One of the scariest things I've been facing this horrible Halloween season is the prospect of actually writing anything for this blog. It's been a while and I'm out of practice and the prospect of sitting down in front of a blank page and coming up with something, but anything, is just pretty damned terrifying. That said, it wouldn't be much of a Halloween countdown without some movie reviews, which I wistfully remember used to actually comprise the meat and general heartiness of Negative Pleasure. Fond memories floating through the ether like gossamer in the wind...
Anyway, I've had a really hard time finding some good horror flicks to watch this month so far, or even some good-bad kinda horror trash. Mostly I've just been watching trash, and it's starting to get under my skin a bit (trash skin) and get a little depressing. One movie I kind of expected to like but was seriously disappointed by was this year's remake of Joe Dante's class PIRANHA. As directed by Dante and scripted by John Sayles, the original PIRANHA is just on the fence of what I'd consider acceptable material for a remake. On the one hand, it's a pretty well-realized film with a great cast, lots of humor, lots of blood and a least a taste of social significance. On the other hand, it's a first feature and pretty low budget and as such can be a bit clunky in parts. The clunkiness never really took away my love for Dante's film, but I can see where some scenes and plot ideas could be improved upon.
Almost right off the bat, the new PIRANHA gets everything wrong. It's main failure is a lack of character development, which is especially ridiculous since there are some really good actors in this thing (Elizabeth Shue, Adam Scott, Ving Rhames, Christopher Lloyd, even a cameo by Richard Dreyfuss) but none of them are given anything to do character-wise. You might say that for a 3-D movie, a lot of it is pretty one-dimensional. This is really a fatal flaw, too, because we're not given any characters we can strongly identify with. Most of the film's attention is in fact lavished upon some of the most noxious characters conceivable, which speaks to the other major problem the film has, its tiresome spring break setting.
Now, I know I'm not the most average guy in the world, but I can't be the only person who's just totally turned off every time a movie revels in the supposed debauchery of college kids gone wild. Especially in a movie like this, where presumably there's supposed to be some tension around whether or not these kids are going to get eaten. If the kids are all insufferable douchbags (and they are), who really cares what happens to them? By the time the climactic massacre arrives, there's no emotional investment in any of the characters in the film, and thus the scene just plays out as violence for the sake of violence.
Don't get me wrong, I love movie violence, but even here director Alexandre Aja fails to find a correct tone and strike a balance between horror and humor. The sequence is far too gory to be played for laughs, it's far too brutal, and yet that seems, at least partially, to be the intent. It just doesn't work, though, when you have dozens of people graphically mutilated and disemboweled, or show cowardly characters callously killing one another in desperate attempts to get to safety.
In a nutshell, the new PIRANHA is a mess. It's almost so slight as to feel like a non-film, or as though considerable plot and character scenes had been edited out of it. It's simply not a good film, no matter how much tits and blood it delivers, there just isn't enough meat to it, it just doesn't have enough GUTS (in the form of humanity, emotion, real drama, real characters).