“GRABBERS” (Movie Review)
You don’t have to be drunk to have a feckin’ good time with GRABBERS, which plays out a traditional monsters-attack-a-community scenario with a distinct and tasty Irish flavor.
Debuting on VOD and in select theaters today from IFC Films, GRABBERS is set on peaceful Erin Island, and begins a short distance off the coast, where the crew of a fishing boat spots a green meteor plunging out of the night sky and into the sea and makes the fatal mistake of going to investigate it. We then come ashore to meet our protagonists: local “garda” (that’s cop to us Americans) Ciaran O’Shea (Richard Coyle) and young officer Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), just arrived to take over for his sergeant, who’s off for a two-week break. O’Shea has taken to drinking since the loss of his wife, and Nolan is by-the-book to a fault, or as O’Shea pithily puts it at one point, they’re “an alcoholic and a workaholic.”
Both of them transcend stock characterizations, however; as written by scriptwriter Kevin Lehane and performed by the two stars, they’re likable individuals who get and keep the audience on their side, and make a good team when forced to face the deadly threat to Erin Island. Whatever it was that crashed into the ocean has made its way ashore, and it’s big, tentacled and likes to devour humans (save the odd head or two it leaves behind). Joining O’Shea and Nolan in investigating the invasion are Paddy (Lalor Roddy), a salty local lobsterman who comes across like the father of JAWS’ Quint, has trapped a smaller creature and wonders if he can sell it on “the eBay,” and Dr. Adam Smith (Russell Tovey, the lycanthropic George from the BBC’s BEING HUMAN), a marine biologist looking into the strange deaths and beaching of pilot whales who takes a shine to Nolan.
These supporting players are a lot of fun too, and in fact GRABBERS has the most colorful cast of characters in a monster movie since TREMORS (to which it bears a couple of other similarities), also including the Mahers (David Pearse and Bronagh Gallagher), proprietors of the local pub, which comes to serve a very important role in the proceedings. As funny as the dialogue (chock full of amusing Irish vernacular) often is, none of the actors wink at the camera; everyone plays their parts straight and takes their relationships and the monstrous threat seriously. Which isn’t to say they don’t have their silly moments; when the characters discover that intoxication can help them in their battle with the alien beasts, Bradley and Tovey have some great goofy moments as the formerly strait-laced Nolan and Smith get smashed.
And getting back to the monsters, they’re very much worth taking seriously, thanks to superb visual FX by Paddy Eason and his Nvisible company and creature FX by Shaune Harrison. The strange species keeps throwing surprises at the leads and the audience, leading up to the climactic assault by the king critter, a most impressive rolling, roiling ball of Lovecraftian tentacles. Beyond the CGI work, the other production values also belie the movie’s modest budget, including the enveloping cinematography by Trevor Forrest and the varied score by Christian Henson (from Christopher Smith’s BLACK DEATH and TRIANGLE).
Like the everyone’s-invited booze blast at Maher’s that gets besieged by the extraterrestrial threat, GRABBERS is a friendly, rollicking good time, full of distinctive personalities, punctuated by moments of effective, seriously played terror. The movie ends with a couple of plot threads still dangling, but perhaps their resolution is being saved for a sequel—a development that would be most welcome.