27 December 2012


As 2012 draws to a close, the saturation releases in this last week of the year aren't much more impressive than another exercise for Tom Cruise's short man syndrome, and a movie that appears to have escaped from the 1990s. Still, there are a couple of interesting releases to close out the year- one of them is Safety Not Guaranteed (more on which soon), and the other is Grabbers, an Irish horror comedy that can most easily be compared to Attack The Block and Father Ted, which means those things will surely fill the requisite gaps in the "blank meets blank" poster pull-quotes.

Garda Lisa Nolan is deployed on Erin Island, a remote Irish idyll where not a lot happens, for a fortnight of police work. She doesn't expect a hard time, but she's first frustrated by an alcoholic partner, Ciarán, and then menaced by the entirely unexpected arrival of bloodsucking alien creatures. The Grabbers, christened by those few unimaginative locals who encounter the creatures and live to tell the tale, start to gain a tentacled strangehold on the island, when a marine ecologist discovers that the invaders are allergic to alcohol. Together, Ciarán and Lisa rally the locals in a united front against the Grabbers, which naturally involves getting absolutely shit-faced.

Before we go any further, let's just give Grabbers the award for the best movie premise of the year right now. There are few ways to improve upon this concept that don't involve robots and shark-men, but then again, there are also so many ways in which it could've fumbled its gift of a set-up. You'll be happy to hear then, that director Jon Wright and writer Kevin Lehane have spun gold from gold, and like Wright's underrated 2009 film, Tormented, it does a great job of transplanting genre fixtures into an unexpected setting. It follows through on the promise of Tormented with gusto, and asks for no quarter on account of its perceived silliness.

There are plenty of B-movies and exploitation flicks that slide by on being less than serious- what does it matter if Hobo With A Shotgun is stupid, provided it makes you laugh enough to ignore that? Grabbers is anything but stupid. It doesn't take itself seriously, but it fills any absence of gravitas with belly laugh after belly laugh, while also keeping the horror simmering all the way through. After recent films like Cockneys vs. Zombies and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, I'm wonder if I can call this a difficult balance any more, but I'd like to think that we finally have a number of current filmmakers, other than Edgar Wright, who've cracked the alchemy behind the horror comedy sub-genre.

Before it heads down the pub to get the cast sozzled, it spends just the right amount of time on the build-up, introducing us to the attributes and ecology of the film's alien menace, and thus earns the hugely enjoyable indulgence on drunk acting that takes up much of the rest of the film. Ruth Bradley's Lisa makes a particularly adorable drunk, especially after the character's professionalism is established so firmly, and Russell Tovey acts the rest of the cast under the table, delivering some of the film's most quotable nonsense, and becoming central in its most memorable moment.

It also takes the very interesting route of having Richard Coyle's alcoholic cop take the position of designated driver- as Homer Simpson once said, alcohol is the cause of and solution to all of life's problems, and when the other characters' inebriation makes them behave like horror movie fuckwits, Ciarán really comes into his own. Coyle, Bradley and Tovey are all better known for their TV work, but they operate marvellously in a cinematic landscape that boasts some visually impressive effects in a lo-fi setting. The film doesn't have the philosophical bent or audacious humour of The Guard, another film where big, movie-scale shit goes down in a tiny Irish community, but it's just as memorable, while still being completely distinctive from that film.

After a limited cinema run, Grabbers is coming out on DVD and Blu-ray on New Year's Eve, and if you're just having mates round to party, I can't think of a better film to watch while getting shit-faced and seeing the year out. It's funny, it's scary, and it even sets a new high watermark for referencing that most-spoofed scene from Aliens. Unlike more widely distributed films of its ilk, (I'm looking at you, The Watch) it's a well thought-out and hugely enjoyable comedic creature feature that serves as the best possible example of its sub-genre.

Grabbers is now showing in selected cinemas nationwide, and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday.
If you've seen Grabbers, why not share your comments below? Sorry for the number of links to my other reviews- despite needing to talk about those films, this one's surprisingly original...

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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