You can watch “Piranha 3D” in theaters and/or the original “Piranha” on Blu-ray Disc at home this weekend.
The good news is that you will have a good time either way. Both are so over-the-top and preposterous that despite the buckets of blood and body parts — or because of it — they are simply lots of good fun.
Interestingly, the new “Piranha” is not so much a remake since there is almost nothing in common between the two movies except the name of the title character and a climax in which the lead actor makes a heroic dive underwater into an enclosed area and is yanked out by a rope around his waist that is attached to a speedboat. But even those final outcomes are very different. Oh, and the 3D, but it is so subtle it would have been better without it so the picture would be brighter (the “3D” tag isn’t even included in the on-screen title). Actually, it could have been way better in 3D if the filmmakers had pushed post-production conversion separation a lot further into the audience.
The new piranhas are CGI prehistoric creatures unleashed from a buried lake; the original piranhas-on-a-stick are mutant genetic military experiments gone bad.
The new “Piranha” takes place during a spring break party on a desert lake; the original takes place on a lake in the woods used by kids at a summer camp and a community picnic.
The new “Piranha” wallows in the numerous opportunities to show young naked women in party-mode, in peril, or doing a lengthy underwater bikini-less ballet for a “Girls Gone Wild”-type producer as if they were performing for the opening titles of a James Bond movie that didn’t bother obscuring any of their body parts in silhouette or otherwise (it’s actually a very beautiful sequence). The original film mimics the opening of “Jaws” by briefly showing a young lady nude when she ill-advisedly goes skinny dipping at an abandoned research center at night, but mostly features children thrashing and screaming in the water instead of bare-chested ladies getting their torsos lopped off.
The new “piranha” doesn’t seem to be trying as hard as the original to build much tension, unlike many tongue-in-cheek horror movies that can still keep you on the edge of your seat, such as “Scream.” But the new cast is far superior to the original and supplies enough credibility to keep you engaged more than most low-budget exploitative horror movies — Elisabeth Shue, Steven R. McQueen (grandson of Steve McQueen), Ving Rhames and Christopher Lloyd, along with a cameo by Richard Dreyfuss reprising his Matt Hooper character from “Jaws.” But ya gotta love the casting of Keenan Wynn (“Dr. Strangelove”) and “Leave it to Beaver’s” Richard Deacon (Mr. Rutherford) in the original.
Shout Factory’s recently released Blu-ray Disc of the 1978 version directed by Joe Dante under the banner of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics offers multiple enjoyable extras, particularly an audio commentary by Dante and producer Jon Davison, who recall Corman telling them to keep credits short or people would wonder why it took so many people to make such a low-budget movie, and a 19-minute retrospective featuring interviews with Corman, Dante, the creature makers, and others. There are also bloopers and deleted scenes, original trailers and TV and radio spots from Corman’s New World Pictures company, and additional scenes added to the network TV version.
— By Scott Hettrick