Grabbers review

Review Sarah Dobbs 12 Sep 2012 - 07:14

Could Grabbers be the best alien invasion comedy ever? Very possibly. Here’s Sarah’s review of a very funny film...

Alien invasions can be thwarted by the simplest of things. According to the movies, even the biggest, scariest, toothiest alien can usually be defeated by something as commonplace as water, the common cold, or a basic computer virus. In Grabbers, it’s alcohol that proves to be their undoing. The titular ‘grabbers’ are aquatic monsters that feed on blood, and are horribly allergic to booze. So when they crash land in the Irish sea and start preying on the inhabitants of Erin Island, there’s only one thing for the locals to do: organise a lock-in and get paralytically drunk.

It’s a daft sounding premise, but Grabbers plays it straight, and by doing so, manages to turn a potentially silly idea into something rather wonderful. It’s not that it doesn’t have a sense of humour – it’s definitely a comedy horror, and it’s frequently hilarious – but the comedy doesn’t come at the expense of its characters, or of the film’s sense of realism. Comedy is only one aspect of the film, and it’s not even the most important one: above all, this is a love story.

Let’s go back to that premise for a moment. By choosing to set this story on an island, Grabbers immediately establishes one of the things any good horror movie needs: isolation.

Erin Island is a small fishing community, the kind of sleepy small-town where everyone knows everyone else. The one outsider in the story is Lisa Nolan, a young Garda from the mainland who’s been drafted in to keep the peace while the head Garda goes on holiday for a fortnight. Lisa is enthusiastic, dedicated to her work to the point of being kind of uptight – and she’s a teetotaller. Her temporary partner, Garda Ciaran O’Shea, is older, grumpier, and an alcoholic. You can maybe see where this is going. When a storm rolls in, preventing any external help from reaching the island, the grabbers start attacking – so it’s down to Nolan and O’Shea to work through their differences and find a way to save the day.

Their relationship is the heart of the film, and if it’s a little predictable, well, it’s so sweet it’s tough to argue with it. Ruth Bradley is fantastic as the strait-laced Nolan; her drunken scenes are almost painfully funny, and she quickly establishes an easy chemistry with Richard Coyle’s O’Shea that’s immediately believable. For his part, he’s convincingly world-weary, and pulls off an almost flawless Irish accent.

The rest of the cast are great, too: Russell Tovey is terrific as the priggish English scientist, and Lalor Roddy, David Pearse, Pascal Scott, Ned Dennehy and Bronagh Gallagher all put in fantastic performances as the locals of Erin Island. There are so many opportunities for Grabbers to make stupid jokes, to make the comedy too broad, or to lapse into lazy stereotypes, but it always resists. Instead, it pulls the comedy back in favour of kindness. There’s genuine affection there, and it shines through even in the way the characters and locations are shot.

And then, of course, there are the aliens – because this isn’t just a rom-com, it’s a monster movie.

The grabbers are like nothing you’ve ever seen before. They’re part octopus, part lamprey, part facehugger, all Lovecraftian nightmare. It’s clear that a lot of care and attention has gone into designing and creating the grabbers – yes, they’re mostly CGI, but it doesn’t take long to forget that. They’re formidable beasts, and they’re made all the scarier by the fact that you actually find yourself caring about the characters.

By keeping the comedy grounded in reality, and making the characters so relatable, the horror elements of the movie seem all the more effective, and there are several scenes that are genuinely tense. You never feel cheated by the scares, and though there’s a only a limited amount of gore on display, it’s more than enough to be effective.

There really isn’t much wrong with this movie, and you can't help but applaud writer Kevin Lehane and director Jon Wright. Okay, so maybe it’s not hugely ambitious, and maybe it won’t change your life - but then not every film has to. As a piece of entertainment, it’s just about faultless. It seems like a weird thing to say about a horror movie, but this is a film to cherish. We defy you not to fall at least a little bit in love with it.

Grabbers screened at Frightfest 2012, is currently on general release at Frightfest, and will be released in the UK in December.

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Ooohhh...interesting. You make me want to watch it with that 5 stars.

Weird not to mention the name of either writer or director if you liked it that much, especially when you name check most the cast! Heard only good things about this film though - why isn't it out in the UK yet??

Absolutely agree, it is one of the best horror comedies since Tremors (mashed up with a bit of Father Ted and The Guard), managing to never be so nasty it stops being funny... Although still packing a reassuring amount of gore. And the characters are so much fun (Richard Coyle seems to be channeling a young Father Jack on occasion, which is genius). It's a shame really it was in such a late slot at Frightfest and didn't get more of an audience - hoping it's gettting a UK release date soon because I want a rewatch!!

The film is due in the UK in late December at the moment. Will be talking a lot more about it, and its writer and director, in the months ahead!

Seen this - absolutely dire. Tremors takes a giant dump on this crap. 1 star.

Your insightful and detailed review has won me over.

Ok - here's what I said on FB back on Jan 20th; "
Went to my first audience preview screening for a film last night - some Irish Tremors rip-off called Grabbers. It starts with a meteorite landing in the ocean without causing a ripple & goes down hill from there. Stick with Tremors instead, unless you happen to like light, fluffy dumb humour & predictable attempts at scares. It also helps if you happen to think alcoholism is hilarious. When in the group feedback session at the end I criticised the film for its dumb, simpleton attempts at humour one of the 3 douchebags who ticked the 'excellent' box for this said 'I like dumb humour' - as Christian Bale might say - 'Good for you!' " Admittedly it's a bit harsh labelling someone as a 'douchebag' for liking a bad film but otherwise I stand by my comments.

You might want to consider the fact that the meteor clearly landed in the ocean beyond the horizon - which'd be over 5 miles away. Understand now why you would see a ripple? There was, however, a column of water a thousand feet high. I guess you missed that.

*wouldn't* see a ripple

Watched this movie after reading this review and i can confirm it was a great film, vastly entertaining and well acted. The laughs were out loud, and the cgi was top drawer to be honest, i don't get the reference to Tremors, maybe cos it was a comedy, but yeah, this is a better piece of work than Tremors. I'd watch it again, today.

There was no column of water in the preview screening I saw & I'm pretty sure it would still result in at least a ripple even if from 5 miles away

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