So here I am. I have been back from vacation, officially, for about an hour and a half. It was amazing, everything on my checklist and then some. Most of which involved, beaches, swimming, eating, and drinking. So, you know, amazing vacation. I even took in a few end-of-summer movies. Both of them falling strictly in the B-movie/exploitation vein.
Piranha (3D) (2010)
Truly embarrassing true confession time: we ended up seeing this movie three times in one week. Sadly its true. We went one late night. Then a friend came to the beachhouse to visit and we decided she needed to see it, then the same situation happened the next night with one more friend when we all decided he should see it as well. Up until now Monsoon Wedding was the only movie I had ever seen in an empty theater. Add Piranha to that list. Yes, there might have been alcohol involved, why do you ask? Anyway, this is probably exploitation in its truest form, it takes place during Spring Break, on a lake, and I won't reveal where the piranha come from because thats part of the "fun". There is a lot of blood and a lot of bare breasts. And it is ridiculous in the most fun way possible. I'm not kidding, this movie was audacious, and just plain crazy. Sure the two leads, one of which I will get to in a minute, were awful. But they were surrounded by the likes of Elisabeth Shue, still beautiful, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd-doing his best Doc Brown, Richard Dreyfuss in a super-brief role, and Jerry O'Connell, who deserves some sort of special recognition for his off-the-wall performance as a Joe Francis-like svengali running a "Girls Gone Wild" type of operation. It never, for a second, takes itself seriously. And in the greatest exploitation tradition pads its running time out with a tequila body shots and, I kid you not, water ballet. Its so nuts and so ridiculous, and so much fun at least to see with a group of people. I don't know how it will play in different conditions. I do know it probably didn't need to be 3D, but thats true for most movies.
A couple of interesting things:
This, of course, being a remake of one of the better Jaws ripoffs from the 70's, one thats actually great campy fun, made in 1978 and directed by a young Joe Dante through the Roger Corman factory. Although the reason the piranha exist is different in the remake than the government engineered ones in the original....its something even more ludicrous. Well, there are a couple little homages, from Richard Dreyfuss (as "Matt" in the credits) brief appearance, to Ving Rhames remarking that a body being pulled of the lake couldn't have been mutilated by a boat propeller, is just one of the many nods to the king of them all. Although, they pretty much remove the financial reasons for not closing down the town, even the Dante Piranha had a plot about a crooked real estate man who wouldn't shut down the river...there wasn't time for anything like that. Things moved at a pretty swift rate. But, the boat that Jerry O'Connell took out his crew to shoot for his videos was called the "Barracuda". This is funny only because there was actually another z-grade Jaws ripoff in 1978 also called, yup, Barracuda.
Thats a deep cut right there. (Also, I found this truly niche-y blog, The Jaws Ripoff Blog" Which is devoted to these sorts of movies.)
So I mentioned the two teenaged leads. Well, the female "lead" was Jessica Szohr, who played Kelly, and she was truly awful. (Another exploitation flick mainstay: bad performances!) Well, the lead is someone I found out is on a show called the Vampire Diaries, believe me, he's no prize either. But his name is Steven R. McQueen (seriously) Check out this family tree:
Who's father, is Chad McQueen, also known as Dutch, the arguably a bigger dick than Johnny on the Cobra Kai in Karate Kid (also an Elisabeth Shue co-star! I wonder how that made her feel?)
And, their father and grandfather, happens to be a legend, of course, that's Steve McQueen:
Now, what's weird is Robert Rodriguez set out to consciously make an exploitation movie (Mexi-ploitation? Maybe?) He and everyone involved is having a good time, clearly. The one thing Machete could have taken from Piranha is the power of keeping things movie. When Machete was good, it was really good. But the thing is it tended to drag a little bit in the middle, and the plot was sort of needlessly complicated. But the rest was fun in a way Rodriguez seems to be going for. Danny Trejo was awesome, and Steven Seagal and Don Johnson were clearly having a blast playing the bad guys. And, I have to admit, this was the most I have enjoyed a Robert De Niro performance in a while. But I do appreciate the mini-Jeff Fahey comeback that seems to be going on and he milks his part for all its worth. Its also ludicrous, but thats sort of the point.