★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Directed by Jon Wright
Probably a 10 on the Scary Meter.
A boozy and cheeky creature feature that, a bit like alcohol consumption, is a lot of fun at the beginning and doesn’t sit so well the longer you consume it.
I was really looking forward to this movie, claiming dibs on reviewing it from my Scariest Things colleagues. It had a fabulously Lovecraftian tentacular creature, for which I am always a sucker for (pun intended). And this little Irish movie looked to have so much pluck and spunk to it, a real Attack the Block or Shaun of the Dead horror-comedy vibe going in. The monsters don’t disappoint. They are spectacular. A bit CG heavy, but impressive given what must have been a miniscule budget. The characters when we are introduced to them are charming, classic Irish archetypes. Ruth Bradley plays Garda Lisa Nolan, a feisty young female cop who is playing substitute for a departing sergeant in a village on an island off the Irish coast, full of ambition and sass. She is met by Garda Ciaran O’Shea (Richard Coyle) who is nursing a continuous hangover and reluctantly shows her the ropes of the town that never gets any meaningful cop action. (Classic trope!)
But we were introduced to a fishing boat in the preamble, and we know that SOMETHING nabbed three fishermen, and of course, whatever that was, has landed on shore. We get introduced to a local drunken fisherman, Paddy (Lalor Roddy), and the local barkeep and barmaid, in a village where clearly, the entertainment is all at the bar. Paddy has caught something in one of his lobster pots, and he figures he’s made the find of the century, dubbing the odd creature a “Grabber”. (Hmmm… Tremors, anyone?) A pod of pilot whales has also been washed ashore, indicating that something much larger than what Paddy caught is doing some nasty business in the bay. The creature comes to shore that night, and nabs a few locals.
Lisa and Ciaran are still trying to work as a team, investigating the mysterious disappearances. There’s a great gag with a head of one of the victims that made me chuckle… and now the constables realize that there is a large creature mauling the populace. Curiously, though, for a small town, the death of a few of the local townsfolk, didn’t make the rounds. Paddy has managed not to get eaten and fends off and subdues the creature that he had caught, which made an escape. A scientist, Dr. Smith (Russell Tovey) who came to investigate the pilot whales acts as an awkward threes company romantic tension, as the movie tries to shoehorn a love story with Lisa and Ciaran (yeah, saw that coming like a brass band down main street…) and there is a fun sequence where Lisa, Ciaran, and Smith all dispatch the creature that Paddy caught.
Eventually, they come to a startling… and the big premise of the movie… the creatures are allergic to blood alcohol, and they sustain themselves off of blood and need to be in contact with water. Aha! This leads to the fun element of everyone getting drunk in order to properly fight off the monsters. Or at least, it’s fun for a little while. The better part of acts two and three largely involve the entire village getting soused, and as such unable to properly deal with the monsters. Also, most of the villagers are unaware of the monsters until they are all gathered together at a hastily thrown together open bar party that our protagonists have determined is the best way to keep everyone alive.
Fun idea. Again… fun for a while. And then, like a Saturday Night Live skit that doesn’t know when to quit, it goes on too long. The romance between Lisa (who I found adorable) and Ciaran (who was not) was devoid of any real spark, despite the best efforts of the script. When they are trying to lay a trap for the monster, they seem to be completely unfazed by a Lovecraftian behemoth thundering around the countryside and are more keen on pseudo-romantic babble. But, then again, Lisa is drunk. The forced dramatic irony is that Ciaran, the normal drunk, is the sober one.
Act three is an action horror piece, reminiscent of Jurassic Park, Aliens, The Blob, and many other big monster climaxes. Except, of course, that everyone is drunk. At least the director and writers were astute enough to make the inebriation an obstacle for the townsfolk to overcome, in addition to the monsters. It was quite formulaic though. And the drunken shenanigans lost their charm, much like the waning hours of parties that I attended in college. WOOOOO!!!! PARTY!!! Urrrfff… I think I have to sit down for a bit… and zznnnnrrrkkk… huh?
Fortunately, the movie didn’t want to make me barf. But also like a few of those college parties, I’m not sure that I really enjoyed myself the whole time. I’m also a little torn about how this movie reinforces the stereotype of Irish as drunkards. It is an Irish production, with assistance from the National Irish film board. And all of the people in it, even the old drunk Paddy, are endearing. But is that an image that they embrace? I guess so. I also recognize that there are a number of critics out there who enjoyed this much more than I did, so your mileage may vary.
Grabbers is Not Rated, probably an R… but a light R. Lots of swearing, but it’s in that particular Irish “Feckin” and “Shite” that doesn’t sound as harsh to my ears. There is a little gore… but this film feels on the border of PG-13 and R. It’s suitable for teens. It’s available for rent on Amazon Prime, Hulu, iTunes, and YouTube.
Also… I’m going to have to track how many horror movies have the “They’re coming to get you Barabara!” scene from Night of the Living Dead in it. Add Grabbers to that list.