Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Horror Of....Grabbers (2012)

Here we are again, a St Patrick's Day...weekend. And you have to wonder what there is to watch that aligns quite well with the holiday and might give you a scare. And steering away from learning about the horrors in Irish history, I might say The Lair of the White Worm. It's about besting some snakes, and gives you some Hugh Grant and Peter Capaldi. But I've already looked at that lovely film.

So I could move on to the Leprechaun movies. But they are a bit on the nose, and I'd rather to start on them another day.

So why not dive into some Irish horror? And why not start with something relatively recent?


This film came out in Ireland in August of 2012; It was released by the Irish Film Board.

Written by Kevin Lehane (Neil Gaiman's Likely Stories, The Fourth Wall), and directed by Jon Wright (Tormented, Robot Overlords), the film takes through an alien invasion of Ireland. The solution is one part human ingenuity and one part home brew.

The idea apparently was a result of Lehane being told that Marmite kept mosquitoes away. It led him to wonder what else might mess with them? Would drinking alcohol make they drunk via your blood? This idea became key to the idea of this film.

One night a stellar objects cross Earth's path. Pulled into our orbit, it enters the atmosphere.

Before long it impacts in the ocean. Off the coast of Ireland, near Erin Island.

A boat nearby is curious, unsure if it might have been an emergency flare, approaches the site.

And soon there is no crew.

This opening is just lovely. The imagery, the music, and the night all work to slowly bring us into the horror that is to come.

And the film understands the key to these films. Slowly reveal your monster. Here we never see what is stalking this crew. Something grabs one of them. Another is impaled with something. And the other seems to be pounced on. It is all so quick and unclear your mind is left to fill blanks and amp your fear.

And the film is beautifully shot, taking advantage of it's setting.

I'll pause for a moment here, if at this point you want to just chase down the film. And if you need a little incentive, here's the trailer.

Before going on I should note...Grabbers. I don't really care for the title of the film. Now the movie explains how we end up with that being the creatures name, and it works nicely. But, Grabbers, is not a great name to stick in my head. When I have a gap of a year or so between viewing, I find myself struggling to find the movie. I keep thinking it starts with an "S". But that may be my problem alone.

The movie has a slow elevation of terror as the Grabbers reach shore and move inland. One of the creatures gets itself stuck in a lobster trap. It shakes the cage and squirts a liquid at people, giving an initial start.

When you take a Lobsterfest too far.

From there people on the beach get grabbed.

Then a house is assaulted.


"It's what they call a 'Reverse Santa" in garda lingo."

And with the assault on the house we get the sense that these are not just mindless monsters. They can get creative.

Elsewhere, eggs gestate, waiting to hatch.

And if and when they hatch, everyone on the island could be doomed.

As the movie progresses we slowly see what the threat looks like and what it can do, and what it can't. We get a new and original creature. It's part vampire, part sea monster, part Lovecraftian horror. It's a complete sense. It's horrific, but it also has rules that constrain it.

So as we learn about the creature, and we get to the point where we establish alcohol is toxic to the creature, it becomes yet another fact we add to the list. Water is necessary for their survival. Booze will hurt or kill them. And since they suck blood out of people, the higher your blood/alcohol level the worst you taste to them.

The slide in the film into scifi/horror comes naturally and smoothly.

But will the people on Erin Island have a chance. It's a holiday period, and most of the population has left the island for the mainland. So there are fewer victims to find, but also fewer people on hand to act.

So who do we have to save us all?

Ciaran O'Shea is one of two leads in the film, the local garda/police local that is left in charge of protecting everyone. Unfortunately he's a drunk. He likes to keep buzzed during the day, and raging drunk at night. It seems that the reason he has his trouble is the loss of his wife has left him unable to cope. But his character can be a dick. But when monsters come to prey on his people, he has to rise above himself, a bit..He's played by Richard Coyle (Coupling, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, Topsy-Turvy, StrangeFranklyn, The Fall). It is a little odd to see the Irish lead in an Irish film is played by a Brit.

Lisa Nolan is another garda. She's from Dublin, and on temporary duty why the rest of the force is on holiday. She's a dedicated and affable cop, who is eager to do her job and maintain a positive attitude. She's also a nondrinker, who is going to have to play catch up and save the world while rating a .2 ratio. She's played by Ruth Bradley (Primeval, The Fall, Humans).

The pair are joined by the locals which are key to this film working. A lot of films choose to stock up on annoying or dull secondary characters. This film manages to pull together a collection of interesting and fun characters that become quickly memorable and enjoyable as the film progresses.

This includes, Dr. Adam Smith, a British marine ecologist. He helps to work out the basics of what the grabbers are. He goes quickly from wanting to keep and study the creatures to help kill them with a chair. He's played by Russell Tovey (Marple, Poirot, Ashes to Ashes, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Being Human, The Night Manager, Quantico).

Paddy Barrett is another local. He definitely falls under the description local color. A drinker, carouser, and irritant to some. But he's put to grand use add levity and momentum to the film. He also is the one to find the first grabber, names them, and provides a bottle of home brew that may make all the difference. Lalor Roddy (Game of Thrones, Ripper Street, Vikings, Robot Overlords The Frankenstein Chronicles) plays him brilliantly.

We also have the local pub owner, Brian Maher. He's played by David Pearse (Vikings). Also his wife, Una Maher, who helps run the pub and helps fill the film with character and humor. She played by Bronagh Gallagher (Pulp Fiction, SW: The Phantom Menance, Thunderpants, Poirot, Sherlock Holmes).

From casual talk in the pub...

"Really? You heard there making a Coupling movie?" a lock in/siege/party... a final fight to survive, ,you find yourselves engaged and rooting for survival. Surprising how some films don't bother to get you invested and liking the world you enter. It makes you cheer all the more if they can make it through until the end.

A fun monster siege film this movie works amazingly well. And as a film that makes use of CGI, it makes effective use to bring something impossible alive.

I am not someone you go to if you want a rant about CGI. It's useful as a tool. And while it isn't also well done, and older versions are rough, I don't get knocked out of the suspension of disbelief when I  know something isn't real or a practical effect.

But this movies CGI is used quite well. From cute baby monsters...

"Ia! Ia! The cutest little terror ever! Fhtagn!" Big Daddy.

"Hello, officers. I am a tourist. Do you know of any local bed and breakfast I could use?"

So, at a time when people focus on green, shamrocks, leprechauns, and booze...Okay this still has one of those. But Ireland has a lot to offer horror beyond the other three.

This movie is a must see movie to me. Good horror comedy must be seen and shared.

As a last note, I've seem references from people noting a few horror film shoot outs in the movie, from Jaws to Aliens. A new one I thought I could see was a reference to the bar scene in Gremlins. When you watch the movie, see if you agree.

And, for once, I'm noticing we're approaching April 1st with more than a week to go. Perhaps this year I can get a round to reviewing that 80's classic, April Fools Day?

We shall see.

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