Piranha 3DD (*)

About 2 years ago ‘Piranha 3D’ was a guilty pleasure of mine when it opened. A real B movie delight, it was a movie that knew it was bad and gimmicky and just simply had fun with the premise and managed to impress in the process. In all the ways that filmmaker Alexandre Aja made that flick a good time, John Gulager manages to make ‘Piranha 3DD’ a rather dreadful experience. There’s not one bit of fun to be had here, and there’s plenty of pain inflicted on the audience, to boot. It’s among the most inept and indifferently made films of the past few years. There’s almost no redeeming factors to it, except that it’s short and once or twice it stumbles its way into a mildly humorous joke (mostly involving David Hasselhoff, if you can believe it). It’s as if Gulager and his trio of screenwriters (2 of which collaborated with him on the ‘Feast’ trilogy) completely missed the point of why the first movie worked, and instead of a “so bad it’s good” experience, they just made a film that’s so bad, well…it’s bad. I disliked this movie intensely, mainly for what a missed opportunity it was. This should have been another ridiculous and fun time at the movies. Instead, it’s just terrible.

What passes for a plot here concerns the aftermath of the Lake Victoria massacre from the first film. For some unexplained reason, the prehistoric piranha have moved to a different area and again begin picking people off in graphic fashion (starting with Gary Busey). Meanwhile, Maddy (Danielle Panabaker) is watching her stepfather Chet (David Koechner) ruin the water park she used to own with her mom, making it a pornographic playground instead. As she finds her friends (including Matt Bush, Chris Zylka, and Katrina Bowden) and herself dealing with piranha attacks, Chet is making plans to re-open the park in grand fashion, complete with a celebrity appearance by David Hasselhoff himself. He’s also managed to pump in water from the nearby lake, cutting costs. The downside to that is he’s about to pump in tons of man-eating killer fish. This leads to another feeding frenzy, although this one is about a thousand times less fun than the initial go-around. It’s a standard issue creature feature, but one that’s just unoriginal, poorly made, and worst of all un-ironic. This called for a tongue in cheek approach, but the behind the scenes team seem to have missed that point.

The acting is as terrible as you’d expect, though some of the blame goes to the lack of a coherent script or any direction given to them. Danielle Panabaker is the quintessential “final girl”, only without any knowledge of that, and it shows in her lifeless performance. Matt Bush is the best friend secretly longing for her, and he just never does anything interesting (which is depressing considering how good he recently was in ‘Nice Guy Johnny’). Chris Zylka is over the top bad as the ex-boyfriend douchebag, Katrina Bowden is useless here, and David Koechner just plays himself. Factor in a waste of Gary Busey, pointless return engagements for Ving Rhames, Paul Scheer, and Christopher Lloyd, plus a winking cameo by David Hasselhoff, and you know what to expect. The rest of the cast includes Paul James Jordan, Adrian Martinez, Clu Gulager (the director’s father), Jean-Luc Bilodeau, and, Meagan Tandy, but none of them do anything interesting.

John Gulager is nothing more than a hack in my book. A graduate of the ‘Project Greenlight’ reality show, his only previous directing credits are the 3 ‘Feast’ movies, and only one of which bothered to hit theaters. He possesses no ability to direct his actors, can’t pace a film to save his life, and often looks lost. This is possibly the worst directed movie of the year so far. It doesn’t help that the script is garbage too, credited to Marcus Dunstan, Joel Soisson, and Patrick Melton (Dunstan and Melton did decent enough work on the latter ‘Saw’ movies, but this is a major step back for them…closer to their terrible film ‘The Collector’ than anything else). It’s pointless, unfunny, and without a clever bone in its body. I cringed on multiple occasions, but not due to violence. They should all be ashamed of themselves.

I haven’t come across as disappointingly bad a movie as ‘Piranha 3DD’ in a long time. When the silly title of the flick is the best part of it, you know that you’re in trouble. If you’re like me and enjoyed ‘Piranha 3D’, stay far away from this one, or risk having its memory sullied. If you didn’t see or didn’t care for that flick, it’s easier for you to pass this one up, but no less essential. Avoid this movie at all costs. The next time you see it should be on my list of the worst films of the year, plain and simple. It’s just a terrible mess all around.

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