Every now and then, a film comes along that requires me to pen my four favorite words ever: “I like monster movies.” No, that doesn’t mean I like ALL monster movies, but, because I’m usually fascinated by them nonetheless, I feel inclined to let my readers know in advance that this probably won’t be the most impartial opinion you’re likely to read today. I try to be as fair to those who might stumble across my words as I am to the films I watch, so there … I’ve done my part … and now I’d like to share my opinion of GRABBERS.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Tiny little Erin Island doesn’t have much going for it. It’s quiet. It’s quaint. Folks who live there survive mostly on the sea by fishing and/or supporting the local fishing industry. Otherwise, all they have to do is drink and get drunk. Local drunkard and police officer Ciaran O’Shea (played with terrific small-town flair by Richard Coyle) gets a new recruit – the straight-laced Lisa Nolan (an entirely cherubic Ruth Bradley) – for a short stint, but their training week goes from bad to worse when the idyllic setting is suddenly invaded by some small critters from space who’ve set their sights on ingesting the villagers. Still, there’ll be time for a drink at the pub, no?
In short, GRABBERS is a delight.
For those of you like me who love monsters, there’s plenty to be excited about. GRABBERS is in the same vein as a previous sci-fi/horror/comedy: 1990’s TREMORS introduced audiences to one butt-ugly group of giant, subterranean worms with a hankering for human flesh, and GRABBERS picks up that appetite but substitutes the underground for the undersea for part of its run-time (a pleasing 94 minutes). The primary difference is that these aliens apparently come in stages – small hatchlings that act and behave like sightless rapid cats versus their monstrously large egg-laying momma. Both the little and big want their share of the local color, and they’ll stop at nothing to fill their bellies.
There’s just one other problem: they can’t digest those with a pretty significant blood-alcohol level.
Of course, this prompts our local men (and women) in blue to propose the most uncharacteristic solution: get everyone drunk! Once that plot point is well established, Kevin Lehane’s script is well on the way to serving up some of the best horror laughs of the last decade (so far as this critic is concerned), and Jon Wright directs a terrific group of players who are all in on the laughs. Coyle is particularly strong as the lead here – he’s also weighed down with some other emotional baggage that only adds to his development – and Russell Tovey as the local marine ecologist Dr. Adam Smith manages to squeeze in some welcome comic relief at even the most inopportune moments. Local lush Paddy Barrett as played by Lalor Roddy is a comic genius who mumbles and stumbles along for the ride. But the real find here is Ms. Bradley – her Lisa Nolan is a star-making performance, one that ought to see her finding success beyond this picture in spades. This is the kind of thing Julia Roberts used to do when one could bank on her for success, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see more from Ms. Bradley in the future.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that GRABBERS played as an Official Selection to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The picture was also nominated for the 2013 Golden Fleece Award; Bradley won the ‘Best Actress Award’ at the 2013 Irish Film and Television Awards while the film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Script Film, and Best Supporting Actress; director Jon Wright won the ‘Audience Award’ and the ‘Titra Film Award’ at the 2012 Neuchatel International Fantasy Film Festival (the picture only scored a nomination as Best Fantasy Film); and the film won the ‘Audience Award’ at the 2012 Strasbourg International Film Festival. Yes, it’s all that good … and it even left an opening for a sequel.
GRABBERS (2012) is produced by Forward Films, High Treason Productions, the Irish Film Board, Nvizible, and Samson Films. DVD distribution is being handled through MPI Media Group for IFC Midnight. As for the technical specifications, the film looks and sounds impressive, though I’ll admit I struggled with the thick Irish accents in the early scenes of the flick (thankfully, there’s an English subtitling track for folks just like me!). Its special features are slim – there’s a 15-minute behind-the-scenes short and the theatrical trailer – and this is the kind of production I seriously could’ve spent all day with if the folks behind it had ponied ‘em up. Sadly, they didn’t, but it is what it is.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Yes, yes, and yes! Because I love monster movies, I’m highly predisposed to giving GRABBERS as enthusiastic a thumbs-up as you’re likely to see anywhere on the web … but is that so wrong? There’s just enough mirth, murder, and mayhem to make this one a keeper – it’s done in the same vein as the unappreciated TREMORS (1990) but with an even more wicked sense of humor, a greater sense of ambiguity, and an assortment of local color that’ll have you rolling in the aisles if you love ‘em as much as I did. Pop some popcorn. Turn out the lights. Bundle up on the couch. Get scared silly by the weirdest monster you’ll see this year, and you might want to toss a few back (“drinks”) to join in the merriment!
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at MPI Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of GRABBERS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.