Four years ago Piranha 3D made an appearance at Comic Con. At the time, people weren’t expecting much from the movie. Director Alexandre Aja was just coming off the disastrously bad Mirrors and his remake of the Joe Dante film didn’t exactly look promising. In the end, Piranha 3D turned out to be a delightful surprise. It was funny, self-aware, and everything Piranha 3D should be.
The sequel, however, was not. Two years after the first movie Piranha 3DD scored a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and only grossed $8m worldwide. Now compare those numbers to the first movie’s 73% on Rotten Tomatoes and $83m global box-office take. The drop in quality is rather apparent. Maybe that wouldn’t have been the case if Aja got to make the sequel he envisioned.
Speaking with the director at Comic Con for his latest film, an adaptation of Joe Hill‘s Horns, we had the chance to ask why he didn’t return for the sequel. “It’s like what happened The Hills Have Eyes. I wanted to make the sequel there, but with a very different story,” Aja tells us. “For [the original] The Hills Have Eyes Wes Craven had a different idea, which is why he made the second one. On Piranha, the sequel we wanted to make was way too expensive. Dimension wanted to do a smaller movie, so it is what it is.” This letdown for Aja was obvious while speaking with him. His dissapointment may grow when he finally gets around to seeing the sequel. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t see it. It’s painful for me. It took me a few years to watch The Hills Have Eyes sequel, because I feel someone is taking my baby and [starts stabbing the imaginary baby in his hand]. It’s, like, they changed his hair and gave him some piercings!”
Even on the first film, people were trying to give Aja’s baby piercings that didn’t quite fit. Piranha 3D wasn’t taken for what it was by the Weinsteins, not until it was too late to tell people it wasn’t a humorless horror movie. “Dimension was nervous about the comedy,” he recalls. “They were trying to sell the movie as something scary, so they didn’t want to show it to the critics at the time. Two weeks before the release the UK critics embraced the comedy. I remember Harvey and Bob saying, ‘Whoa! What’s happening? We gotta change our plan.’” It wasn’t until the Wednesday night before the film’s release that critics saw the movie. Aja feels, if the movie had gained more positive buzz earlier from critics, it would’ve performed better in the States. Had it made more money here, perhaps Dimension wouldn’t have made such a cheap sequel and Aja would’ve stuck around.
From the sound of it, he wanted the followup, which would have been set in Thailand, to basically be the giant massacre from the first movie: a nonstop blood bath. “The full moon party was the idea. I wanted to have two million people. To put it like that, it sounds awful,” he says with a laugh. “I really wanted to go for the biggest party under attack.” That doesn’t sound awful at all. Two million people in Thailand fighting off a blood thirsty pack of piranhas is why we go to the movies.
Horns opens in theaters October 31st.