Directed by Jon Wright
When a meteorite crashes into the ocean next to the Irish locale of Erin Island, bloodsucking tentacled creatures are unleashed on the surrounding population. Ferrying into town at the same time is starry-eyed temporary stand-in Garda officer Lisa Nolan (Bradley), whose arrival proves an irritant to long-time local lawman (and alcoholic) Garda Ciaran O’Shea (a surprisingly spritely Coyle).
After a pod of mutilated whales are washed ashore on the island, British local scientist Dr. Adam Smith (“Being Human” UK’s Russell Tovey) announces that the animals were actually killed at sea, with their carcasses simply having been naturally pushed ashore by the tides. At the same time, resident drunkard Paddy manages to capture one of the creatures and, after an altercation with the hungry beast, presents it to Smith. Before long, the townsfolk are disappearing, and O’Shea and co. discover the creatures’ one weakness – alcohol is poisonous to them.
With a massive storm rolling in, the officers and scientist are forced to step up and protect their isolated community against the ever-increasing number of alien monsters. In the greatest of Irish traditions, this of course means one thing – a lock-in at the local pub! Everyone must get as drunk as possible in order to survive and fight back against the ravenous horde, but when Daddy monster shows up, an abundance of Dutch courage and loosened judgement may prove just as dangerous as it is beneficial in the circumstances!
From the off, Grabbers is a rollicking, 80s-style throwback with an emphasis on fun. Director Jon Wright wears his influences on his sleeve and knows his stuff well enough to please any fan of the era’s monster flicks as he echoes the tone of classics such as Critters, Critters 2 and Killer Klowns from Outer Space. The characters are key, and each and every one of them is well drawn and eminently likable. O’Shea’s disdain for his unwelcome new partner leads to many a chucklesome situation, as does Dr. Smith’s incessant flirting with the attractive new officer.
Similarly excellent are David Pearse and Bronagh Gallagher as the husband and wife pub landlords Paddy and Una Maher. Kevin Lehane’s script is sharp and smart, with well-placed comedic dialogue interspersed throughout and a well constructed (if somewhat overlong) build-up to the monster reveal and climactic battle.
The creature design in Grabbers is pleasantly original, and the CGI beasties are well placed and excellently animated. On a low budget, they’re still obviously CGI, but as an audience we get a nice mix of baby, mid-sized, and fully grown adult monsters to enjoy, with a particular scene involving a bar full of baby creatures being amusingly reminiscent of Dante’s Gremlins.
The most crucial element for the success of Grabbers, inherent in the very plot and key to the entire exercise, is the cast’s ability to convincingly act drunk. There’s little more distracting and unsatisfying on screen than an actor attempting to play drunk and failing miserably. Being such a huge element of Wright’s film, this is critical, and thankfully the players here knock it out of the park. Most impressive is lead Bradley, whose delightful facial expressions and twinkling eyes will leave a constant smile on your face. Similarly, Tovey’s drunken confrontation with the fully grown male creature is pure genius.
Grabbers isn’t a perfect flick, suffering from some pacing issues (and American audiences will likely need to brush up on their accents or risk missing some chunks of the drunkenly slurred dialogue), but it is one hell of a good time that offers plenty of laughs, excellent characters and performances, and big slimy monsters. Here we have little more than a super-entertaining monster romp that any fan of 80s creature-features will gobble up… and sometimes that’s all you need. Go get grabbed!
4 out of 5