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Movie Review

The bustling community of Lake Victoria, Ariz., is gearing up for spring break. Hormonally heated teens and twentysomethings are pouring in by the busload, stripping off their clothes, breaking out the booze and partying like there's no tomorrow.

You know where this is going, right? For most of them, there won't be a tomorrow.

Local guy Jake Forester has just been offered a job to show a camera crew around the area's hotspots. Truth be told, Jake's a little hesitant because they're sort of amateur porn makers who crank out Wild Wild Girls videos. But it's a job, he figures. And he's not too opposed to the naked girl "side-benefit." Jake figures it'll all be fine just as long as his mother doesn't find out.

But Jake's single-parent mom is too busy with work to worry about her son right now anyway. She just happens to be the local sheriff, and it's her job to figure out how to keep all those spring breakers from running drunk and naked through town. Not only that, but a fisherman just showed up dead—his body badly torn and chewed up. She's afraid it's gonna be one of those months.

Now you really do know where this is going. A seismic shift has opened a rift beneath the lake releasing sharp-toothed predators that have been sealed off since prehistoric times. And, boy, are they hungry.


Positive Elements

Jake, Sheriff Forester and the town deputies are all heroic figures who literally put life and limb on the line to save others from the ravages of the ancient piranha. A couple of the deputies die while hacking or shooting at the creatures and pulling people to safety.

Spiritual Content

The Wild Wild Girls director whispers to a girl, "Your body is a temple and now is the time to give thanks," as he licks her bikini-clad and tequila-covered body.

Sexual Content

This horror film uses spring break frolicking as an excuse to closely ogle women of all shapes and sizes—some with tops, many without. Guys and gals are clad in a wide variety of flesh-revealing swimsuits throughout the film—skintight one-piece outfits, barely there bikinis, etc. Shots often switch to slo-mo to better examine their splashing and dancing movements. A wet T-shirt contest gets lots of close-up camera time as well.

Lots of couples kiss and grope while wearing very little. The camera lingers and lingers as two fully nude women caress and kiss each other while swimming and intertwining underwater. Then the camera examines one of the girls' naked posterior as she pulls herself up to the boat. When Jake checks out the Wild Wild Girls site online he's greeted by pictures of topless girls and moaning female voices.

Violent Content

Grinding, ripping, tearing and gushing forms of violence devour most of Piranha's 90 minutes. The Hills Have Eyes director Alexandre Aja pushes hard on the limits of modern special effects tech to deliver a very realistic and lurid visual. During a full-on carnage scene when the ravaging piranha attack hundreds of swimmers, the young people are savagely bloodied in almost every way possible. And it's not just razor-sharp teeth they must worry about. For instance, a guy jumps into a motor boat to make a panicked escape and drives the craft over other terrified victims, hacking and eviscerating them with its propeller. One girl's hair becomes entwined in the blades, which rip her scalp and part of her face away.

Another horrid moment takes place when a high-tension wire breaks and lashes across a girl's chest. She looks down in time to see her breasts exposed as her bikini top falls away, and then her upper torso divides and slides to the ground too.

So there's an important thing to note about Aja's gruesome imagery: Many times sexuality and violence are ground up together in the same cinematic blender. In another scene, the camera ogles a topless parasailer as she splashes joyfully in and out of the water—and then shocks the audience when, in a flash, the piranha devour her from the waist down.

A man cries out when the frenetic fish attack his crotch. We watch as two piranha fight over his dismembered penis. The victor swallows it and then swims up to the camera and spits up the half-eaten member right in the camera's eye.

Bones are snapped, bodies broken in two, flesh skinned and slashed away, eyeballs chewed, entrails devoured, and literally thousands of gallons of blood fill the waters.

Crude or Profane Language

At least 30 f-words and about 10 s-words. Other profanities include "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑" and "b‑‑ch." God's name is abused more than a dozen times. (It's combined with "d‑‑n" close to half the time.) Jesus' name is misused a half-dozen times as well. There are multiple crude and vulgar references to female body parts.

Drug and Alcohol Content

In the opening moments of the movie, the alcohol begins to flow. It doesn't stop until the piranha kill nearly everyone. Partiers guzzle beer out of bottles and funnels. Many also drink hard liquor. The Wild Wild Girls crew (plus Jake) down tequila and pour it over near-naked models so they can lick it up. The Wild Wild Girls crew (minus Jake) snort coke.

Lots of folks are seen inebriated. Jake's girlfriend, Kelly, gets sick from the booze. (She vomits toward the camera.)

Other Negative Elements

Stupid choices abound. Some of them get people dead. Others include Jake running off to be with the Wild Wild Girls crew instead of looking after his young siblings as he promised. He bribes them not to tell, and he lies repeatedly to his mother. The kids, in turn, paddle off to a small island rather than stay at home as they promised.


This flesh-and-blood pic chews its way out of a long history of B-horror flicks. It's creation was based on the same titillation-plus-horror-equals-entertainment formula that was first made popular back when drive-ins dotted the landscape and movie posters promised that a doctor would be on call in case anyone fainted at the sight.

In particular, Piranha tips its hat to Jaws, bringing in Richard Dreyfuss to reprise his role from that iconic shark's tale. But when his character is reduced to bone, gristle and hamburger within the first five minutes of screen time, well, you know this flick wants to push well past the 1970s.

Boy, does it. Alexandre Aja throws in enough camera-ogled nudity to rival a real Girls Gone Wild video. And he packs in as much prehistoric killer-fish CGI carnage as is humanly possible. Clearly Aja hopes his creation will soon be dubbed the new unhinged-exploitation gorefest standard-bearer.

And there is one "honor" Piranha has already earned: It has officially used more fake blood in its production than any other film in history. When actor Adam Scott was asked in an ign.com interview about all that gory mess, he opined, "When I see a tanker truck filled with blood by the side of the lake, I get to work and I think … Oscar."

Who's to say an Academy Award is a miracle that's out of the question? After all, Piranha managed to swim to mall movie screens with only an R rating. Maybe its killer fish beasties tore the more appropriate NC-17 assignment to shreds.

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Plot Summary

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Elisabeth Shue as Sheriff Julie Forester; Steven R. McQueen as Jake Forester; Ving Rhames as Deputy Fallon; Jerry O'Connell as Derrick Jones; Adam Scott as Novak; Christopher Lloyd as Mr. Goodman; Richard Dreyfuss as Matt


Alexandre Aja ( MirrorsThe Hills Have Eyes)


Dimension Films



Record Label



In Theaters

August 20, 2010

On Video

January 11, 2011

Year Published



Bob Hoose

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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