Mega Piranha

A screening on the Lagan Boat has Andrew Johnston pining for dry land

In previous years, the Belfast Film Festival’s Lagan Boat screenings have included such classic aquatic fare as Jaws, Deep Blue Sea and Lake Placid. Judging by this year’s fishy effort, the well has finally run dry.

Z-grade shocker Mega Piranha is a rip-off of the recent 3D remake of Piranha, which was itself a rip-off of Jaws. These 'mockbusters' are like the tribute bands of the movie world – not an original idea in their heads, but they satisfy a certain section of the public’s need for familiarity.

Meeting at John Kindess's The Big Fish, a crew of hardy souls board the vessel as night falls on Belfast Lough. Considering the fate that awaits us below decks, it’s like walking the plank in reverse.

From the same studio that brought us Snakes on a Train and Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus, Mega Piranha tells the story – for want of a better word – of an attack on the US by genetically modified, computer-generated killer fish. The 'action' limps from Venezuela to Florida and Washington, DC, all seemingly shot along the same half-mile of river.

1980s pop star Tiffany appears as a genetics professor, the most unlikely bit of casting since Denise Richards played a nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough. Tiffany thinks she’s an actress now, but she’s amongst the worst of a bad bunch. That doesn’t stop nominal hero Jason Fitch (played by Paul Logan) copping off with her character, though. The climactic clinch is harder to watch than the piranha attacks.

Logan – the Lidl Jason Statham – tackles the digital beasties with knives, his feet and, in one absurd sequence, guns. There are piranhas the size of hotels eating nuclear submarines, a car chase with ever-changing vehicles and a scene in which a group of topless prostitutes (they were cheaper than actresses, apparently) are devoured in three feet of water. It’s not so bad it’s good; it’s so bad it’s almost unwatchable.

The film’s relatively low budget of $5million is no excuse. The vastly superior 2007 Spanish horror REC was made for just $1.9m, proving that good ideas and genuine artistry cost nothing.

Even the lovers of kitschy cinema aboard the Lagan Boat struggle to enjoy Mega Piranha’s diabolical special effects, stilted dialogue and dreadful acting. The only fun to be had is cheering the various characters’ all-too-timely deaths. It’s little wonder the audience are distracted by a group of young men on the Lagan Lookout who have stripped nude and are waggling their wares at the boat.

Arriving back on dry land, it’s hard to tell if people are green from seasickness or just from the after-effects of a really rum movie. Still, as we depart the docks, our mood is lifted by the spectacle of the lads who had been flashing us being questioned by the police. Now that’s entertainment.