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Piranha

Gaining early fame for his direction of Jaws, Steven Spielberg always maintained his favourite Jaws rip-off was 1978’s ‘Piranha’.  Filmed on a cheap budget by the King of B Grade films Joe Dante, it charted the havoc caused by some maritime monsters.  With dodgy puppetry used to represent the evil Piranhas, it became a notorious cinematic guilty pleasure.  Re-made with the wonders of 3D, this new version is just as kitsch with a cavalcade of camp the best line of defence against a swarm of nautical nasties.
 

When a small underwater earthquake erupts, the citizens of Lake Victoria take little notice until people begin mysteriously vanishing.  Thinking something is awry, Sherriff Forester (Elisabeth Shue), her son Jake (Steven R. McQueen) and Seismologist Novak (Adam Scott) learn their assumptions are correct.  Discovering a deadly pool of Piranha’s waiting to chomp on unsuspecting swimmers, they use anything to destroy the ghastly beasties in a battle reaching a furious and water-logged crescendo.
 

Those with a queasy disposition should probably avoid Piranha.  This becomes apparent from the first shot as the small terrors from the deep are ferocious in their hunger.  Not since Andy Warhol’s ‘Flesh for Frankenstein’ has a 3D horror movie been so grisly with Director Alexandre Aja more than happy to throw body parts straight onto the screen.  Saving it from becoming a dull gore-fest is the knowing humour with the actors playing their stoic roles with tongues firmly in cheek.
 

Piranha’s underwater photography wrings much tension from a well-paced story light on characterisation but heavy on scares.  When most of the characters wear skimpy bikinis and seductive smiles you know you’re not watching Macbeth, although it does equal it in body count.  As a tribute to Jaws it works very well as most of the tricks it utilises are direct copies of those from that series.  Original star Richard Dreyfuss’ cameo adds to this illusion, with its enthusiastic energy echoing his pioneering blockbuster hit.
 

One can only guess what Spielberg would make of this Piranha reboot. With a silly premise and excursion into bad taste, it pushes its lenient MA rating to its maxim.  Although Spielberg would probably smile knowing his break-out film’s dubious influence still looms large over its blood drenched imitators.
 

Rating out of 10:  6

The Killer Inside Me

Whenever news reports show shocking incidents of murder, it’s in our nature to dissect why they occur.  The thought of there being no reason behind them seems scarier as it highlights how cold-blooded sudden death appears.  Based on Jim Thompson’s novel, The Killer Inside Me emphasises this point as it delves into the mind of a motiveless killer whose random violence makes him all the more chilling.
 

Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) is the Deputy Sherriff of a small Texas town.  Well regarded and known for his thoughtful attitude towards solving problems, he seems a pillar of the community.  Unbeknown to them he has a sinister side with a deadly compulsion to kill.  Fighting against this urge, he sets his sights on Joyce (Jessica Alba), a local prostitute.  With his girlfriend Amy (Kate Hudson) unaware of his murderous predilection, Lou’s savage ways cause his victims to become ensnared in his vicious temper trap.
 

Although The Killer Inside Me is more complicated than appears, its main strand examines Lou’s feelings of empowerment.  Earning respect due to his profession, he uses this as an extension of his own ego in order to dominate those he considers weak.  This feeds into his appetite for murder, with death his ultimate aphrodisiac.  Portrayed with cold precision by Affleck, Lou is a remorseless soul whose penchant for violence exposes his cowardice despite the razor sharp intellect driving him to kill.
 

Its’ setting in morally rigid 1950’s suburbia contrasts effectively with Lou’s immoral acts.  Assisted by Michael Winterbottom’s steady direction, this atmosphere conjures memories of previous crime noir films.  It would have been great had he been brave enough to shoot in black and white to create the genre’s ambiance with only the slow pacing and somewhat muddled story spoiling the mood.  This is probably its biggest draw-back as the confused plot prevents any true engagement in events even if the characters are quite well defined.
 

Whilst much has been made of its confronting intensity, The Killer Inside Me benefits from this harsh realism.  Cruelty in any form is always difficult to view and – whilst the film isn’t without fault – it forces the viewer to question the senselessness of such arbitrary deeds.
 

Rating out of 10:  6