Things I Learned from Movie X:
Piranha 3D
By Edwin Davies
March 17, 2011

Those fish hate Gossip Girl!

The culture of recycling old ideas has become so pervasive in Hollywood that it takes something really special to stand out, for a film to not only match the quality of its source but actually better it. Some remakes try to distinguish themselves from the original by focusing on different aspects of the story, whilst others are content just to replicate the key story beats with a more modern sensibility. Piranha 3D does something different. Rather than try to recreate the original, it takes the sleazy, exploitative sensibility of the earlier film - a blatant Jaws rip-off directed by Joe Dante and written by Walter Salles, two men whose respective filmographies are well worth investigating - and amps it up to a ludicrous extreme. Alexandre Aja takes the idea of a small town being terrorised by a species of vicious, flesh-eating Piranhas just as a horde of young, sexy folk have descended on the town for Spring Break and uses it to stage sequences of gore and violence that are very much in the spirit of the original, but take things further than even B-movie legend Roger Corman could have imagined. School might be out, but lessons can still be learned from Piranhas 3D, lessons like...

Finally, a film that understands the artistic possibilities offered by 3D breasts

Since the current 3D revival started, Hollywood has been telling us that 3D is not a gimmick any more, but a genuine form of artistic expression that allows film-makers to immerse their audience in the story more than ever before. Frankly, that's a load of horseshit. 3D is a cheap trick designed to inflate the cost of already over-priced tickets. Unlike so many 3D films, Piranha is upfront and honest about how it uses 3D as nothing more than an opportunity for silly jokes, ludicrous gore and gratuitous, multi-dimensional nudity. Admittedly, James Cameron also realized this when he decided to re-release Avatar complete with the giant blue cat-people 3D sex scene that the world had been clamoring for, but Piranha 3D really goes all out. I haven't done the math, but I'd say that at least half of the running time is spent looking at nubile young bodies, both barely clad and unclad.

It's kind of a shame that the film wasn't a bigger hit, because I could imagine that for a whole generation of teenage boys it would have been a cultural touchstone, a film that, with its plentiful supply of breasts, ushered them into manhood the same way that Fast Times At Ridgemont High did for people in the '80s. And, for a handful of very special teenage boys, the moment when a severed penis floated out over the audience in all its shredded glory would have been the moment when they started on their own personal journey towards being the Ed Geins and Jeffrey Dahmers of the future.

Always follow Pavement's advice on personal grooming

A few weeks ago, I got a haircut. This has never been a big deal in the past because I've always had pretty short hair, but this came at the end of a six-month experiment with having longish hair, one that ended when I realized that, no, it was not going to reach a point at which it would look good, and I was just going to look more and more like one of The Monkees. No, not even one of The Monkees. Some guy who auditioned to be in The Monkees but was rejected because they couldn't have two British guys in the group.

Walking around with short hair after having long hair for a while is kind of like being deprogrammed after being in a cult. You look back on the months of thinking that you looked good with long hair with a lofty disdain, chastised by the memory of your own youthful naivete and wilful blindness to how you actually looked. Yet I could not shake the sense that I had somehow made a mistake. Losing five or six inches of hair that took months to grow is a pretty big decision to make; how could I know that it was the right choice?

This sense of doubt and insecurity disappeared the very instant that I watched the scene in Piranha 3D in which a young woman's hair gets caught in the static rotor blade of a lifeboat, which proceeds to tear her face on when it starts up. Her fucking face! Now I know that if I'm ever at the beach when an attack of killer mutant prehistoric piranhas breaks out, I won't have to worry about my hair getting me killed. It was a really pressing concern before.

Are we having fun yet? Yes, yes we are

Despite his sterling work on the current season of Parks & Recreation, I find it hard to think of Adam Scott as anyone other than his character Henry Pollard on the short-lived, much missed Starz series Party Down, in which he played an actor who quits and takes a job at a catering company. (Actually, if I'm completely honest, because I am a child of the '90s and have a somewhat freaky ability to recall stupid pieces of pop culture that mean nothing to anyone other than myself and possibly my sister, I mainly think of him for his brief run as Griff, a bully on ABC's Boy Meets World. But his work as Henry runs a very close second.) Since his role on Party Down was as someone who has given up on his dream of becoming a serious actor, whenever I see him in a, shall we say, stupid film, it's hard for me to think of him as a real person but as his character.

It is this weird synthesis of character and actor that gives his performance in Piranha, in which he plays a seismologist who is recruited by Sheriff Elisabeth Shue to help combat the many-fanged menace, extra nuance which, in all likelihood, probably only exists in my mind. It's hard to watch scenes of Scott riding a jet ski through a sea red with blood, picking up survivors and using a shotgun to blast any errant fish to pieces and not imagine that, between takes, he was wracked by the same hilarious self-loathing that made Henry such a sad, sympathetic character.

On a similar note, Jerry O'Connell's performance as a sleazy pornographer who spends much of the film ogling Kelly Brook - a British glamor model who was cast largely if not solely for her ogle-ability - and eventually gets his junk ripped off by a piranha, shines a new light on Stand By Me, and renders Gordie's poignant monologue about the adult lives of his childhood friends incomplete. Who cares about that goody two shoes Chris Chambers getting stabbed in a line when Vern Tessio got eaten by killer fish? It's Stand By Me's 25th anniversary this year, surely we can get Richard Dreyfuss to record an extra bit of voiceover to give us all the full story? If he's available for a 20 second cameo in Piranha 3D, I'm pretty sure that means he has reached the point that every Oscar-winner does in which they will do literally anything for pay, a stage more commonly known as The Cage Stage.