Piranha (January 6/11)
A remake of Joe Dante's eponymous 1978 thriller, Piranha follows an eclectic assortment of characters as they're forced to fend for their lives after the blood-thirsty title creatures launch a vicious attack during spring break. Director Alexandre Aja kicks the film off with a promising yet disappointing sequence in which a hapless fisherman (Richard Dreyfuss) is brutally assaulted by dozens of piranha, with the interlude's effectiveness diminished by an emphasis on laughably inept computer-generated special effects. The underwhelming vibe persists for much of the movie's opening hour, as Aja, working from Pete Goldfinger and Josh Stolberg's screenplay, augments the all-too-familiar storyline with a decidedly less-than-fresh selection of characters - which effectively ensures that Piranha, in its early stages, is simply unable to sustain the viewer's interest for more than a few minutes at a time. (This is despite the presence of several scene-stealers within the cast, including Christopher Lloyd, Ving Rhames, and Adam Scott.) It's not until the deadly aquatic creatures launch their assault in earnest that the film finally becomes the fun horror-movie ride that one might've expected (and hoped for), as Aja offers up an impressively brutal final third that injects the proceedings with some much-needed energy and effectively compensates for the lackluster nature of everything preceding it - which ultimately cements Piranha's place as a mildly watchable B-movie effort that could have (and should have) been so much better.
Picking up shortly after the events of its 2010 predecessor, Piranha, Piranha 3DD details the chaos that ensues at a water park after the titular creatures find their way into the plumbing. It's a purposefully tongue-in-cheek setup that's generally employed to underwhelming effect by filmmaker John Gulager, as the movie, which has clearly been shot on a shoestring, boasts a roster of hopelessly forgettable central characters and, for the most part, lurches from one poorly-conceived set-piece to the next. The film consequently suffers from an absence of momentum that proves rather disastrous, though there's little doubt that the sporadic inclusion of appreciatively gory interludes prevents Piranha 3DD's transformation into an irredeemable waste of time. (It's clear, too, that the movie benefits from the return of Ving Rhames' Deputy Fallon and Paul Scheer's Andrew, with the hilarious banter between their respective characters - eg "Don't listen to my pussy-ass mouth!" - standing as an obvious highlight within the proceedings.) The film's most disappointing stretch, however, is undoubtedly the climactic massacre at the aforementioned water park, as the sequence, which ultimately stands in sharp contrast to the gleefully over-the-top bloodbath within Alexandre Aja's superior first movie, has been infused with a palpably low-rent feel that's compounded by Gulager's oddly incoherent directorial choices. It is, as a result, impossible to label Piranha 3DD as anything more than a fairly blatant cash-grab, which is a shame, certainly, given the potential offered by both the premise and the original film.