Today: February 28, 2024
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Grabbers

By – Edward Boff – Back in the ‘60s, small British micro-studio Planet Pictures enlisted some of the best talent from Hammer films

By Edward Boff

Back in the ‘60s,
small British micro-studio Planet Pictures enlisted some of the best talent
from Hammer films and made a set of sci-fi monster movies that blended ‘50s
style atomic age horror with a very British sensibility.
Titles like The Earth Dies Screaming, Night
of the Big Heat
and (probably the best one) Island of Terror mixed alien attacks or SCIENCE!! gone wrong with
the community under siege banding together in (where else?) the pub. Grabbers
feels a lot like one of those, bought up to date, but blended with a sense of
humour that’s more akin to Father Ted.

Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth
Bradley
) is filling in for a couple of weeks at tiny Erin Island, of the
coast of Ireland. It turns out her
partner O’Shea’s (Richard Coyle)
drinking problem isn’t her biggest concern this fortnight. Something has been washed ashore;
tentacled, highly carnivorous alien creatures with a taste for blood and the
island is isolated by a storm. But
with the discovery that the monsters can’t consume blood tainted with alcohol,
a plan is formed; a lock-in!

The key to a good mix of horror and humour is to play the
horror aspect perfectly straight, the humour coming entirely from the
characters. Grabbers‘ script gets this just right, although the nature of the
situation does get a few more laughs in and of itself. There’s a great selection of
characters, from the two completely mismatched cops to the somewhat
starched-shirt marine ecologist (Russell
Tovey
) who fruitlessly argues with the locals that “grabbers” is
not a good name for the creatures.
None of the characters feel like stereotypes, they all have a few layers
to them, even if they’re inebriated for most of the film. Also, the whole “Irish people
reacting to a crisis by getting drunk” angle could have been somewhat
offensive if this wasn’t an Irish production with an extremely Irish sense of
humour. The scenes of the
townsfolk having “liquid courage” to prepare for the attack do add
some great Whiskey Galore-esque side
gags.

The acting and direction match the script to a T. Even though it’s a lower budget genre
movie, everyone still gives it their best. Richard Coyle is channelling his inner Jack Nicholson at
points, Ruth Bradley is a lot of fun either professional or plastered and
Russell Tovey shows once more that he can give Martin Freeman a run for his
money in the looking exasperated stakes.
It’s beautifully shot and directed too, the rural island location looks
gorgeous in the setting sun and the landscapes stretching into the distance give
a great sense of how isolated (and thus screwed) the characters are. The film also works well in the horror
segments, with the grabbers’ attacks built up perfectly, especially in the
early segments, before the main reveal.
The final action climax is also extremely well done as the townsfolk’s
drunken condition is shown to be both a blessing and a curse against the
invaders.

The true icing on the cake though are the creature
effects. The monsters themselves
are very well designed, and we get to see several stages of their life cycle so
there’s a good amount of variety of monster action. For a lower budget title, the CG effects used to realise the
creatures for the most part is pretty seamless and they’re used to full effect. Of particular note is the fact that,
unlike the titles mentioned at the start, it’s not a case of “look out,
they’re coming after you ex-trem-ely slow-ly”. The grabbers attack and move fast, the way they move is well
realised and it’s hard to think of any other movie monsters that move that
way. These sort of films can often
live or die on their effects, and thankfully they pass with flying colours (and
slime, and tentacles…) here!

As good as some are, horror comedies are very hard to get
right. Thankfully, Grabbers can comfortably be mentioned
alongside titles like Tremors or The Howling. The characters are endearing, the concept is a lot of fun
and leads to some great gags, and the creature effects are more than good
enough and more memorable than many a recent Hollywood production. It’s only getting a very limited release
in cinemas before its DVD/Blu-Ray release but seeking out a cinema playing it
is fully recommended. After all,
it’s the Christmas and New Year season; what better time for drunken fun! But remember though, don’t let good
times go bad; drink to moderation, only enough to make sure the monsters don’t
get you.

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