If you can remember how much fun you had the first time that you saw Tremors then this film is for you. It’s a Tremors for the new millennium that also happens to be set on a small, Irish island. Of course, in comparing the movie to Tremors I am also comparing it to the standard template of the classic monster movie, something that the movie gets spot on from start to finish.
Think of all of the best monster movies that you’ve ever seen – from Them! to The Blob to Jaws to Gremlins to Deep Rising to Eight Legged Freaks. And, of course, the hugely enjoyable Tremors. They all follow a similar pattern. There’s an incident at the beginning that hints at something we don’t get to fully see, then we get to meet the main characters and then one or two storylines start to develop as mysterious events interrupt the proceedings. Things build up to a second half that piles on the tension and risks involved, leading to a satisfying conclusion. It may be a simple formula but it’s a very good one that works. Which is why monster movie fans like myself will be pleased to see that Grabbers follows it quite rigidly. There’s fun to be had in every aspect of the movie, from the action onscreen to the entire construction and rhythm of the thing.
Richard Coyle plays Garda Ciaran O’Shea, a man either working through a hangover or working on the hangover for the next day. When young Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) joins him for a couple of weeks working on Erin Island she unepectedly ends up slap bang in the middle of an attack on the island by a mysterious lifeform. Like a cross between a squid and a leech, the animal sucks blood from victims and tends to remove parts of their bodies from other required parts of their bodies. Strangely, some blood types (and, subsequently, some people) aren’t as tasty. They may actually act like poison to the creature. When it’s discovered that the blood that can’t be ingested is that containing high levels of alcohol then it quickly becomes clear that the way to stay alive is to . . . . . . . . . get drunk and stay drunk.
As soon as I heard about Grabbers and the premise that it had I wanted to like it. I wanted to see it live up to its potential and entertain me. I wanted some laughs and monster madness. Well, let me shout it out, this delivered. Big time. Reminiscent of every monster movie mentioned above as well as many, many others, this movie deserves to be loved by anyone who enjoyed Attack The Block (in fact, this is slightly BETTER, in my opinion). If I was lazy then I would call it this year’s Attack The Block (feel free to pinch that for any poster designs, folks) but I’m not so I won’t.
I can’t think of one thing wrong with this movie and as soon as the end credits rolled I wanted to watch it all over again. Okay, there are one or two minor quibbles but I seriously cannot think of anything negative to bring to your attention at this moment in time. Perhaps the script by Kevin Lehane isn’t as sharp or funny as it could have been, perhaps. I’d disagree, the movie has plenty of great lines and also derives a lot of the comedy simply from the monster movie action happening in such a laid-back environment, but I’ll leave that comment here for those who demand any kind of gag-line ratio from their comedies.
As far as the performances go, they’re almost uniformly fantastic. Russell Tovey suffers slightly with his exaggerated prim and proper Englishness against the Irish folks surrounding him but Coyle is very likeable as the flawed but well-intentioned O’Shea and Bradley is amusing enough in the first half of the movie and pretty hilarious in the second half. Lalor Roddy, David Pearse, Bronagh Gallagher, Pascall Scott, Clelia Murphy and Louis Dempsey all add character and fun to the proceedings as an assortment of colourful locals.
This cast of characters, and the action that tries to interrupt their drinking time, is given the best possible treatment by director Jon Wright. There were a number of occasions that reminded me of the great mix of playfulness and reverence for the genre roots that Joe Dante so often showed in his best features and I immediately knew that I had to mention that thought process in this very review, because anyone making me enjoy a movie so much that I can think of it as “like a Joe Dante movie” deserves every syllable of praise that I can think to throw at them.
With excellent special effects, wonderful humour, excellent performances and a plot that develops as organically as the creature central to the big problem, Grabbers is a film that I will be keeping an eye out for in future. It deserves a nationwide release, it deserves to find a loyal audience and it deserves to then do well in the shiny disc market. I know that I, for one, will be rushing out to buy it whenever it becomes available to add to my collection. And I’ll also be forcing most of my friends to watch it. So friends . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . you have been warned.
IRECTOR: JON WRIGHT
WRITER: KEVIN LEHANE
STARS: RICHARD COYLE, RUTH BRADLEY, RUSSELL TOVEY, LALOR RODDY, PASCALL SCOTT, DAVID PEARSE, BRONAGH GALLAGHER, CLELIA MURPHY, LOUIS DEMPSEY
RUNTIME: 94 MINS APPROX