Movies From the Black Lagoon: Piranha

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Piranha - 2010, Rated R
By Tom Doty

Prehistoric flesh eaters make a meal of kids enjoying "spring break" in this remake of the 70's horror classic.
Normally the Lagoon eschews remakes of 70's flicks but director Alexandre Aja (High Tension, The Hills Have Eyes) has always been one to watch. He turns out to have the right touch for this material and delivers the best "people get eaten by fish" flick we've seen since, well, 1978's 'Piranha."
The film starts out with a killer opening that ought to hook the most jaded of horror movie fans. A fisherman winds up lunch for a school of the titular fish when an earthquake that releases the beasties from a subterranean waterhole capsizes his boat. What makes this a killer sequence is that the guy in the boat happens to be Richard Dreyfuss and he's killed only minutes after being heard to sing the same ditty he was murdering in Steven Spielberg's 'Jaws." His name is even Hooper. The best bit about this gag is that it acknowledges that the success of "Jaws" gave Roger Corman the idea for the original film. He turned that concept over to Joe Dante (Gremlins) and a career was born.
The fish couldn't have picked a better time for their return, as the lake has been flooded with college kids who are anxious to enjoy their spring break. The event has also brought in some new blood. The crew behind a series of party videos called "Wild, Wild, Girls." They are lead by producer/host/macho jerk Derrick. Meanwhile the town's Sheriff stumbles across Hooper's body but cannot convince the powers that be to close down the lake at its most profitable time. More good news for the flesh eaters.
While the Sheriff leads a team of scientists to the earthquake site the piranha begin to work their way through the film's extras. A subplot about the Sheriff's son acting as location scout for the 'Wild Girls" crew adds a little dram to the proceedings but you're all waiting for the big attack sequence and the film is anxious to get thee too.
The big payoff happens around the fifty-minute mark as our killers with fins turn Lake Victoria into teenage wasteland. They chew through the cats with gusto but save their most ferocious attacks for Derrick. It all leads to a last minute rescue and lots of carnage.
There isn't much of a plot here but it is all beautifully filmed. Aja sets the action at a prime location by using a lake that's surrounded by desert. The skies are a rich blue and the cast looks positively sun drenched until the screen explodes in crimson. The special effects people showcase all manner of death by killer fish so get ready for lots of the gooey stuff. The film goes a little over board when depicting the young victims as partying, soulless, sex obsessed losers; they come close to alienating their target audience but nobody's perfect. The spoof of "Girls Gone Wild" is spot on, if late by a decade.
The cast has a good time and includes Elisabeth Shue as the sheriff who gets some sturdy backup from deputy Ving Rhames(Pulp Fiction). The film gets a lot of mileage form its supporting cast with the best roles going to Jerry O'Connell(as Derrick) and Christopher Lloyd as a scientist/oddball who waits way too long before reporting that there is a bigger threat coming down the pike. Fun and utterly mindless.
Best Line: "Why don't you be a girl and sun bathe?"

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: