Conceived 32 years ago as producer Roger Corman’s tongue-in-cheek spin on the Jaws formula, Piranha returns with a new 3-D gimmick courtesy of director Alexandre Aja, who resurrected Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes in 2006 with passably nasty results.
Aja's latest requires little explanation. It’s spring break under siege, as busty coeds lose their tops and then their limbs in graphic enough detail that Piranha, deemed too raunchy for Comic-Con, earns its R rating the old-fashioned way. It helps that besides the engaging Elisabeth Shue, Adam Scott (TV’s Party Down) and Richard Dreyfuss, who starred in Jaws, several members of the supporting cast are porn stars.
While director Alexandre Aja and longtime screenwriting collaborator Grégory Levasseur have proven themselves artful purveyors of fright, they too often squander their talents on stories that collapse beneath the weight of misplaced ambition.
Consider their singularly frustrating breakthrough, 2003’s High Tension. It’s a nasty slice of psychotic mayhem, straightforward and unsettling until, in its waning moments, Aja and Levasseur play fast and loose with the film’s internal logic. Their follow-up, a remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes, was little more than a technical exercise, but a mostly effective one, demonstrating that the French duo is quite capable of spinning nightmarish visions into tightly constructed yarns.