Grab it – Before it Grabs You!
The UK’s best horror/comedy – take that SHAUN OF THE DEAD!
Upon a recommendation, from artist/teacher/Polish movie poster collector, Douglas McCambridge, I rented Jon Wright’s GRABBERS. From the posters it was clear I’d be in for a comedy creature feature, and I certainly needed a brain break from life, so I tossed it in and sat back. Little did I know the ride would be so entertaining that my troubles would be laughed away.
In GRABBERS, the lovely and polished Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) is a Garda coming to a small Irish island to fill in for a couple of weeks. She soon meets up with her alcoholic partner, Ciaran O’Shea (Robert Coyle), and learns that much doesn’t happen on the fishing island. Until a storm comes in and brings with it a monster from outer space hellbent to feed on anything big – like humans. But Lisa never realized that the only way to save the island’s inhabitants would be to get as drunk as her partner.
Beautifully shot, thanks to Trevor Forrest, we’re ensconced in a small town environment without the usual tropes. Locals don’t give Garda Nolan the stink eye, and she doesn’t act too much like a fish out of water – just a cop that needs to take it down a notch. In Kevin Lehane’s well crafted script, characters are as idiosyncratic as one would hope without going into ludicrous territory. We can relate for certain, and laugh along with the islanders as they try to determine what the hell is snatching people from their homes, ships, and the pub.
The pace in GRABBERS is pretty quick, and once again, tropes be damned. Sure, Nolan and O’Shea have a hard time believing a town drunk about a sea monster, but in short order, everyone’s on the same page and searching for answers. Of course, due to a coming storm, they’re on their own, but they do understand that they have one weapon working in their favor: A drunk human makes the beast vomit. This idea came about during a hike Lehane once took. To keep mosquitoes at bay, he turned to alcohol. Ta da. GRABBERS was spawned, and in short order, he had backers and the whole production was in motion.
In the fishing village, the few in the know want to keep panic to a minimum, so they invite the locals to the pub for free drinks. Sure, Lehane played off of the Irish stereotype, but he’s from Cork and it’s all in good fun, so leave him the hell alone. While everyone’s getting drunk – but not too drunk, one hopes – the monster makes it move…
Yes, CGI abounds because a guy in a suit certainly wouldn’t cut it, but as director Jon Wright said, the special effects have come such a long way, he wasn’t afraid of giving it a go. Paddy Eason, the visual effects supervisor, and his fabulous team, did one hell of a great job in bringing the beast to life. In fact, some of the effects are downright awesome.
The balance of horror and humor is spot on. Unlike SHAUN OF THE DEAD (UK/France/USA, 2004), which bored the hell out of me, GRABBERS kept me in the perfect state of mind to enjoy every frame. Admittedly, at times I wish the movie had been serious, but with alcohol proving to be the bane of the creature’s existence, a more dramatic angle would have failed. Lehane chose the right path, and with Wright’s directing and an excellent cast and crew, the stars aligned. Some may know Wright from his comedy/horror TORMENTED (UK, 2009). That film had much potential but ultimately failed due to some jarring edits, far too many scene changes, and an often questionable storyline. But the director certainly grew from that mess and delivered a solid sea shanty.
Can our Garda heroes save the day? Will the small fishing village live to see another dawn – or another sequel? You’ll have to indulge in GRABBERS to find out. So if you like laughs with your decapitating monsters, give this feature a shot – of single malt Irish whiskey, that is. Thanks for the sorely needed entertainment therapy, cast and crew. I’ll definitely have another round, and I’m buyin’ Doug…
3.5 out of 5 stars
(Photo from Imp Awards.)