“Welcome to rock bottom,” David Hasselhoff sighs midway through Piranha 3DD. With the possible exception of “starring David Hasselhoff as himself,” no other phrase so aptly describes the sad and depressing experience of sitting through this inept sequel. The original Piranha 3D – which was itself a remake – delivered a feast of guilty pleasures, delivered with a knowing wink and a keen understanding of what 3D is really good for. The sequel – like so, so many sequels before it – adopts the same formula without bringing anything else to make it different. The twinkle in the first film’s eye becomes an ugly sneer here; the Meta-style winking serves as a catch-all excuse for cruelty and misogyny. With former stars Ving Rhames and Christopher Lloyd returning for a naked cash grab, the film goes from regrettable to unwatchable in a big hurry.
The big change in the second film is a shift in locale: from a skeezy spring break destination to a skeezy water park a couple of towns over. The majority co-owner (David Koechner, utterly wasted) envisions it as a strip bar with water slides, much to the consternation of his good-girl stepdaughter (Danielle Panabaker) who has a stake in the park as well. Then a school of carnivorous fish invades and we’re left with the expected spate of scantily clad extras shrieking at the top of their lungs as the water boils red around them.
I cannot stress strongly enough that I have no problems with such a scenario … provided the filmmakers invest a little effort into it. 3D was born for the sex-and-violence particulars of the grindhouse, and with a little imagination, a good director can make the thrills and kills surprisingly entertaining. Piranha 3DD exercises no such creativity. Instead, it focuses on pumping up the ugly and hateful stereotypes in order to better enjoy their demise. With the exception of one plucky hero and heroine, the women are all sluts, the men crude pervets. All the better to give us a sense of self-righteousness when they die, and allow us to enjoy the carnage without guilt.
Good horror movies either play with that notion or attempt to send it up. This one just revels in it, flinging badly executed kill shots in between gratuitous breasts and lame digs at Hasselhoff’s career. You keep waiting for something to kick it up a notch, only to be constantly disappointed. One early gag involves a piranha hiding in an unknowing woman’s vagina, only to bite off her lover’s dick while they make love. This kind of backwoods rapist humor might have worked in some sick way with a little more work. But Director John Gulager never explains away the vast leaps in logic required to get there, expecting the payoff to forgive all sins. It doesn’t, and yet the film doubles down on the same formula again and again.
When that fails, it pads the running time with gratuitous cheesecake shots stretched out as far as they can go. Even then, it’s a near thing; the running time officially ends at around the 70-minute mark, with another 12 minutes of credits afterwards. You won’t see any more sure sign of surrender than the studio’s effort to actively bury this turkey. Despite the first film’s grindhouse success, Piranha 3DD opened in a tiny 86 theaters nationwide with a concurrent VOD release. If they had such little confidence in their product, how could they expect any different? 3D covers up a lot of sins, but even cheesy little horror films need something in their corner. Piranha 3DD exists only as a colossal waste of time: a carnival hustle that even The Hoff should be ashamed of.