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Piranha 3D – Review (second opinion)

Piranha 3D – Review (second opinion)

Aug 24, 2010

reviewed by Danny
directed by Alexandre Aja, 2010
(to read hallo’s review of Piranha 3D, click here)
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One of the main characters of Piranha 3D is a soft-core porn producer named Derrick Jones (played perfectly by Jerry O’Connell) . The character is clearly based on Girl’s Gone Wild founder Joe Francis, an undeniable sleezeball who finds little support in any corner of society not littered with frat boys or drunken college girls, so it is no surprise to see the film take a number of well-placed shots at his broad target. Unfortunately, the Jones character seems to exist not as a vehicle for parody but simply as a way to justify a boatload (actually, many boatloads) of gratuitous nudity. Still, aside from one over-the-top bit of soft-core ogling, the T&A is pretty standard and accurately reflects what goes on during Spring Break in various sunny destinations. More importantly, the scares and gore that are the real attraction for most horror fans are here in full force.

Piranha 3D is less a remake of the original cult classic as it is another riff on the theme. The film removes the military angle and the local politics and basically avoids wasting screen time on anything that isn’t naked or being eaten. It’s a purity that I appreciate. The opening scene, in which Jaws alum Richard Dreyfuss becomes the first victim of prehistoric piranha released into the lake by an earthquake that has opened up a connection with a large underground lake, is a stunner. It starts the film off right while also getting about 50% of the exposition out of the way quickly.

We get the rest of the exposition in the next few scenes where we meet the local sheriff (played by the extremely likable Elizabeth Shue), her teen son and his younger siblings, and the aforementioned Derrick Jones, his cameraman, and two bathing beauties. When the son takes a job scouting locations for the film crew, he leaves his younger siblings to fend for themselves (which doesn’t go well). Add a romantic subplot between the son and a high school friend that Jones is trying to talk out of her bikini, mix in a school of angry, battle-scarred piranha, shake well, and you have a recipe for a killer monster movie done right.

And, for the most part, it is.  The main set pieces (the collapse of a floating stage, a boat-to-boat rope climb) are done very well.  All the characters we want to die violently do so.  Those that need a heroic send off, get one.  The 3D is used to good effect throughout though it still feels like a gimmick instead of being fully integrated into the cinematography.  The blood and guts level is super high and some of the deaths are just awesome.  Jones especially gets a graphic send off that seems to be exactly what he deserves, and it sent the audience I saw it with into fits of laughter.

For fans of the genre, Piranha 3D is a lot of fun.  It isn’t for everyone—an eight minute long nude synchronized swimming scene involving two of the “wild girls” is ridiculously graphic and unnecessary–but the film is good fun for gore hounds who can handle a bit of gratuitous T&A with their horror.

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Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter – Review

Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter – Review

Aug 21, 2010

reviewed by hallo
directed by Joseph Zito, 1984
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The formula for a successful Friday the 13th film had been firmly established by the time part 4 (The Final Chapter) graced the silver screen in 1984.  It was established so well that the film, intending to be the last in the series, grossed enough money to make Paramount Pictures rethink killing the franchise.  Obviously, they decided to bring Jason back – time and time and time again.

So, The Final Chapter is a classic Friday the 13th film, filled with a bunch of silly young people who get knocked off one-by-one by the maniacal and revengeful Jason Vorhees.  The fun part of this particular film is a young Corey Feldman playing Tommy Jarvis, a character that will be reprised in two more films.  The character and personality of Tommy Jarvis fit the style of Corey Feldman quite well and the character is actually believable, unlike virtually every other character in the film who simply exists to be creatively killed.  Death scenes include a corkscrew to the forehead (of Crispin Glove, AKA George McFly), a couple of impalements, a harpoon to a crotch, a nasty collision with some shower tile, a finger through the eye, and an axe to the head.  Nice.

The ending of the film is the best since the original.  Tommy Jarvis ends up shaving his head to resemble a young Jason Vorhees.  The ploy works long enough to distract Jason so that Tommy’s sister, Trish, can get the upper hand.  Tommy eventually flips out and ends up taking a machete to the corpse of a presumed dead Jason about fifty times.  It is actually a pretty freaky little scene to see Tommy with a shaved head going crazy on Jason yelling “Die Die Die” the entire time.  This whacked out ending will be used in part 5 to explain the thrust of that film’s plot.

This one is probably the best since the original or at least a close tie with part 2.  That, of course, is a relative statement and remains a pretty bad horror movie.  But as I have said all along through this series of reviews, if you like slasher films and don’t mind the same, tired formula, then it is hard to go wrong with a Friday the 13th film.  This one is no different.

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Piranha 3D – Review

Piranha 3D – Review

Aug 20, 2010

reviewed by hallo
directed by Alexandre Aja, 2010
(to read Danny’s review of Piranha 3D, click here)
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Anytime the initial scene of a horror movie reveals someone hanging out in a boat in the middle of a seemingly deserted lake, you can bet your bottom dollar that extreme campiness will follow (Lake Placid, Hatchet).  Piranha 3D keeps that tradition alive.  After a small earthquake creates an opening to a separate underground lake that had been sealed off from the main Lake Victoria for millions of years, a deadly species of piranha, presumed to have been been extinct for years, are now able to make their way to Lake Victoria.  The arrival of the flesh-eating fish is ill-timed since it is spring break week and thousands of hormone filled young people are enjoying their free time on the lake.  The stage is set for hardcore carnage.

The movie follows the plight of young Jake, a teenager still living at home under the care of his mom, who is also the town sherrif, played wonderfully by Elizabeth Shue.  Instead of fulfilling his obligations as a babysitter to his younger brother and sister, Jake sets out on a boat with a small crew from a “Girls Gone Wild” rip-off as their “location scout.”  While on the lake, the piranha discover the buffet of people available to them and the crystal clear water soon turns dark red.  Lots of blood and lots of body parts make up the rest of the film.

A quick perusal of RottenTomatoes.com will show a “fresh” rating of 81%.  What is interesting about the reviews, however, is that many critics associated with RottenTomatoes.com echo sentiments similar to Beth Accomando who says, “The new Piranha 3D lived down to my absolute lowest expectations and I say that with nothing but gleeful affection.”  I, unfortunately, agree with her assessment but cannot agree with her conclusion.  Despite some strong performances and a few effective death scenes which I will mention below, the film falls woefully short.

The primary reason for my disappoint with the film is its ridiculously over-the-top sexual exploitation.  Whereas many horror films effectively utilize sexuality to improve the telling of the story, Piranha 3D simply needed something for the viewers to watch in-between kill scenes.  That something was a bunch of sex-starved college students going a step beyond the antics of Mardi-Gras relocated on an otherwise serene lake.  A few times during the film I was embarrassed to be in the theater even though I was by myself.  I am also getting a bit weary of movies doing a rip-off of “Girls Gone Wild” as a main part of their storyline.  It was just too much.

I was also disappointed with both the 3-D filming and the underwater struggles with the piranhas.  Many times, thanks to a massive amount of blood and the lack of clarity with the 3-D, much of the action was unrecognizable.  You couldn’t really make out what you were watching much of time during underwater scenes.  Add to that the reality that Piranha 3D has absolutely nothing to say about anything (by design no doubt) and I am left underwhelmed.

Nevertheless, the film does have its bright spots.  Elizabeth Shue is wonderful, as always, and brought a much needed serious tone to the film.  Her performance was especially interesting after recently podcasting on the topic of whether or not horror movies are misogynistic.  Richard Dreyfus, who is the unfortunate soul to first meet the piranhas, was fun to watch although he reminded you how much better Jaws is than this film.  For me, the highlight of the movie was a brief appearance by Christopher Lloyd as the old scientist who correctly identified the species of piranha unleashed in the lake.  It was as if Doc Brown had shifted his scientific prowess from a time travel expert to an ichthyologist.

Amid the mostly disappointing and convoluted kill scenes were a few memorable ones.  The best by far was the burrowing of a piranha into the stomach of a helpless lady only to explode out of her mouth a few moments later.  There was also a nice scene of a boat line falling down and slicing a young lady in half – Aja allowed 5-6 seconds of time to elapse before showing that she had been cut.

Overall, I am glad I saw the movie.  It is certainly possible that my expectations for the film were way too high.  I can’t fully recommend it and would heavily caution parents before allowing young people to see this film.  Yet, it is fun in parts, there is a great cast, and every now then you will find yourself smiling.  I guess that is more than I can say for a lot of horror films out there.  Proceed with caution.

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Body Count Podcast #1011

Body Count Podcast #1011

Aug 20, 2010

Are horror movies misogynistic?  Hallo, Melissa, Danny, and Skot discuss that and other issues in this thought-provoking episode of Body Count.

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Free DVD Giveaway – August 2010

Free DVD Giveaway – August 2010

Aug 18, 2010

We are a bit late getting this one up, but here are the details for the DVD giveaway for August.  There is of course no purchase necessary, just a fun way to earn some free horror movies.

To be included in the drawing for a FREE DVD copy of  “Let the Right One In”, simply follow these two easy steps:
1.  Leave a comment on ANY review or podcast on our site.
2.  Make sure to leave your correct email when entering your comment (it won’t be made public).

All comments made through the rest of August will automatically enter you into the drawing for the Free DVD.

To read Hallo’s review of “Let The Right One In” – click here.

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