Mega Piranha (2010)
By: Mr Intolerance on October 26, 2010  | 
DVD
Metrodome (UK) | Region 2, PAL | 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 88 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: Eric Forsberg
Starring: Paul Logan, Tiffany, Barry Williams
Screenplay: Eric Forsberg
Country: USA
External Links
IMDB Purchase YouTube
The Asylum are a company who for a long time have been making "mockbusters" – that is, films that openly capitalise on the success of big-budget films. For example, when the recent re-make of The Day The Earth Stood Still came out, The Asylum were pretty quick on the draw with The Day The Earth Stopped. I Am Legend is a box-office hit? No problem – they came back with I Am Omega. Terminator: Salvation is making some of that fat cash? No problemo – here's Terminators. So when Alexandre Aja was announced as the director of the remake of Joe Dante's awesome 80s creature feature Piranha, The Asylum grasped the concept with both hands and came up with Mega Piranha, riding high on the hog after the internet-driven success of one of their rare original films, the utterly ludicrous but fantastically named, Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus. The only problem was that Aja's film was held up due to its being re-marketed as a 3D film, and so Mega Piranha was released first, without any coattails to ride on.

I have no idea if the film was released prior to its "inspiration" in order to pip Aja to the post, but I can certainly tell you that more time was needed to bring this flick up to speed. I'm a sucker for a great title, and also a sucker for creature features (I bought the afore-mentioned Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus for those very reasons – and the clip I saw on YouTube of the Mega Shark a) taking down a jumbo jet, and b) chomping down on the Golden Gate Bridge), so when the idea of some Mega Piranhas savaging the US drifted through my transom, you'd better believe I was down with it, baby.

However, as we all know with exploitation flicks, they sell the sizzle, not the steak (as David Friedman – who, let's face it, would know – once told us), and despite all my optimism for this film, and despite the fact that it certainly wants its audience to like it through it's sheer barminess (I've never seen a film before where one of the highlights was seeing a giant, genetically modified piranha having leapt out of the ocean thence embedding itself in a building – seriously, it's a surreal sight, the back end of a giant fish protruding from a warehouse) and The Asylum's usual habit of casting has-beens in major roles – here we get not only 80s pop-queen of niceness Tiffany (who actually was the kind of girl you could take home to meet your parents, unlike the more brazen slatterns you actually wanted to date, like Traci Lords, or the Cycle Sluts From Hell), but also Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch. I am not making that up.

So anyway, way down south of the border, by the banks of the Orinoco River (and this is just the first of the irritating intertitles you get during the film, usually telling you who the characters are, as if you couldn't guess from the actual dialogue), trouble's a-brewin'. Y'see, there's a whole mess of genetically modified piranha who grow exponentially when they eat the dumb motherfuckers who go for a swim in their territory. Why genetically modify carnivorous fish? I have no idea. It makes no sense to me at all. In Dante's original film, it was to use as a kind of biological weapon during the Vietnam War. Here it seems to be to end global hunger – fish for everybody! In which case, why not use salmon (although Humanoids From The Deep showed us how that could go wrong), which I'm assuming is a helluva lot tastier, and there'd be more of, given that piranha are tiny fish to begin with. And so, with this spectacularly pointless premise under our collective belts, Mega Piranha begins.

Anyway, after a bloody kill to get the audience interested, the scene moves from the Orinoco to Venezuela – there's a lot of quickly jumping from location to location in this film, I guess it's trying to make the film seem dynamic – or the producers simply have a very real expectation of their target audience's attention span. But then, with absolutely nothing having happened in Venezuela, we're back to the Orinoco again. There's a party boat containing the US ambassador (played by writer/director Eric Forsberg) and the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, as well as some sexy topless senoritas and much champagne. Cue: expository dialogue. Venezuela is about to undergo trade sanctions from the US because of a communist overthrow of the government (the first of many racial stereotypes we see in the film), and the two politicians are trying some more unofficial means of negotiation to resolve things. But the piranha is no respecter of rank, and so while some of the fish tear open the hull of the boat in order to sink it, the rest launch themselves into the air to tear apart the few crew members who haven't already been knocked into the water. Shoddy CG carnage ensues…

Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, Secretary Of State Bob Grady (played by TV's The Brady Bunch's Barry Williams – look at the names of the characters – Greg Brady; Bob Grady – do you see what they did there?) rustles up our elite military hero Fitch (played with more woodenness than the Black Forest) to head down to Venezuela and see what gives, believing that the ambassador was assassinated. No one's thinking mutant killer fish right now, except of course top geneticist Sarah Monroe (the aforementioned Tiffany), who's out on the river looking for her escaped shoal of killers. Why is she so keen to find them? Because these finny fiends are doubling in size every 36 hours, and that spells badness for everybody. But local army commander Colonel Diaz is having nothing to do with Sarah's theories, and is equally not keen on having Fitch around. Seems that he's got something to hide in the jungle, and as far as he's concerned, the investigation is over. Fitch disagrees and sneaks off the army base he's been quartered on to go and have a look for himself.

It's about this point that I have to mention the editing. It is excruciating. Jump-cuts, accelerated motion, crash zooms (most of which are accompanied by an increasingly irritating "whoosh!", which draws your attention to it even more) – you start yearning for a take that lasts longer than fifteen seconds, and where the camera stands still for at least half of them.

Fitch gets the evidence he needs – although in some regards possibly didn't want – and teams up with the scientists to try to think of a way to kill the fish, who, given their migratory pattern, will end up in the Mississippi within 48 hours. Colonel Diaz on the other hand comes up with a great plan we've seen fail in many a movie – blow 'em up! The piranha are at the moment hemmed in to one particular inlet in the river by a kind of natural dam. Hmm – wooden dam + high-explosives. I wonder what might happen there? The fish escape, that's what happens, predictably enough (Fitch: "Colonel, this plan is FUBAR!"). Diaz raids Sarah's lab, arresting the scientists who are there, and searching for the ones who are currently out on the river, making sure all of the piranha are actually dead.

They're not.

As one of Diaz's gunboats discovers, the piranha are very much alive and well, having grown larger and hungrier. Diaz has the scientists under lock and key, but Fitch isn't happy with this – cue escape and chase scene. This is made more difficult for both sides due to the piranha, who are swimming for the ocean, and taking out every person they can along the way. And they make this guttural growling sound that I'm quite sure fish don't really make. Amidst all the carnage, Fitch has managed to contact Grady and get a naval destroyer on the scene to open fire on the river mouth, where the fresh water meets the salt water, and where the piranha will be momentarily trapped. But only if they call in at a very specific time – after all, given the political climate, a US naval ship opening fire on a sovereign state could be construed as an act of war, rather than rescuing some US civilians under attack.

But these piranha, who by this point are fucking huge, have been busily mutating – and salt water is now no obstacle to them. Neither is the US Navy, as one crew find out. Fitch steals a helicopter and the chase continues; Diaz is not one to let his prisoners escape – especially as they know that he's in cahoots with the local drug cartel. The US military have a plan to deal with the enormous, voracious horde – nuke 'em till they glow. Guess if you can how effective that particular manoeuvre is. For the piranha, it's now Florida, or bust!

Now this is not good news for the residents of Florida, and not for the obvious reason – y'see, the President has authorised a full-scale nuclear assault on the Florida peninsula if the piranha get there, with enough megatonnage to obliterate the landmass and boil the sea around it, as a way of dealing with the piscine menace. Some might see that as a little heavy-handed. But then Fitch comes up with a plan that if you've been paying attention to the film, actually makes sense – even if it is ludicrously dangerous. Am I going to tell you what it is? No – watch the film and find out for yourself. And you haven't seen the last of that crazy Colonel Diaz yet, either. Watch and learn, kids – watch and learn.

As a way of spending a lazy afternoon, Mega Piranha isn't so bad. Parts of it are hilarious (remember the Mega Shark taking out the jumbo jet? There's a similar scene here with a Mega Piranha and a helicopter – and there's a neat scene with a nice use of a flare-gun, too), it's certainly never boring, but it's just kind of lacklustre, and let down frequently by its budgetary limitations – the CG is not adequate to the task at hand (the aftermath of the piranha attack, for example – the explosions and stuff like that are fine), and frequently reminds you that what you're watching is at the lower end of the horror film spectrum. Similarly, the acting is not the greatest at times, and a number of the actors lack the requisite charisma for such a film. The concept is loopy enough to work, but the execution is sadly just below par.
Video
Good, generally, despite the MTV editing. It's in the intended aspect ratio, anamorphically enhanced, crisp and clear, although it does have that DTV vibe about it, which I know can throw some folks off.
Audio
Again, it's what you'd expect from a recent film, and a creature feature at that – loud and clear, although I don't think The Asylum have really got their heads around how 5.1 sound works.
Extra Features
There are trailers for Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus, Fifty Dead Men Walking (a crime drama with Ben Kingsley that actually looks quite good), Attack On Leningrad, and, of course, Mega Piranha. You also get a "making of" featurette and a blooper reel. A reasonable package, I guess.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
In the end, this is vaguely enjoyable fun, but if you miss it, it won't ruin your life. There are some neat moments, but as a film as a whole it really doesn't cut the mustard. The basic concept is utter lunacy and the whole thing is really just a premise to show a few girls in bikinis, lots of CG gore and a few entertainment has-beens in rather embarrassing roles. This isn't utter dreck, and had some moments I actually really engaged with, but ultimately, it's pretty forgettable - which is a shame.

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