With all the worthy, socially conscious cinema on display at this years’ Edinburgh International Film Festival, it’s with some degree of guilt that I say my favourite so far is a whimsical, comedy creature feature. It’s a rare film that manages to be both sweetly charming and horrifyingly disgusting, but that’s exactly what Grabbers is; it’s charmingly disgusting or disgustingly charming, if you will. It’s a throwback both to the monster movie heyday of the 50s and to its resurgence in the 80s that makes impressive use of a meagre £4,000,000 budget.
Grabbers begins with an awesome satellite shot of Ireland and the British Isles as we see a comet plummet into the Irish Sea. We then get a brief, genuinely scary sequence in which an unseen terror makes short work of the crew of a trawler. But after this prologue the scares mostly take a backseat, because Grabbers is a horror-comedy with emphasis on the comedy. The action takes place on the idyllically dull Erin Island, which is the jurisdiction of the dishevelled and drunken Garda Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle) and the by-the-book teetotaller Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) whose been transferred from Dublin on a working holiday.
O’Shea is perfectly happy with his uneventful beat as it gives him more time to drink, but when locals start going missing, a pod of dead whales washes up on the beach and eccentric fisherman Paddy (Lalor Roddy) claims to be keeping a sea monster in his bathtub, it seems life on Erin Island may be about to become more interesting.
Perhaps the greatest compliment you could pay a horror-comedy is to say it would be entertaining even without the horror element, which is the case with Grabbers. Kevin Lehane’s tight, witty script calls to mind last year’s The Guard and even Local Hero with its cast of eccentric characters and sparkling dialogue. But that’s not to say when the monsters turn up they’re not welcome.
Director Jon Wright wisely puts off revealing them in all their tentacled glory until towards the end and although when they do finally appear it’s courtesy of some not particularly impressive CGI, their unique design and uniquely horrific methods of dispatching victims means you won’t care. But Grabbers true genius emerges when it’s revealed that the blood-sucking beasts are allergic to alcohol the islanders realise that the more wasted they get, the less appetising they are. This brilliant concept makes the final act a shambolic struggle for survival, featuring some first class drunk-acting’, especially from the adorable Ruth Bradley.
Horror-comedies are notoriously difficult to get right; in the effort to be both funny and scary they often fail to be either. Grabbers succeeds by getting the tone just right; it aims to be a comedy film with monsters not a horror film with gags. The recent high water mark for horror-comedies is Shaun of the Dead and it’s no exaggeration to say that Grabbers is just as entertaining and involving as that modern classic. Grabbers doesn’t have a UK release date yet, but once it does it will surely become a beloved cult favourite, it has all the ingredients: cool monsters, characters you genuinely care about and eminently quotable dialogue. Tis no fecking lobster.
Overall Verdict: Cult status surely beckons for this brilliantly well-written, frequently hilarious and occasionally scary monster movie.
Reviewer: Adam Pidgeon