Retro Review: GRABBERS (2012){0}

Virtually every film festival in the world has a handful of charming little Irish movies hiding in the fringes. And if they don’t, they should. Sincere drama about little but real characters; light comedy that almost always brings some heart and sweetness to the fore; tough stories about violent histories; and dark thrillers based on myths and legends that barely register with an American audience. So clearly I’m a fan of films made in Ireland. 

And now they’ve made a new monster movie!

The low-key and slow-starting Grabbers comes from director Jon Wright and screenwriter Kevin Lehane, and together they’ve hatched an amusing little idea: you know that crazy old stereotype that says the Irish love to drink alcohol? Here’s a horror/comedy concoction that takes the cliche somewhere truly silly. Turns out that this lovely little Irish village is about to be invaded by an army of rapidly-expanding monsters that look like Lovecraftian octopi, and what is the key weakness of these rampaging aliens? Not water, not cold, not even handy human bacteria. In the world of Grabbers, the only substance that can save the day is … alcohol. The beasties just hate all kinds of alcohol, which allows our colorful team of day-savers to get EVERYONE IN TOWN drunk. So it’s an Irish monster movie about a monster that can’t eat drunk people. Come on, that’s pretty cute.

Grabbers, unfortunately, is not without a few rough spots. In an effort to focus more on the ensemble farce section, Wright and Lehane seem to forget about their monsters once in a while. Act III does offer a big batch of well-orchestrated mayhem, and the creature effects are really quite good for a low-budget affair, but there are a few extra conversations where some monster attacks should be taking place. 

Fortunately the talkier bits are populated by Irish performers both seasoned and green, and this is where Grabbers earns extra points. As an homage to the goofy old monster movies from the 1950s, Wright and Lehane break out several of the iconic characters we know and love, with Russell Tovey (as a goofy scientist) and David Pearse (as a frustrated bartender) seem to stand out most often. As the two cops (aka Garda) in charge of keeping the populace clueless, safe, and drunk, Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley strike a sly chemistry together and help imbue this silliness with a small but welcome sense of actual horror-style danger. Or at least some fun and flashy thrills. (Bonus: Bronagh Gallagher shows up! One of the Commitments is in this flick!)

Lovely to look at, amiable and light, and packed with just enough horror juice to keep the monster fans happy, Grabbers might not usher in a new revolution of Shamrock Horror, but if the Emerald Isle can keep turning out genre flicks as frothy fun as this one, well, that’d be pretty cool.