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August 21, 2010 by · 7 Comments 

(Updated) Ordinarily a studio either decides to screen a horror film for the critics — or, more usually, it does not. But The Weinstein Co. took a different tack with Piranha 3D: It screened the movie to a selected group of mostly Internet critics who it presumably felt would likely assess the film as a “guilty pleasure” and cheer its over-the-topness. It also included a handful of major-market critics among its chosen few, and, for the most part, those veterans tore it apart as if they were monster piranhas. “The carnage is relentless, even if it isn’t frightening,” Roger Moore scoffed in the Orlando Sentinel. With Richard Dreyfuss parodying his own character from Jaws and Christopher Lloyd parodying his from Back to the Future, there are a few good laughs, many of the critics conceded, but, in the words of Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times, “Hey, is it too much to ask for a few scares? … The top priority for any horror moviemaker, even when tongue is planted firmly in cheek, should be building a better scare factor rather than figuring out how many 3-D boobs can be captured in a single frame.” Similarly Elizabeth Weitzman wrote in the New York Daily News, “There are few real scares … and even fewer actual laughs.” On the other hand, like most of the Internet critics, Christy Lemire of the Associated Press treated the film as if it were a B-movie classic, writing: “Mere words cannot describe how awesomely gnarly this is, how hugely entertaining, and how urgently you must get yourself to the theatre to see it. This is not a joke, by the way. This movie is a complete blast. To borrow a phrase from the kind of B-horror flicks to which Piranha 3D is such an effective homage: Run, don’t walk.” (Lou Lumenick in the New York Post , who was not among those invited to see the film, commented that all of the releases this weekend were “so bad that Piranha 3D looks good” to some critics.) Over the weekend, critics in the major U.S. markets bought tickets at their local cineplex and weighed in on the movie afterwards. And their comments, for the most part, appeared to justify The Weinstein Co.’s strategy. Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe commented that “it feels like an imitation of B-movie beach schlock and John Waters. The visual humor lacks wit or nerve.” And Jason Anderson in the Toronto Star complained that while the movie features scenes “as grisly and copious as any gore-hound could desire,” it “is stingier when it comes to the suspense.” On the other hand, Tirdad Derakshani, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, placed it in the catalogue of great horror flicks, writing, “What really matters is that the film works. It’s a genuinely suspenseful, no-holds-barred masterpiece of sex ‘n’ horror exploitation.” (Perhaps more telling, on Saturday, some of the websites that posted positive reviews of the movie were in the throes of a backlash from moviegoers who bought tickets based on their reviews. On the Hollywood Reporterwebsite, where a review by Michael Rechstshaffen describes the movie as “a pitch-perfect, guilty-pleasure serving of late-summer schlock,” one commenter remarked, “I want my money back.” Another: “Wowwwwww the worst.” Another: “Bull s*it save your money I promise you.”) Ordinarily horror flicks perform best going out of the gate on Friday, but Piranha 3D opened with just $3.6 million on Friday and wound up with an inglourious $9.5 million for the weekend.

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