The other night I decided to relax in the air conditioning and tuned into SyFy’s latest B-movie, Roger Corman-produced offering – Piranhaconda. I really didn’t plan this, it just happened. No seriously! It just happened to be on when I turned on the tube!
Having just recently seen Prometheus it’s been rattling around in my head ever since. For some reason I began to draw comparisons between it and Piranhaconda and how I was reacting to each one.
Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s epic return to the sci-fi genre. In 2093 a crew of scientists head to a distant planet where they believe they’ll learn who created human beings and why. What they find is that these alien ‘engineers’ aren’t too happy with us as a creation and would rather now see us extinct.
Piranhaconda tells the story of a movie crew in the jungle that are attacked by….well a piranhaconda (a half piranha, half anaconda monster in case you didn’t know). They must avoid becoming piranhaconda food, along with escaping from a group of bad guys who like to kidnap people.
While watching Piranhaconda I realized I was enjoying it much more than my time spent watching Prometheus. This was shocking to me. I figured I would have to liken it more to Piranha 3DD, but it actually trumping Prometheus??? That’s crazy!
Here we have an A-List, big-budgeted, sci-fi film, helmed by an acclaimed director against a bargain basement Corman-produced monster movie directed by Jim Wynorski, who has an incredibly long, extensive list of exploitation films to his credit by the way. Hey, he directed 1989’s The Return of Swamp Thing!
Two sci-fi monster movies released in June 2012 that are on the opposite ends of the cinematic food chain. So why in the end was my viewing of Piranhaconda a more satisfying experience than Prometheus? I decided to find out.
SPOILERS LAYING AHEAD FOR BOTH FILMS – YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!
A CLEAR IDEA OF WHAT IT WANTS TO BE
Prometheus is a strange film. It seems to go back and forth between trying to be a lofty film of discovery with big ideas to a simple horror film with gooey aliens just wanting to kill everyone.
Folks were wondering for the longest time was it going to be a prequel to Alien or not? Before its release Scott didn’t seem to want to commit to saying whether it was or wasn’t. It just takes place in the same universe. It has strands of Alien DNA. Well, ok it’s something of a prequel. It was this huge song and dance of defining it. Why keep that a secret?
My theory was simply that Scott didn’t want the audience to have flashbacks to the stink of those crappy Alien vs Predator movies and get apprehensive about going to see a ‘new Alien movie’. Better to just keep it vague.
Inevitably, the fans caught on that this was indeed an Alien prequel (or a prequel to the prequel kind of…I guess) and expectations shot up. Casual moviegoers who only know Alien movies are supposed to be scary and star Sigourney Weaver also labeled Prometheus a new Alien movie and had their own expectations of what they were going to see. Do you think the film delivered the goods to them and they got what they hoped out of it? From the sound of it not all of them did.
Piranhaconda didn’t have this problem.
There’s no mistaking Piranhaconda for exactly what it is – a low-budget monster movie. That’s it! Just going by the title I don’t think anyone could expect to see anything else but that!
If you were thinking this was going to be a great intellectual study of man tampering with nature and the repercussions of it then you shouldn’t be running around loose on the streets.
The film knows who the fans are that would want to watch it and doesn’t shy away from aiming to please that demographic.
Did Alien fans want to see strange eggs that will give birth to vicious creatures? Piranhaconda has them! Michael Madsen’s Professor Lovegrove finds them and doesn’t want to destroy these dangerous things, but save and study them. Does that sound familiar to anyone?
Actually he kind of carries one around in a container that looks like it should hold Twizzlers. Kind of strange. I guess it’s safe though. He’s a professor so he should be pretty smart when it comes to this kind of stuff.
Obstacles and threats get hurled at both our sets of characters. The Prometheus crew lands on LV-223 and encounter aliens and this strange black goo that is potentially very dangerous.
Meanwhile in Hawaii, our film crew are also battling this strange mutated piranhaconda thingie. Plus, they’re also threatened by a pack of kidnappers with guns….who all happen to be partial to wearing black shirts! Oooooh. These cause major problems with them getting ‘Head Chopper 3’ filmed and completed.
Oddly enough I managed to get a handle on what the piranhaconda and kidnappers motivations were pretty fast and what would happen to our heroes if either catch up to them. The engineers and black goo…..not so much – even by the end of the movie.
This is the one consistent complaint I’ve heard regarding Prometheus – that it has very weak characters. The story is a similar setup to Scott’s Alien. A spaceship with a mix of characters onboard along with an android land on an alien planet. A surprisingly dangerous situation develops and they each react to what is happening as a group and as individuals. However, this time around none of these characters make as much of an impression as the originals did.
The majority of the seventeen people onboard the ship are standing by taking up space destined to become casualties, before which they make asinine decisions. Their actions don’t make much sense in the context of the film. They all just seem to function to move things along. No matter how unreasonable their conduct is everything seems to just happen so we can get to the end of the story.
The two main human characters of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are meant for us to identify with, root for and get behind their desire to discover. Yet, through the course of the story they behave in such silly, impulsive and stupid ways they alienate us from liking or caring about them. This is especially true for Holloway.
Watching him and what he does I didn’t feel he deserved to get any answers to any big or little questions. He’s trying to solve the ultimate question – ‘why are we here?’. Well apparently in his case it’s just to annoy us and dumb down the movie.
‘In space no one can see you think’
Michael Fassbinder’s David is probably my favorite character in the film, simply because he seems the most curious and motivated throughout the story. Plus, he likes watching Lawrence of Arabia. Good taste.
The characters in Piranhaconda suffer from the same flat problem, but oddly they’re not as damaging to the story. There are again supporting characters who are simply here to serve no function other than providing for a gory death scene.
This being a cheapie, big snake monster movie, stupid characters doesn’t dovetail the film. Rather, you kind of expect idiot characters to be running around in something like this. It would be nice if they were smarter, but in their defense none of them are androids or late 21st century scientists.
We have stuntman Jack (Robert “Rib” Hillis) who finds himself forced to man up, take center stage and do some real life action to rescue his film crew pals, amongst which is the leading scream queen of the shooting movie Kimmie Weston, played by former Miss USA Shandi Finnessey. Rose (Teri Ivens) is the cute script writer who Jack has his eye on and is persistent in his attempts to get a second date with her. Hmmm. Jack….Rose….well those character names worked in Titanic.
As for some bigger name players we have Madsen as a noted professor of reptiles and Rachel Hunter as Talia, the intimidating main squeeze of our lead bad guy Pike (Michael Swan). Along with a bevy of well built supporting ladies lining up to be snake food.
There have always been movie cliches that need to happen in genre films. In a horror movie you have to get the big-breasted blonde to walk into the dark basement. In action movies the hero has to lose his gun somehow.
In a monster movie some blockhead has to touch something that they shouldn’t. It’s just inevitable. So it’s nice when the filmmakers at least try to get creative and somehow attempt to make these actions somewhat reasonable and convincing when they happen.
This cliche happens in Piranhaconda. Standing in the middle of the piranhaconda’s nest surrounded by baby piranhaconda eggs, one of our top-heavy heroines Jamie played by Diana Terranova, begins smashing them in retaliation for this thing eating her boyfriend. Well, naturally the piranhaconda doesn’t appreciate this and ends up devouring her too.
In Prometheus a biologist and a geologist are in a room surrounded by these alien vases filled with black oozing goo and some strange snake creature pops out and stares them down. Would a biologist who just landed on an alien planet possibly consider the repercussions and potential dangers that this thing might unleash? Nope, he just goes about trying to touch it and of course it ends up killing him.
I can understand why people are so upset with this scene. The filmmakers could have easily avoided this demonstration of outlandish stupidity by just having the eel thing immediately attack this guy before he could react. That would have at least allowed this character to keep some dignity.
Yet for some reason they decided to make this guy court his own doom in a way no one in the audience if put in the same situation ever would. Somehow you expect a smarter scene than that in this movie.
And I don’t care if this thing was sending out brain signals to lure the guy closer to it, which one friend suggested. Within the movie that explanation was never given and I don’t want to wait to have this explained to me two movies down the road. The scene simply ends up being ridiculous.
This similar stupid act which invites disaster I can forgive in Piranhaconda. For one Jamie has a reason for wanting to smash the eggs – simple revenge.
“Me and my boyfriend were going to have a romantic afternoon on the beach and you ate him! Now who’s going to put suntan on my back! You big meanie head! I’m going to crush all your stupid eggs now!” I could see how she would be pissed and want to do that. Her actions seem somewhat justified.
And plus, this chick is no space traveling biologist.
Well, ok Prometheus wins this one no problem. One steady piece of praise has been the film looks gorgeous, which it does. It was a lot of fun to sit down and start watching an old school sci-fi movie unfold. By that I mean, spaceships, an alien planet, a crew putting on spacesuits and going about exploring. All cool stuff.
Lately it seems a lot of sci-fi films have been internalized (The Matrix, Inception) and I was jazzed to be rocketed off planet Earth and head out into the unexplored universe. Scott makes all of it look great and towards the beginning I was getting anxious to where the story was going to take me.
The Hawaiian jungles in Piranhaconda look alright though. They’re green and leafy. Some of it looks like they shot it behind a hotel. They must have had fun shooting this film in Hawaii.
The actual Piranhaconda itself….well what can you do? You can’t expect to be blown away by the effects of a film that had very little money and attempts to convince you of a giant killer snake. It didn’t have over a hundred million dollars to spend and a year of work done on it. Maybe more like a week or two.
The special effects did result in some laughter by me, so there was some entertainment value to be found in them. Maybe not the kind that the filmmakers may have intended, but sometimes you gotta take what you can get.
This kind of goes along with visuals…..in a different sort of way. Meredith Vickers played by Charlize Theron of ‘Mighty Joe Young fame’, sports around wearing black spandex on the spaceship. At times I would start to get distracted and gaze at her and completely forget what was going on. She’s a good looking woman.
Piranhaconda blatantly tosses in as many good looking, dynamically cleavage-gifted screaming women in the film as its running time allows. They all seem to be just hanging out exploring the jungle for no real reason other to give the Piranhaconda something to snack on.
Shandi Finnessey looks awesome as the snooty B-movie actress and star of Hillbilly Hostage Kimmie Weston. Her latest endeavor ‘Head Chopper 3′ looks to mainly consist of her wearing a yellow bikini and running away from some masked killer in a Hawaiian park.
Unfortunately, we will never know if the film will be a hit due to that blasted piranhaconda! This might have been the big one for Kimmie. It could have been her one movie that would have catapulted her to the A-List and made her think she’s even more gifted than she already does. Alas, that was not meant to be.
I wish I knew if she was the star of Head Chopper 1 and 2…
Prometheus is supposedly full of imagery and dialogue that hints to deeper meanings, other interpretations and it’s all meant to raise more questions. Quite frankly, I found it to get very aggravating.
The film poses this chorus line of ‘big’ questions, but offers up no kind of perspective on the answers. The film merely glosses over them and doesn’t promote any kind of debate between the characters about them.
Despite how thought provoking these questions might be the film lightly grazes over are, ultimately they don’t seem very important within the film and their inclusion doesn’t add any appreciation by me for the film.
Nevermind the big heavy questions the film allegedly explores, how about some of the more basic ones that pop up in the story. I don’t mind some unanswered questions in a film, but come on give us something. Sometimes I wonder how well thought out this stuff really was. Screenwriter Damon Lindelof of ‘Lost’ fame did the same thing on that show. By that series finale A LOT of the questions that got raised through the course of its run were left up in the air.
Based on that, this really makes me question whether these vague clues (I guess that’s what we’ll call them) the movie tosses in are simply red herrings – or maybe just a really off day by the filmmakers.
Maybe Lindelof AND Scott have no idea what they might mean, but they decided to include them to add a bit more of a mysterious atmsophere and will just let fans think them out. Some of the theories I’ve heard by fans are indeed pretty interesting. Could it be fans are working harder to unravel these mysteries than Lindelof was?
All these hypothesis’ simply don’t wipe away the complete acts of stupidity by the characters in my mind. No matter what the black goo is or does, whether Vickers is an android or not or what exactly does David say to the engineer, none of it explains the real questions.
Why would a biologist try to touch a creepy alien eel thingie? Why would the expedition team all take off their helmets in an alien environment? Yeah the air might be breathable, but how can they be sure there’s not something else dangerous in it?
Why would Weyland keep his presence hidden on the ship? Why would the Captain completely freak out his two stranded crew members, casually turn his back and not worry about them, then an hour later he turns into a noble savior and sacrifices himself to save Earth? Was that just because the Earth has more people on it than just two and he figure he’ll step up to the plate for that?
Why is Holloway so damn mopey? If he loves Shaw and just had sex with her, why not tell her immediately he’s infected and is unsure whether now she is at risk? Why was Guy Pearce’s old man makeup so bad??? They made all the other effects look pretty cool. And what’s with the Steven Stills reference?
Did Prometheus trade in realistic actions for symbolism? Would a longer directors cut or sequels explain the bizarre turns the story takes and strange actions the characters make. After watching it I’m not that anxious to find out. If they couldn’t make ANY of it clear in the first film, I’m hesitant to give them a second chance to try to remedy it.
Fans will be discussing and debating Prometheus for a long time to come. Which I think is good. It’s refreshing to have a popular movie get audiences to be using their heads and think about the messages that are inside it and the reasons why or why they didn’t like it.
You want symbolic metaphors in Piranhaconda? Try this on – a film crew filming a bad B-movie suddenly find themselves BEING in a bad B-movie! Let that process for a minute. Wow. That is deep. This is totally blowing my mind!
Plus, an unrated directors cut would really help Piranhaconda. Imagine what some naked boobs could add to the film!
I don’t think boobs would help Prometheus much…
AN OPEN ENDING
Prometheus ends with a reveal of….I guess it’s a primitive form of the famous xenomorph. If this whole story was a buildup to its birth, it was a long incoherent way for very little. Shaw and David as the last survivors board another spaceship and fly off to the engineer’s home planet. Hopefully they’re headed to the Planet of Answers And Better Storytelling.
As an Alien prequel it’s disappointing. And honestly I never really needed to know how these xenomorphs were created or how they came to be. They came from another planet…..that was enough for me. I might not have minded a story about their creation if their origins were interesting and resulted out of an entertaining film, but they didn’t.
As a stand alone sci-fi film, eliminating all expectations and only anticipating seeing a halfway decent sci-fi film it’s still very underwhelming. It’s funny how your personal expectation bar can be raised and lowered based on the film you’re about to watch.
With Scott returning to this Alien universe I was hoping for much more. It’s a luscious looking film, it has a few good performances and some creepy scenes, but ultimately it felt like a disjointed story that left me not nearly as enthralled by it as I had been hoping. Unfortunately, I was barely entertained at all.
After having a fun cheesy romp watching the piranhaconda killing everyone it can sink it’s teeth into, Jack and Rose finally manage to kill it. Victorious they kiss and their long awaited second date is promised.
The future looks bright for these two. That is until another piranhaconda swoops in, eats them and makes its way off into the jungle sunset promising to wreck more havoc on B-movie productions.
I wonder if it’s headed over to the set of Prometheus 2…..