Watching a movie is all about the game of expectations. Are you going into it with high hopes or are you going into it for a distraction to take your mind off the trials and tribulations of daily life? It’s all about knowing what you want out of a movie. Watching Piranha 3D it’s hard to tell if director Alexandre Aja just gave audiences the typical blood and boobs formula for a horror movie or if there’s something more at work behind the scenes in Piranha 3D. The truth of the matter? It doesn’t matter either way. It’s still a pretty fun time, no matter what you’re hoping to get out of it.
Part of the fun of the movie is that it seems to know what it wants from its audience and does everything in its power to give it to us. It’s not likely that anybody was going into this movie with expectations of Oscar-winning performances or an emotionally resonant tale of survival. Piranha 3D set out to make a good time movie and in the end, that’s pretty much all it is. But what’s so engaging about the movie? For me, it was the blend of horror and humor. Plenty of movies have attempted to bring the two together before. A solid chunk of them have even been able to do it before, but with this movie, Aja engages with the audience in a way that’s missing from most of his other work. He is constantly teasing the audience with the promise of gore, but always seems to pull back, retreating to the story world before delivering a massacre of epic proportions. There are literally scenes in the film that filter in like clockwork. After about 20 or so minutes of narrative, without fail, Aja introduces us to a new character. No name, no real dialogue to speak of. They literally exist only as food for the piranhas and also, for the audience’s appetite for gore. Maybe some people will go into the movie expecting more, but I was impressed that Piranha 3D tried so hard to establish a narrative, while also knowing when to give the audience the mindless violence that brought most people to the theater in the first place.
However, there are times where the narrative seems a little forced, which can make the movie’s 88 minute running time seem a little daunting. While the actual story is nothing too unfamiliar, the whole thing is drawn out by a forced romantic entanglement for the film’s two young leads, Jake and Kelly. While the two are certainly attractive enough and Jake is a charming “average Joe” protagonist, the two together seems somewhat forced. It’s difficult to say what throws these two together and why we’re supposed to be invested in whether or not they end up together. Part of that is their lack of chemistry with one another, but it’s also about the fact that, it’s never a question in our mind that the two will eventually fall for one another. There’s just not nearly as much at stake with the romance as there is with the survival of each of the characters. Still, for this one drawback, the film provides plenty of other fodder for the audience to enjoy.
While Piranha 3D may not be the perfect movie, it’s a perfectly fun one. It knows what its audience wants from it and its more than happy to supply it in any way that it can. What Aja has crafted with this film is yet another mindless piece of horror that may not offer much in the way of profundity, but it knows not to take itself too seriously. It’s a bloodbath with a few elements of story thrown in there, but honestly, I wouldn’t recommend seeing it for the plot. Go for the gore. Go for the splatter. Don’t kid yourself and go for a well-written film. Just sit back and enjoy the carnage.