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Film review: 'Piranha' takes gore over the top

Published: Friday, Aug. 20 2010 3:00 p.m. MDT

Jerry O'Connell stars as one of the intended victims of prehistoric predatory fish that are freed from a cave.

Gene Page

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Piranha — ★1/2 — Elisabeth Shue, Steven R. McQueen; shown in both the 2-D and 3-D formats; rated R (violence, gore, nudity, profanity, brief sex, brief drugs); in general release

"Piranha" just might be the grossest, most disgusting, tasteless and over-the-top horror movie to come along in quite some time.

The remake/"re-imagining" of the 1978 film is definitely not for the squeamish. Or for those with a modicum of taste or standards. Or for most other audiences, when it comes down it …

In fact, its only saving grace, if the film can really be said to have one, is that the filmmakers were fully aware that they weren't making anything that could be taken seriously.

It even appears that they're making fun of the 3-D format, especially in the way the movie uses gory and violent content — and nudity — as punch lines.

(The film is showing in either 2-D or in 3-D, depending on locations, and this review is based on a 3-D showing.)

This version of the tale is set in a small community in the American Southwest. The town's sheriff, Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue), already has her hands full with hordes of drunken, partying teens and other spring breakers.

Unfortunately, some recent underwater, seismic activity has apparently opened a cavern and freed thousands of vicious, prehistoric predatory fish that put their modern-day counterparts to shame.

These critters begin their lethal attacks by first killing a fisherman (Richard Dreyfuss, spoofing his character from the first "Jaws" movie). From there, they move on to a team of geologists, led by Novak (Adam Scott), and then to their main course.

Director Alexandre Aja ("Mirrors") and two credited screenwriters aren't out to tell a coherent story, or develop characters. They're out to kill off as many human victims in as gruesome a fashion as possible, and in that regard they do succeed.

But their actors are playing their parts entirely too straight-faced for their own good, or for the good of the movie.

(Only Jerry O'Connell, who plays a sleazy videographer, and Christopher Lloyd, as a local fish expert, seem to realize they're in a B-grade — if not a Z-grade — film.)

"Piranha" is rated R for sequences of strong, often disturbing horror violence content and imagery (killer fish attacks, vehicular mayhem, gunplay, fiery and explosive mayhem, and children-in-peril elements), graphic gory and bloody imagery, full female and partial male nudity, strong sexual language (profanity and vulgar slang terms), brief sexual contact, brief drug use and references (cocaine), other off-color humor and references, and derogatory language and slurs. Running time: 89 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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