Hungry Fishby Kavish Chetty / 28.10.2010
When you’re gurgling and gulping dime-store vodka in a dark theatre of dreams, your veins, your synapses – they sing together in an inoculating chorus: “everything’s fine, dreamy, lovely, close your eyes.” Already dipped deep into the numbness of shitty, unstomachable Black Horse, I thought I had all contingencies mapped out; all exigencies prepared for. Hollywood, do thine worst! Comfortably seated, 3D-glasses on, introspective faculties off: Let’s go!
Piranha 3D got me all mistakenly excited about its eponymous freshwater fish. The Piranha (or Pygocentrus Nattareri, if you don’t please) of reality, of our world, is just a rather unremarkable little sonofabitch. They are omnivorous for one, and their bite is considered “more an act of carelessness than misfortune”. The Piranha of illusion, of their world, on the other hand – this is one mean motherfucker: sleek and prehistoric with a mouthful of glacial teeth; red-eyed and rapacious grotesqueries of the ocean. In our movie, they are belched out into the upper layer of the ocean, freed from their subterranean slumber, by some sort of seismic drift – and the result is suitably, expectedly batshit.
The film is set in a sleepy town alongside Lake Arizona – once a year, during Spring Break, the boardwalks are thronged and pullulate with undressed undergraduates – a Caligulan feast of supple thonged arse and sweat-soaked tits. At this year’s Break, Jerry O’Connell (who has a recognisable and yet forgettable face – it looks familiar, but where the hell is it from?) plays an amateur gonzo pornographer looking for a local kid to help him find the ‘sweet spots’ around the Lake. He’s taking with him fat-titted tartlets Kelly Brooke and Riley Steele to film his latest production – and thus, ends up on a yacht with a cast of bright, bleed-worthy young folk – while minutes away at the Spring Break proper, thousands and thousands of flesh vessel girls and boys party around waiting for catastrophe.
There are two orders at which this film must be approached: first, violence. In one of the most cathartic cinematic scenes (in recent memory) for elitists and general misanthropes everywhere, a couple hundred pretty students get their shit owned by hungry fish. This scene labours on its visceral art for perhaps ten minutes. You’d think there was only so much damage a fish could do; so few ways in which they could inventively nourish themselves on human lymph. Then feasts your eyes, palsy: as they chomp off cocks and tits, gobble up whole limbs and leave behind fleshless outlines. The lake darkens to crimson and the throttled screams of young honeys just invite more torture. It’s gratuitous, exploitative, strangely pleasing.
The second order is, obviously, sex. Now, in the rich tradition of high-school horrorshows, you’ve got tender breast and curvaceous bum on the menu. But what about a two-minute scene of balletic pornography, in which two porn-stars make out underwater in their milky nudity to the ‘Flower Duet’ from the Léo Delibes’ opera Lakmé? What a clash of lowbrow impulse and high-class culture! Otherwise, there’s an open buffet of softcore running throughout the film – tits getting hosed down, liquor getting slurped out of curvy navels. Violence and sex all at once – hurl and get hard, rinse and repeat.
This age, 2010 (those heavy numerals of expectation), seems to have lent itself to a new breed of hyper-ironic, self-referential exploitation cinema. This film is stupid and boorish, affirmative of so much status quo (I mean, goddamn, they actually threw in a romance story in the middle! can you fucking believe that?), filled with unsubverted expectations and ridiculous plot twists. But at the same time, if you’re in the right surrendering and drunken mood, it’s fun, careless – a solidly entertaining time out – and so quintessentially postmodern, so emblematic of our time. Isn’t that the real horror?