I’ve been watching a lot of horror movies lately. Because Hallowe’en is coming. Eventually. Okay, I don’t really need much of an excuse to watch horror movies. I was the guy who used to go down to my local video store, beeline to the horror section, and rent the next three movies I hadn’t seen yet. I would work my way through the shelves, systematically watching absolutely everything. And trust me, you end up watching a lot of pure unadulterated shit doing that.
One of my all-time favourite horror films… Scratch that. Favourite ANY films… Is Jaws. I saw it twice at the long-defunct Seville repertory cinema when I was a kid and have watched it dozens of times since. I love Jaws so much, I have a soft spot for Jaws 2 just because it lets me hang out on Amity Island with chief Brody and pals for another couple of hours. But then they made the crappy Jaws 3D and the colossally crappy Jaws: The Revenge, which killed the franchise so dead no one has ever wanted to produce another Jaws movie, even in this era of remakes, reboots and johnny-come-lately sequels nobody asked for.
I always figured there was one good movie that could still be squeezed out of the name-brand series. Surely if they dug up Lorraine Gary for the career-ending Jaws: The Revenge, someone could drive a truckload of money up to Richard Dreyfuss’s house and convince him to show up for another shark outing. It could be Matt Hooper vs. MegaShark or some damn thing. The guy was in the Poseidon remake, so his standards can’t be that high.
Imagine if, when they made Deep Blue Sea, someone had said, “Aw, fuckit. Let’s just call it Jawses or something and get Dreyfuss in here.” He could have played the Sam Jackson part, slightly rewritten. Which would have made his truncated survival speech even more awesome and would have been a fittingly memorable way for the character to depart the franchise and pass the torch to Thomas Jane (who could have gone on to star in Jawses 2, Jawses 3D and Jawses: The Revengeres instead of that worthless Punisher movie).
And then, one happy day, many months ago, I heard they were making a new Piranha movie. It was going to be a 3D gore fest, directed by Alexandre Aja, and Richard Dreyfuss was going to reprise his role as Matt Hooper. Because someone drove a truckload of money up to his house. That sounded so awesome, I managed to cream my jeans, piss my pants, and brown my trousers all at the same time.
And then I saw the movie.
Remember when Alexandre Aja was an exciting new voice in horror movies, bringing thrills and intensity to a genre that was stagnating under the relentless assault of mediocre Hollywood flotsam and a Japanese techno-horror trend that had overstayed its welcome? Yeah, well that’s over. Piranha 3D was the worst pile of crap I’ll sit through this year, and I know my crap. I was expecting to see tits and ass and gore and crassness. I WANTED to see tits and ass and gore and crassness. I just didn’t expect it to be quite so crass. And witless. And dull. Granted, I shall always perversely cherish the memory of having a prehistoric fish belch a severed, half-eaten cock in my face through the craptacular combo of CGI and post-production 3Dification. But still, when your movie features a couple of Oscar winners or nominees in the cast, I don’t expect that to be the acting high-water-mark of the whole production.
Oh, Dreyfuss is there, to be sure. And he’s playing Matt Hooper. Obviously. It’s Matt Hooper. They call him “Matt” for one. Plus we hear him sing, “Show Me the Way to Go Home” and he’s drinking beer from an Amity Island microbrewery. But check the end credits and note that he’s actually portraying somebody called Matt Boyd. Matt Boyd? Who the fuck is that? He’s a legal out is who he is. I suspect the producers got a call from the Peter Benchley estate somewhere along the road to remind them that the character was still their copyrighted property and ask when they might expect their truckload of money to arrive.
One name switcheroo later and Matt Hooper remains alive and well and untainted by all the taints on display in Piranha 3D. I can’t say as much for Richard Dreyfuss himself, but I’ll try not to be so judgmental. I’m sure if someone offered me a truckload of money to reprise my third-grade school-pageant role as third tree from the left, I might be just as tempted to accept. Provided I would be sharing the venue with enough tits and ass and gore and crassness of course.
The fat kid from Stand By Me looks delicious.