Having gone down a storm at Sundance the Irish produced horror-comedy Grabbers finally shows up on home turf. Just what can we expect from this nations latest cinematic effort…
Grabbers takes place in the fictional island of Erin, off the coast of Ireland, and sees a peaceful fishing community disturbed by creatures from beyond the stars. Facing off against this unknown terror is local Garda Ciaran O’Shea, a borderline alcoholic whose typical day consists of driving around the island on “patrol” and stopping off in the islands only pub for a quite one. Thankfully for the community (less so for O’Shea) Garda HQ have sent down the by-the-book Lisa Nolan, temporarily assigned to cover for the local Sergeants holiday. The pair are soon at loggerheads whilst strange events unfold and islanders start to disappear. Thankfully the newcomers have a weakness, a dislike for alcohol, so in typical Irish fashion the only survival solution available is to get absolutely blind drunk.
On the acting front Richard Coyle is the magnetic centre of the film. His gruff but loveable, alcoholic with a heart of gold police man is just the type of hero/anti-hero this genre is built upon. Part Officer Brody, part Earl Bassett, Coyle grounds the film when it attempts to veer towards total absurdity. His dry comic timing is brilliant and his chemistry with Ruth Bradley imbues the film with a warmth. Bradley herself is on top form as the uptight city Garda sent on temporary assignment to the island. Her transition from that workaholic do-gooder into a more rounded member of the community is both believable and welcome. Her interactions with Coyle are fun and flirty, without veering too heavily into rom-com territory. The support characters are a list of well-known Irish stage and screen actors, with a notable British addition and all give great character to their respective roles. Pascal Scott in particular is a delight, as is Russell Tovey as the very proper British scientist who has no time for any of these shenanigans but still manages to get absolutely hammered.
Grabbers owes much to the Amblin stable of the 1980s, as well as giving nods to classic creature-features from Night of the Living Dead right up to the James Gunn superb Slither. The movies heaviest influence however is Spielberg’s original summer frightener Jaws, which is loving riffed in the opening sequence and the island setting. That the film can reference all of this sources and still come away as fresh and engaging is down to the obvious camaraderie within the cast and crew. This band of brothers (and sisters) are obviously having such a blast filming this riotously entertaining film that it’s almost a shame that the monsters are there at all. The script from Kevin Lehane is simple, but effective in that it allows for great character development in between the running and screaming. The dialogue is pitch-perfect, very Irish and very, very funny. Director Jon Wright’s camerawork is sublime, becoming more and more unsteady as our heroes get more and more inebriated. For a low-budget film the CGI is amazing, easily nixing the notion that only $100 million can buy you quality these days. As for the soundtrack the mix of traditional Irish music, old-time classics and hints of iconic melodies invoke a sense of nostalgia and allow the movie to stand alongside Tremors, Gremlins and Critters in the pantheon of greats.
Funny, warm, scary, and an absolute treat for its brisk 90 minutes Grabbers is easily one of the best movies to come from these shores in years. Irish or not this deserves to find as wide an audience as possible and shame on anyone that misses out.