(15) Running time: 94 minutes
Director: Jon Wright
Writer: Kevin Lehane
Starring: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lala Roddy, Bronagh Gallagher
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Horror and comedy is a strange mix, but when done well the two genres complement each other brilliantly. If done well, horror and comedy can feel like a match made for each other, and director Jon Wright has pulled off the task of making one of the finest horror comedies I have seen in years. However, this could not have been achieved without the exceptional writing talents of Kevin Lehane. Wright is the man responsible for a small indie horror called Tormented, and while not a lot of people may have seen it, it is definitely worth checking out. Lehane has only written a few short films before this, and so you could say that Grabbers has been made by relative newcomers to the genre, but watching the film, you’d find that statement very hard to believe. Grabbers is a wonderful horror comedy, and it appears to have been made by a director and writer who have been doing this for years. The fact this is both writer and directors first major, big horror film excites me a lot. Remember the name Jon Wright and Kevin Lehane because on the evidence of this, they have plenty more to give!
The fun begins from the get go as we visit a small island off the coast of Ireland called Erin Island. The locals are mainly fishermen, and everyone here enjoys a good drink now and then. However, easy going Garda Ciaran O’Shea (Coyle) enjoys a drink a little too much, and spends most of his days avoiding trouble and enjoying a cheeky drink from his hip flask. This small, quiet community don’t like any fuss, and go about their daily lives as if completely cut off from the rest of the world. However, first to upset the balance is a new Garda recruit (and new islander) by the name of Lisa Nolan (Bradley), a by-the-book officer, she needs things done properly, with paperwork filled out and no time for any silly business. Naturally her enthusiastic and rule abiding ways clash with Ciaran’s laid back persona, but the characters are so well written you engage with their clashes rather than become annoyed by them. The gentle flirting by Ciaran warms the heart rather than disgusts, and it is clear from the beginning that when faced with impossible odds, this pair will join together and fight bad things, and do it well. Hell, the desperate man might even get the girl!
So, while poor Ciaran is all in a bit of a dither as he has to hide his drinking and actually do some work, a new menace is about to arrive in his quiet town, something none of them have ever seen before, something that will give them all the excuse for the mightiest of piss ups ever put together. Please, welcome the tentacled aliens who have landed in the sea and make way for the island. These beasts have a rather nasty bite, and lots of tentacles which “grab” their prey. Think of a squid or octopus, but just the beak and tentacles and you’ve pretty much got the idea. The monsters themselves are superbly created, and the CGI is magnificent. The slimy creatures attack a fishing ship, and a local fisherman who is amazed by his catch, takes one home to live in his bathtub! Things go wrong when Mother tentacle monster builds a nest, and islanders start going missing.
Grabbers builds its story incredibly well, and playing by all the rules you’d hope to see in a sci-fi/ horror/ comedy about horrible slimy beasts attacking a quiet fishing village, delivers all expectations and then some. As I have said the characters are incredibly well written, and the script is superb and bloody hilarious. The timing of Wright’s direction is impeccable, and many funny scenes benefit not by the actual action on screen, but the timing of how it is put together. This is one of those films that once it tickles that funny bone, it is very hard to stop. A simple moment of Ciaran leaning back to take a swig from his hip flask, only to be hit in the face by a decapitated head is far funnier than you could ever imagine, and it is moments like this which prove everyone involved here were on exactly the same page, and they all had a riot making it (even though it was filmed during one of the worst storms ever encountered on the island!).
Things get even more interesting when local biologist Dr Adam Smith (a superb Russell Tovey) discovers not only can these monsters survive on land so long as it is raining, but they are also rather against alcohol. One monster very nearly dies after attacking Ciaran (naturally half cut at the time), and after spitting out the Garda officers blood, Smith determines that the monsters cannot handle alcohol in the blood of their victims. And so a plan is hatched that on the night of the worst storm ever, and with the Coast Guard unable to help them, Ciaran and Lisa convince the locals to head to the pub for an almighty piss up, and the locals are more than happy to oblige!
As you can imagine, the laughter comes thick and fast as the action hot’s up: the monsters begin to work their way to the pub, and the unsuspecting locals (they have not been told why they must get drunk, but then, don’t appear to need an excuse) begin to get more and more sloshed. Even Lisa and Dr Smith (who have both never been drunk) get in on the action, and provide many of the films later highlights. It would be a shame to go into any detail as to specifics on the comedy that comes later, because the least you expect the better, but I will say that while Grabbers built up nicely with intrigue, hilarious comedy and even a little menace, if finishes off as a complete riot! The film ends on one of the best highs ever imaginable, a bunch of local Irish folk getting drunk, very drunk, and doing battle with an alien. What could be more fun than that?
Grabbers is hilarious from start to finish, but the good natured tone of the film enhances its likeability to such levels that you would feel bad for saying negative things about it. Thankfully I can’t think of any negatives, and all I can give Grabbers is praise, and lots of it. A totally unexpected gem, and a hilarious and quite brilliant sci-fi/horror/comedy that wears its tongue firmly in cheek. Grabbers is, without question, the most fun you could imagine, and I would highly recommend a few stiff drinks while watching it too. Go on, go and enjoy yourself, you know you want to!