Tim's brother lectured me for about an hour for liking Piranha 3D mainly insisting it was a misogynistic movie. After making him watch it (for the first time mind you) he ate every last word. Not only is Piranha 3D a good horror movie, it's a great illustration on how to handle female characters in a horror movie.
The plot unfolds something like this: Sheriff Forester is prepping for the impending spring break invasion of her otherwise sleepy lake town. Her son is hoping to spend the day with a Wild Wild Girl, the spring breakers are hoping to for an insane week-long party, and some scientists are hoping to investigate a freshwater lake that has been opened up after a small earthquake. No one however is hoping for an all out piranha feeding frenzy, and that's all they're getting.
Eco-horror twist: [This is spoilerish, so skip if you wish.] These piranha are released from a deep water cavern that had been sealed off since prehistoric times. Doc Brown -er that is Mr. Carl Goodman, gives us a pretty great line of reasoning for this, while being Christopher Lloyd and amazing.
Feminist elements: The Wild Wild Girls are more than just boob fodder, their characters have backstories, emotional and intellectual range, and are fully aware of what kind of the objectification they're participating in. There's never dialogue about the Wild Wild Girls being emotionally damaged in some way, or that they've been misled about what they're getting into, they're simply using their objectification for their own gain. The Sheriff in town has a MASSIVLY HUGE Deputy, but his mass is never used to suggest that he got the job because he balanced her stature. They work together on screen beautifully, each showing the audience why they choose to work together every day. (And the deputy isn't a just muscle either, he's capable throughout the movie and contributes to the problem solving as much as a deputy would be expected to.) Sheriff Forester isn't just the sheriff either, she's also a single mom of three. Do you know what is never brought up in the film? How she juggles being the sheriff and raising three kids. Not only is dad's absence not noted one single time, there is never any indication that she's in over her head. It's beautiful. The background fodder is loaded with bikini clad chicks, but there's also a fair amount of male swimsuit action (as apposed to fully clothed men and almost nude women). And the mass panic in the third act is actually mass, rather than being relegated to the ladies. And lastly [another mild spoiler here, jump to the next paragraph if you prefer] the sheriff is never saved by any of the men. She is set up as fully capable and saves the day with the aid of the people around her, rather than relying on them to save her from a jam.
Reasons to watch: Strong female characters, more fun than most modern horror while remaining pretty gory, epic cameos, Jerry O’Connell as a sleazy douche bag, it's directed by Alexandre Aja, tremendous effects by Greg Nicotero's crew, and lastly, tons of satisfying piranha kills!
What we learned: You can make “low-brow” horror while treating characters as real people rather than diving headlong into Troma territory.