Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Paul Logan, Tiffany, Barry Williams, David Labiosa, Jude Gerard Priest, Jesse Daly
Written and directed by Eric Forsberg
I know this term has become quite politically incorrect of late to use, but I can think of no better way of describing Mega Piranha than to call this movie retarded. This movie is retarded. I mean that with the utmost of affection. The Asylum’s Mega Piranha is wonderfully retarded.
The mutant piranha with their fishy mongoloid facial features are the result of a genetic experiment to alter an ecosystem to be more productive in order to produce more food for the impoverished locals. By film’s end they will be the size of elephants. To hear the scientists talk, if not exterminated, and soon, these piranha will continue to propagate with no genetic off-switch to stop their exponential growth. That means by the time they would reach Washington, DC, they could be Godzilla sized. I suppose that means, theoretically, they could just keep growing and growing until eventually reaching the size of a planet and devour Earth. Then where would they be? Planet-sized piranha swimming through space devouring whole worlds like Galactus?
Move over Piranha 2: The Spawning; these mutant piranha don’t have wings, but they sure do fly, leaping out of the water at great heights and distance to get at their prey with reckless abandon. They smash into buildings, often leading to explosions or the hysterical image of a multi-story building with a fish tail flapping out of it. They leap onto land to chomp someone on shore with no means by which to get back into the water. Seems to me that they’d eventually beach themselves into extinction. The spectacle of a mega piranha attack is less like a feeding frenzy and more like giant fish hopped up on dope going on a destructive drug-fueled rampage.
The explanation as to how these experimental piranha got out into the wild is all but glossed over, conveniently. Neither the hydrobiologist responsible (Eighties pop singer Tiffany, I’m afraid she’s still no Debbie Gibson) nor her cohorts in crimes against God’s domain have a clue how it happened other than to theorize one just got loose in the Orinoco River and began reproducing at an alarming rate.
The more pertinent question completely ignored by the film is why the hell would you create such a creature in the first place? Their research is to better serve the starving masses with bigger, more bountiful fish to feed on; did that have to include the fish most likely to bite back? What possible benefit to humanity is served by genetically engineering insatiable perpetually growing and spawning, hermaphroditic, metal-chomping, radiation-proof, saltwater-adapting, suicide-bombing piranhas? Since the film never hints at Tiffany’s character having mad scientist traits or has her display any real guilt in creating such an unnatural atrocity, I can only assume that when it comes to genetic engineering, her character is recklessly incompetent well past the point of criminal negligence. Yet, the Venezuelan military is portrayed as the bad guys when they shut down her lab. The movie ends with the leading man planting a lip lock on Tiffany. He should have planted handcuffs on her instead and had her locked up.
A US diplomat, played by writer-director Eric Forsberg, is killed along a Venezuelan waterway by ravenous mutant piranha that eat out the hull of his boat. Initially suspecting an assassination, intelligence official Bob Grady (Barry Williams, AKA Greg Brady of “The Brady Bunch”, Codename: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia?) calls in special agent Jason Fitch (Asylum regular Paul Logan, he could teach a class on proper action movie scowling) to head down to Venezuela and find out what really happened. This special covert outfit that Grady and Fitch work for comes across as either a very low-rent version of G.I. Joe or a real-world version of “Acapulco H.E.A.T.”
Fitch quickly finds himself caught between hydrobiologists determined to stop the mutant piranha they birthed from contaminating all of the rivers throughout South America and a corrupt Venezuelan military man who thinks the best way to kill a river full of mutant piranha is from the air with an all-out rocket and machine gun helicopter attack.
David Labiosa is the blustery General Diaz; the only thing missing is a cigarillo in his mouth. Without a cigar to chomp on, he settles for chewing every last bit of scenery around him. The only thing that does more chewing than the piranha in this film is Labiosa. Chew, baby, chew!
I shouldn’t frown too much upon Venezuelans thinking that the phrase “like shooting fish in a barrel” is to be taken literally when as soon as the giant-sized piranha Free Willy their way to the ocean and make a beeline for the Florida coast, the United States’ first plan of attack is to nuke them. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, detonating a nuclear weapon has now become Plan A.
Once you’ve detonated a nuclear torpedo with no effect, whatever you come up with next that does work had better be a doozy. What ultimately brings about the demise of the mega piranha is nothing short of mind-boggling. Not so much because of matters of implausibility so much as to why it didn’t happen on several occasions much earlier in the film when similar circumstances were present. The recycling of the same visual effect shot over and over further compounds the confusion. A strangely unsatisfying conclusion made all the worse by the last shot being that of two characters that previously displayed absolutely no inklings of romance sharing a first kiss. I would have bought into Paul Logan soul kissing Greg Brady before he would Tiffany, all things considered.
By the way, these piranhas can sink battleships by biting through metal hulls and can jump whole land masses with a single bound, but they can’t find a way through or around trees and woods damming a river? Of all the logic gaps that didn’t add up, that was the one that stuck in my craw the most.
One thing you’ll never be watching Mega Piranha is bored. You might feel a bit drained afterwards. Although surprisingly good-natured, the constant goofiness and breakneck pacing can be a bit exhausting. Forsberg directs each scene with an almost manic sense of urgency — the cinematic equivalent of a person downing too many energy drinks and getting so pumped full of sugar and caffeine they’re feeling antsy.
On the other hand, stellar acting, top notch special effects, logical storytelling: none of these will be found in Mega Piranha. I’m largely okay with that in this instance. I don’t view Mega Piranha as being so much a case of setting out to purposely make a bad movie as much as I look upon it as a prime example of idiot savant b-moviemaking. The hammy dubiousness of the plot and acting and fakery of the f/x remain consistent throughout — detriments that end up working in its favor almost as if it’s all part of the grand scheme. Mega Piranha is what movies like Snakes on a Plane want to be but can’t be because they’re too slick for their own good, too self-aware and convinced of their own hipness, or too unwilling to risk alienating a segment of the audience by going too far off the rails.
Mega Piranha has a lead actor bicycle kicking leaping piranha on land and underwater successfully fending off a school of piranha with only a knife because the toothy fish choose to attack one at a time like bad guys in a kung fu movie. Mega Piranha has gigantic piranha biting battleships into submission and chomping helicopters out of the sky. Mega Piranha has a guy’s head explode after being shot in the mouth with a flare gun. Every last bit of it is done without so much as a wink to let the audience know it’s aware of how absurd this all is. That sublime ridiculousness is something you either are going to have fun with, or Mega Piranha is simply not for you.
3 1/2 out of 5
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