Friday, April 17, 2015

Grabbers Review

The mood for a scary movie doesn't strike often, as I don't care for the horror genre much as a matter of preference. Teetering between horror and a light hearted comedy, I found a nice compromise. It's an Irish film called Grabbers (2012). Residents of an Irish island must get very drunk to survive attacks by blood-sucking alien monsters who can't tolerate a high blood alcohol level in their victims. You can't tell me that doesn't sound like a fun time. It's kind of a spiritual sequel to Tremors or Slither but with more alcohol.
On Aran Island, an idyllic fishing village off the coast of Ireland, a charming but somewhat work-shy police officer Ciaran O'Shea (Richard Coyle), is tasked with greeting officer Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), a straight-laced young officer who has arrived from the mainland for temporary assignment. Not that there is much for them to do, aside from dealing with the occasional drunk, and that's usually O'Shea himself. Simultaniously, blood-thirsty, sea-dwelling aliens arrive at the quiet island to propagate. As dead whales wash up on shore and people start mysteriously disappearing, the officers and marine ecologist Dr. Adam Smith (Russell Tovey) slowly discover their peril along with one sure defense - high blood alcohol levels, which the aliens can't stomach. As a storm approaches, enabling hungry alien hatchlings access to the locals, an open bar kicks off a desperate bid for survival as inebriated police and friends stagger to remain cognizant long enough to thwart the alien invasion.
It's tricky to make a good horror/comedy movie. It needs to be balanced. You don't want too much horror or you won't like the characters. Inversely too much comedy and you'll hate the creature; let's face it, that's what you came to see. Grabbers manages to balance them evenly. The characters develop with each other rapidly and the creature is well made. The Grabbers do kill off a couple of people, as is expected, but overall it's not gratuitous with the violence. It's got just the right mix of scares and humor, and we end up with a pretty fun movie overall.
The humor is varied and usually intelligent enough to keep audiences engaged. It wasn't over the top with actors trying to punctuate insipid, juvenile humor with ridiculous facial expressions like you might see Will Farrell or Adam Sandler do to indicate that they think they have done something funny. There is a lot of self referential humor that plays on just about every Irish joke ever told. In an early scene, Dr. Smith is researching the dead whales washed up on the beach. O'Shea finds an alien egg and not knowing what it was yet starts beating it with a stick before Dr. Smith has a chance to study it. Annoyed Smith says to him, "You... really are Irish."
In another scene, after O'Shea manages to remove one of the Grabber aliens from his face, he, Nolan, and Smith start beating it with everything they can until it stops moving. Dr. Smith, having mixed feelings about this says, "This was one of the most important discoveries of the century, and you killed it." O'Shea responds by saying "Nope, still moving" and the three panic and start stomping on the creature again. Later on, a very drunk Dr. Smith, oblivious to the danger he is in, tries to get a picture with one of the large Grabbers. "I need a photograph with it for National Geographic! And Facebook." The dialogue is funny, and decently well written.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) did not review Grabbers to give it a rating, so it is officially "Not Rated" or NR. It is rated 15 in the UK, and 15A in Ireland; I assume that's something like PG-13 by American standards. Grabbers is tricky, though. It ends up in kind of a grey area between PG-13 and R. As stated, the violence is not gratuitous, there is no nudity, and as there are many drunken Irishmen in this movie, there is therefore some strong profanity. But some of the delightful Irish accents are so thick, I didn't recognize some of their vocabulary as profanity until I was halfway through the movie. There are also two pretty convincing decapitated head props used, though we don't actually see the decapitations occur. If you're not too offended by that, I'd say this is a PG-13 movie.
The story is a standard creature feature with jump scares and ugly man-eating monsters. The movie doesn't really do anything original as far as what we typically see in the genre, though it does put a funny spin on it by requiring the protagonists to have a high blood alcohol level to stay safe from the aliens. This adds some humor and tension, as we aren't sure if they are coherent enough to fight the monsters off or escape from a building. I can't think of other horror movies that get gorgeous shots of the Irish countryside. It is well enough made that it tends to be a cut above the rest of the straight to video creature features out there. The CGI on the Grabbers really is quite good, too!
Grabbers is a fairly standard creature feature with some competent actors, funny humor, a few decent scares, good camera work, good digital animation, some beautiful Irish scenery, and thankfully doesn't take itself very seriously. In general, this isn't going to appeal much to audiences who aren't already fans of campy creature features. It's not for everyone. Even if you are not a fan, this is still a pretty good time for a light movie. Out of all the bad decisions you may have drunkenly made, one viewing of Grabbers makes up for a lot of them. With or without beer goggles, it's an entertaining film - and without any regrets the following morning!

What is your favorite "creature feature?" Comment below and let me know!

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