Details: (M), 92 mins, In Cinemas 21 April 2011, United States, English
Synopsis: A mutant strain of giant ferocious piranha escape from the Amazon and eat their way toward Florida.
A contrived wannabe cult film.
When did ‘bad’ movies become so genuinely bad? The idea of cult cinema has been with us since the late 1970s, when midnight screenings introduced audiences to everything from the low budget follies of Edward Wood Jr. (Plan 9 from Outer Space) to the cross-dressing musical antics of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Careers such as that of John Waters were nurtured by cult markets – where else was a movie like Pink Flamingos going to survive, let alone prosper?
There are still releases, such as Tommy Wiseau’s baffling The Room, that could have no other home, but as the idea of cult cinema has become a codified commercial genre it has sacrificed individuality for predictable failure. Mega Piranha, 90 minutes of low-rent creature feature action, is being screened locally for the 'Cult Cravings' market, and nominally it fits the bill, but its stupidity and failings are ultimately dispiriting.
Initially set in Venezuela, it’s the tall tale of genetically modified piranhas that have escaped from the control of the American scientists who developed them, and are now multiplying exponentially in both size and number. Beginning with a boatload of official figures and bikini-clad extras, the creatures devour most anything in their path, heading for the Atlantic Ocean. Sent to investigate is square-jawed U.S. government asset Jason Fitch (Paul Logan), who falls in with worried scientist Sarah Monroe (eighties pop starlet Tiffany) as they try to deal with a looming crisis despite the obstruction of local army officer, Colonel Diaz (David Labiosa).
The production values are laughably bad. The digitally rendered piranhas are pasted onto the screen, and when they devour people it’s so inept that you start to wonder if that’s the sole point. The performances are either wooden or manic, the dialogue is banal and the plotting staggers from scene to scene, as the creatures grow bigger and start launching themselves into buildings like missiles, or devouring battleships. A car chase is merely a few shots of regular driving clumsily sped up and the same establishing shots are used to the point of absurdity.
Mega Piranha draws plenty of easy laughs, but that’s all the film wants. It’s meant to be dire, and at a certain point the surplus of crass shortfallings becomes monotonous. The filmmakers who made the original cult classics believed in the cinema and hoped that they were adding to it, however misguided their ambitions proved to be. Ed Wood thought he was doing great work, but with Mega Piranha writer-director Eric Forsberg is simply out to tie together the minimal elements as quickly and cheaply as possible.
Part of the problem is that the production wasn’t even made for the moviehouse. Mega Piranha was commissioned and first screened by American cable channel SyFy, screening on a Friday night just prior to the cinema release of last year’s Piranha 3D as a kind of pre-emptive cash-in. The target audience was 10- to 14-year-old boys, which combined with the comparatively tame American screening standards, is why there’s not even a hint of old school exploitation to underpin the movie. Watching adult audiences pay to laugh at a piece of junk made for grade six students staying up late, you have to wonder just who the joke is really on.
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