Will humanity never learn? On a planet that's 70 percent water, unearthing the mysteries and dangers of the Deep Blue is a job nowhere near complete. The latest movie to drive home that fact is director Alexandre Aja's Piranha 3D. With a plot twist on Joe Dante's 1978 cult classic Piranha, college students head to Lake Victoria for a week of spring fun when, suddenly, an underwater earthquake releases swarms of bloodthirsty, prehistoric piranha on the drunken masses. This time, only local sheriff Elisabeth Shue can stop the gory feast — giving the actress a rare chance to combine the skills she acquired babysitting the Anderson kids and helping Nic Cage drink himself to death.
Lest you think the razor-sharp teeth of prehistoric fish are all you need to fear when you squeeze in that final beach trip this summer, we offer the following big-screen refresher.
10. The Host (2006)
Korean director Bong Joon-Ho's movie is a reminder to think twice before pouring just any chemical down the sink. It's not just aquatic ecosystems that may suffer the effects. Evidence The Host.
Loveable buffoon Park Gang-du (Song Ho-Kang) and his family run a simple snack bar alongside the Han river when a mutated amphibian beast attacks the riverfront, killing citizens and grabbing Gang-du's daughter. How did this abomination happen? When an American scientist (you know, those shortcut-taking jerks) forced his Korean assistant to dump formaldehyde down the drain. Four years later, Seoul has a monster tadpole on its hands. Turns out Joon-Ho based his script on a real life incident (of a Korean being ordered by the American military to pour formaldehyde down the drain, not a 20-foot tadpole attacking a city).
Like any good foreign horror movie, an American remake is already in the works. No doubt, U.S. scientists are not the cause in our version.
9. Leviathan, Deepstar Six, and The Abyss (1989)
A trifecta of deep sea horrors hit the screen in 1989, proving that underwater sea creatures would either hunt you, become you, or teach you a valuable lesson. First, Deepstar Six took Greg Evigan and his research crew to the ocean's floor only to be trapped with a prehistoric sea monster. Despite horror director Sean S. Cunningham's best efforts, Deepstar Six fails to truly scare.
Leviathan followed three months later, trying to blend the best parts of several other popular sci-fi movies — specifically Alien and The Thing — and set them underwater. Here, a mutating creature attacks Robocop and his crew of undersea miners. Where did the infection start? A vodka bottle, proving that alcohol can't kill everything.
Easily the best of the three, The Abyss followed a SEAL team headed by Michael Biehn that discovers unknown terrestrial creatures in the form of living water (using technology that director James Cameron would later exploit in Terminator 2: Judgment Day). The Abyss is less a horror movie and more a parable of man's destructive behavior, a trend Cameron would continue with Avatar.
8. Rogue (2007)
Travel to a foreign country and meet an attractive tour guide, end up stranded in the middle of nowhere, and then realize you're the prey of a massive crocodile. That's the premise of Rogue, which sees Michael Vartan and Radha Mitchell team up with Sam Worthington to battle the man-eating croc in Australian director Greg McLean's movie. McLean fills this excellent movie with same tension and fear he accomplished in his more traditional horror movie, Wolf Creek. Don't believe us? How about a 100% critics' rating on Rotten Tomatoes?
7. Alligator (1980)
Here we move to the crocodile's freshwater cousin and the urban myth of flushing baby 'gators down the toilet. Alligator, directed by Lewis Teague (Cujo), has the same tongue-in-cheek quality as Piranha, no doubt because both movies share the same screenwriter (John Sayles). Like The Host, Alligator warns of the untold chemical cocktail human negligence has wrought in our nation's sewers and waterways. This time it's up to Chicago cop Robert Forster to rid the city of the scaly menace, which has grown to 36 feet after feasting for 12 years on animal carcasses used in experimental growth hormone research. Once the alligator bursts out of its sewer cocoon, Forster has a bigger problem on his hands than Jackie Brown.
Creepshow 2 (1987)
It's almost like Stephen King was predicting BP's oil disaster when he wrote his 1982 short story "The Raft." George Romero took the story, mostly in whole, for his horror anthology sequel, Creepshow 2. The movie has four college students traveling to a remote lake, where they swim out to a raft ... only to see a black blob appear on the water's surface and slowly engulf them in its oily substance. Where did they go wrong? Probably it was the drinking and smoking marijuana on their way to the lake, obvious horror movie no-nos.
5. Anaconda (1997)
A film crew from National Geographic magazine (comprised of Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, and Owen Wilson) is traveling the Amazon River to find a native tribe when they're intercepted by a master snake hunter from Paraguay (Jon Voight) and unwittingly drawn into his hunt for the biggest anaconda known to man. The lesson? Never trust the Amazon! (The South American river has been the movie backdrop for untold horrifying creatures.) Or is it never trust Owen Wilson (who just willingly voiced Marmaduke.)? Here, he convinces the crew to help the obviously insane Voight in his quest.
4. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
Speaking of the Amazon, Creature from the Black Lagoon was the first movie to depict a science-avoiding Amazonian monster. It was also the first sea creature flick shot in 3-D, during the format's formative red-blue-glasses beginnings. Like so many misunderstood human-amphibian hybrids, all the Gill-man wanted was the love of a woman, something scientists and adventurers refused to allow for two more sequels.
A remake has been in the works for years from Seabiscuit director Gary Ross, the son of Creature screenwriter Arthur A. Ross, though after the announcement that Carl Erik Rinsch has signed on to direct the movie, news of the remake has gone cold. As cold as the water's depths.
3. Open Water (2003)
For those that have never scuba dived before, Open Water teaches an important lesson: NEVER leave your group. If you don't follow this rule, you may find yourself stranded and surrounded by sharks like the couple in the movie. While the situation is definitely an anomaly, director Chris Kentis' tense thriller is plausible enough to convince most non-divers to avoid the sport forever.
2. The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
A precursor to Piranha 3D and all "creature features," this movie by director Eugene Lourie saw a nuclear bomb test in the Arctic awaken a hibernating fictional dinosaur, "the Rhedosaurus." Featuring the stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen, Beast from 20,000 Fathoms combined monsters with the growing fear of nuclear weaponry and set off a wave of "nuclear monster" movies in the 1950s. The movie's influence continues, including recent monster movies like Cloverfield. Ultimately, the lesson here is to never underestimate what could be lurking within the womb of frozen water. You may (or may not) live to regret it.
1. Jaws (1975)
There's no denying that Jaws is still the gold standard by which all other underwater monster movies are judged. While the movie suffered huge delays and constant difficulty from its three mechanical sharks, director Steven Spielberg nevertheless created a classic. From John Williams' unforgettable score to pitch-perfect performances from Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss, Jaws was a phenomenon, inspiring three sequels and countless imitators, such as 1977's Orca, the Killer Whale and 1978's Piranha.
Jaws was the first blockbuster movie that truly scared viewers out of the water. Will 3-D piranhas prove just as terrifying?