After living for millions of years in a tomb underwater, thousands of fearsome prehistoric piranhas are released after an tremor occurs. Fortunately for the piranhas there is plenty of food available as the tremor just happens to coincide with the annual Lake Victoria Spring Break week. Soon sheriff Julie Forester (Elisabeth Shue) and a marine biologist, Novak (Adam Scott) find themselves trying to not only stop the piranha invasion, but attempting to save Julie’s son, Jack (Steven R. McQueen), and the object of his affection, Kelly (Jessica Szohr), in the process.
It is hard to truly classify Piranha as a horror film as it aims to be more of a reimaging of the original Piranha film series. The problem is that the film does not know when to quit. It is like a joke that is no longer funny, yet the comedian is still trying to get as much mileage out of it as possible. For example, a good portion of Piranha is dedicated to spoofing the whole Girls Gone Wild franchise. Besides being several years late in regards to the subject, there is a point where the film becomes the very thing it is spoofing.
Every aspect of the film, with the exception of the plot, is done to great excess. Both the nudity and the violence are so gratuitous that the film ends up being a cheesy comedy instead of a horror movie. Similar to director Alexandre Aja’s previous films, The Hills Have Eyes and High Tension, Piranha has numerous scenes where Aja goes to extremes to generate some form of reaction from the audience. He fills the screen with scenes of the piranhas eating male and female genitalia, severing various limbs, and even a scene where a piranha devours a woman from inside out. Yet unlike his earlier works, these scenes do nothing more than causes fits of laughter instead of screams of terror.
If anything, the most shocking thing about Piranha is the cast that the film manages to pull together. Besides Shue, the film features the likes of Ving Rhames, Richard Dreyfuss, Jerry O’Connell, Christopher Lloyd, and even Eli Roth. It is perplexing to imagine what drew them all to this particular film? As neither the plot nor the campy humor is really that appealing. Out of all of the actors, only O’Connell and Lloyd seem to hit the right over-the-top tone that the film aims for. Elisabeth Shue does the best she can with the material she is given, but the fact that someone with her talent even did this film is probably the scariest thing of all.