which was the directorial debut of a certain James Cameron. Then there was a new version in 1995 that starred William Katt, and was made for cable TV, which only the nerdliest of underwater horror fans have ever seen — and then a 2010 version that got rid of the horror, ramped up the blood & bikinis angle, and showed up boasting all sorts of silly 3-D doo-hickeys. And now we have Piranha 3DD, which, by my reckoning, is a sequel to a remake of a ripoff. But still, it does have piranha in it.

Clearly inspired by the more puerile nature of its direct predecessor, John Gulager’s Piranha 3DD may be one of the chintziest movies of the year. Part of that may be attributed to the fact that a 3-D movie is making its debut on 2-D VOD systems, but there’s no nice way to say it: this movie looks like it was shot in 1989 and cobbled together at random. (This long-delayed movie boasts no less than three editors, and boy does it show.) It’s about a sleazy water park (owned by a suitably sleazy David Koechner) that’s about to deal with a very cheap-looking piranha attack. Until we get to that point, we’re treated to a few sloppy kills, a handful of funny quips, and a whole lot of lethargy. Also David Hasselhoff shows up to mock his image. About 12% of the guy’s material is actually amusing.

On the plus side, Piranha 3DD does manage to offer a few stray chuckles that are scattered across a tiresome and frequently witless affair, plus, yes, there is frequent nudity, plus (on the sincere side) the leading lady, Danielle Panabaker, is quite charming and lovely. Genre fans will appreciate seeing folks like Ving Rhames, Paul Scheer, Gary Busey, and Clu Gulager — plus it always nice to see the gorgeous Katrina Bowden — but each of their best moments are harrowingly episodic. Characters rarely interact; other scenes are just plunked in with no sense or logic; much of what the game actors are asked to do is roll their eyes at the silly, raunchy, bloody lunacy of it all — but it’s all so listless and perfunctory. Just enough skin, splatter, and noteworthy names to fill a movie trailer, but not much else.

Often leering and sometimes downright vulgar (not in a fun way), Piranha 3DD may earn a few points for singular moments of goofy audacity, but if you don’t think it’s hilarious to see a piranha chewing on some poor guy’s gory penis, you’re in for one long movie. Ironically, if you remove the end credits and a mercilessly long reel of outtakes, Piranha 3DD runs about 77 minutes, all told. Just another example of the Dimension Films team churning out a virtually worthless sequel just to keep their hands on a bunch of previously-admired horror franchises. See also: Hellraiser and Children of the Corn. Better yet, don’t.