Cult Film Review: Grabbers

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Directed by John Wright and story by Kevin Lehane, Grabbers is a 2012 horror-comedy about small island town that faces off against tentacled horrors that dwell in the sea.  It follows two Garda officers as they’re deployed to the seaside community, only to discover their problems lie beyond rude dock workers, drunken fools and deranged scientists.  Teaming up with various survivors of “The Grabbers”, the motley crew does all they can to keep these monstrous horrors from consuming the entire island.  As one would expect, it’s campy and schlocky, but that’s what the film was intending to go for in the first place.

Author’s Note: I was originally planning on reviewing this for a magazine, but some things sadly didn’t quite work out.  As a result, I revisited what I wrote and used it as notes as I watched it again.  Needless to say, not many of my opinions have changed.  Enjoy.  Also beware, this review contains spoilers.  If ya wanna avoid spoilers, hop down to the smiling Erin Island sign! 

Image Sources – Grabbers Screenshots via Horrorhoneys, Bloody-Disgusting, Slant Magazine; Grabbing Arm – Amazon

Unconventional heroes in an unconventional genre mash-up

The story begins off the coast of an Irish island community, where the ironically named “Sea Harvester” and its crew witness a strange meteor-like formation slamming into the water.  As they go in closer, tentacles shoot out and overwhelm all on board.  It’s a goofy intro that’s also kinda creepy in a sense and delivers the perfect set up for the rest of the monster movie; the monster is big, prefers the water and of course has lots of tentacle arms!  Needless to say, the poor saps on that vessel are pretty much finished, but they’ll be relevant later.  Our story then turns to a rather mismatched pair of Garda officers who are sent out to keep the peace and look into some of the hubbub going on in the island’s residence.  As you’d expect for a comedic set-up, the two officers are quite mismatched; Lisa is a go getter workaholic and Ciaran is a lazy alcoholic that makes all around him ponder how he still has he job.  None the less, the two try to put up with each other on the way there.  After meeting some obnoxious residents, they begin to wonder what exactly is going on.  Meanwhile, a recovery effort on the shoreline begins to unearth something strange.  One particularly curmudgeonly fellow who operates much of the local fishing business observes several mutilated whale carcasses alongside his equally stunned crew. In fact, a mad lobster trapper off the shoreline manages to nab one of the buggers after witnessing the derelict that was “Sea Harvester”.  This sends him to try figure out what exactly is going on, even going as far as trying to nab whatever the empty boat was after!  Needless to say, the bumbling drunk fisherman gets what he declares the weirdest lobster he ever say, his friends tell him it’s “no fecking lobster”, as the nasty nasty then sprays them with some sort of vile goo.  It’s the little touches that truly make this movie.  As our Garda team prepare for the day, Ciaran bumbles around in drunken haze. Whether it’s overflowing the morning coffee or just maintaining a passive-aggressive and grumpy attitude, one continues to wonder how he’s still on the force or at least demoted.

After Lisa gets over Ciaran’s minor spat, the two ship up to investigate the beach line. At the very least, I enjoyed Lisa’s enthusiasm when she exclaims the joys of investigating small community crimes. For you see, “lots of murders and rapes” occur in small towns as that’s where “mad shit happens.”   Personally, I can’t argue with logic like that.  As the officers make their way to the site of some gruesome murders right out of a horror film, they run into a scientist who reminds me of that guy from Pacific Rim.  After introducing himself as “Dr. Smith” and mentioning his interrupted research on whales, him and Lisa bicker on how to properly science, while Ciaran hovers on the sidelines feeling baffled.  None the less, the officers take up the case behind the strange deaths.  As they survey the small island community, they’re greeted by an assortment of local sights; an old fashioned tavern, smelly fisherman, cat-calling douchebags, and a handful of folks puzzled over the recent weird events. After the agents left the beach, remaining crewmen stumble around still confused over what happened. The boss yells at a particular slowpoke named Danny as he digs up what look like really big eggs. The fisher boss huffs and leaves the fool to do his “work” before a tendril nabs him and hoists him out to sea.  Later, our jerkface boss man comes back looking for Danny the ever careless. Since the crew jumps away before anything happens, I think it’s safe to assume he was space monster supper too.  Meanwhile, the officers are visiting a pub.  Lisa asks to borrow an iron while Ciaran has himself a good time.  The both of them even get some amusing love advice from the pub owner herself!  On the subject of love, the writers really want to push those two together.  But if we’re given a hokey set up, we’ll probably get some sort of cheesy pay off.

As the night passes, a nasty storm rolls in… and so do the strange monster things from before!  They visit a local residence on the edge of the water.  As a comical twist, these cosmic beasties seem smart enough to bait them to the door with the mangled corpse of the salvage crew’s boss flailing against the door.  Whether it was the actual prop on set or it was all done via computer, I admire some pretty good and hokey effects. And as far as bad effects go, a tentacle that looks like it jumped out of a Playstation 2 attacks the husband before the wife tries to investigate… And by investigate I mean; scream, close a door, and run whenever a scary noise rings through the halls. This works for a while, only for her to be sucked out of the chimney like spaghetti.  At the very least, her pink fuzzy slippers are left in the house.  Back at the pub, Ciaran continues to hit up the pub as the locals begin to ship the officers together like fandom-bloggers on the internet.  As Lisa begins to question her job and authority in general, Ciaran proceeds in messing everything up around him.  Truly, a match made in heaven.  Ciaran defends himself by proclaiming “high days and holidays” are a good reason for drinking.  As more nasty storms prepare to hit the island, Lisa and Ciaran stay the night in the tavern.

To either the dismay or joy of many, the Grabbers do not look like this.

Meanwhile at Paddy’s house, he tries to see how his creepy catch is holding up.  As he checks his tub, it’s gone!  Or rather, it left a gift.  As he looks around, the elder spawn-esque horror hops right on his face like something out of Alien.  After practically ripping the thing off his face, he does whatever he can to kill the thing as he meets up with Lisa and Ciaran and they visit Smith’s lab.  At Smith’s lab, Paddy babbles about how the “grabber” tried to eat his face while keeping a bucket full of nasty on hand.  Dr. Smith begins to rip it open to see what’s inside, seeing a harpoon-like tongue to leech blood off its victims.  After Smith details how our quasi-Lovecraftian friend is amazingly alien and how Paddy wants to sell it on ebay, Smith discovers that it has an egg-cache of mini-grabbers.  Smith comes to the conclusion they not only need water, but they have a thing for blood.

Lisa and Ciaran go on to investigate the boss man’s abandoned car leading up to the house of the Grabber attack from the previous night.  After both bicker about not being in proper uniform (despite apparently not needing it on Sundays), Lisa climbs to the chimney where a strange cloth strand dangles out.  After a hardy tug, a severed head connected to the cloth pops out and socks Ciaran in the head.  Nothing like a little bit of well timed slapstick to compliment the grotesque, eh?   Taking evidence to the local doctor, he figures some sort of an animal like a tiger (on this island, no less) might have caused this.  The two meet up with Paddy again, who now tells them his tub is busted, plus there’s an alcove where they might hide.  As they explore the area, they learn there’s a male looking for the female that was laying the eggs and it lurks in the cave.  As they sneak in the cave, Paddy stays outside on guard while remarking that global warming is to blame.  The two stumble upon the remains of the poor fishermen from before as well as a Super Grabber!  Meanwhile, Paddy digs around to find eggs which are ready to hatch.  The three meet up and quickly make a break for it to warn the coastal guard of a horrible storm.  Back at the lab, Paddy goes nuts as he tries to set the thing on fire… which triggers sprinkler systems.  After the grabber springs to life and on Ciaran, he flings it off as it sputters and flops over.  Ciaran stomps the thing as Paddy and Lisa bludgeon the beast.  As Smith complains about missing out on scientific opportunity, they bash it harder!  When they ask why the monster didn’t try to kill him, he says it’s probably because his blood tastes like booze!  As our heroes realize that grabbers hate alcohol, our heroes decide the best course of action is to get sauced in a giant party!!

It’s gonna be a looooong night!

For an already absurd premise, why not?  As all ready for the lock-in, Lisa strives to become “Paddy Levels” of drunk.  A captured grabber is then tested against her heavy alcohol levels before convulsing and shriveling up.  Now, if only alcohol truly solved problems instead of caused them.  They then interrupt a church service to announce a massive celebration sponsored by the officers and the pub.  At the party, the officers engage in drunken romantic dialogue as everyone enjoys a good time.  Seeing as “drunk words are sober truths,” she admits that she didn’t want to admit to liking him while they were on duty.  Ciaran then reveals his epic tales are nonsense, as it turns out he gained a drinking problem after a cheater ruined his relationship with his wife.  Mini-grabbers squirm their way to the tavern as both the storm and the party pick up.  As the little ones attack, the officers smack them around.  The dopey doctor from before stumbles outside looking for a place to throw out booze, only for the super grabber to gobble him up.  As Super Grabber chews and spits its victim out, Lisa and Ciaran  make a break toward a car to lure the big baddie away.  The partiers become restless after being driven to the second floor, with bad weather being an excuse.  As the crowd wants more booze, Smith remembers he made a super-cocktail designed as a weapon against the grabbers.  Ciaran and Lisa come back, to see Smith amazed that the monster is revolted by his absolute drunken state.  The creature revolts and swaps Smith away like a softball on a t-stand!  Sadly, Smith never go the photo he wanted to NatGeo (or facebook.)  As the little ones rampage on the first floor, the jig is up!  Ciaran realizes he’s covered in egg goo from the female grabber, the male’s looking for him!

Lisa tries to distract the beasts below and Ciaran readies a plan.  As the super grabber breaches the building, she panics and blasts the electricity with a staple gun.  But hey, your aim’s no good when you’re super wasted.  Trying to light the creature on fire only results in the lower floor slowly being consumed in it, in part thanks to all the unattended alcohol.  The giant grabber reaches through the door and grapples one of her legs.  Luckily, a well placed kitchen knife buys her enough time to hack it off of her.  Meanwhile, Ciaran sees his chance to leap from a window to a crane truck (in hopes of lifting it up in the air and away from water supply.)  Lisa then nabs a truck and lures the rolly polly grabber away from the pub, as fire spreads.  Ciaran hops to a construction beam as the big beast sloshes towards him.  He readies a flare gun at some oil barrels before Lisa plows the truck right into the sucker, nailing it to the ground.  Lisa lobs the super-booze towards Ciaran who feeds it to the monster, as it flails and knocks Ciaran back.  Lisa snags the flare and blasts the grabber sky high!  The two are united in heroism and love and all that good stuff.  However, it’s revealed that love is blind, as more eggs wash ashore!

Beautiful sights, lovely townsfolk, incredible celebrations, blood-sucking monsters!

As far as schlocky monster movies go, this is certainly an enjoyable one.  It probably helps that the movie recognizes it’s downright goofy.  Now, I’m sure you could do a serious movie about alien invaders not being able to cope with an aspect of our world.  Countless science fiction dating back to War of the Worlds has!  However, one could likely attribute this movie to the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  He came up with the idea that incomprehensible beings sleep deep within our oceans and that they’re older than us, waiting to reclaim what’s theirs.  In some cases, they observe from the call depths of space itself.  Other eldritch abominations aren’t so much interested in invasion so much as proliferating their truly alien species… and that usually means annihilating the pests that currently inhabit the world.  While insanity form dark revelations is replaced with many bottles of liquid courage, it’s likely the influence was certainly there.  That said, the release of countless poorly produced late-night B-Monster movies over the decades has sort of warn out any credibility the genre may have at one point had.  So, making it a booze-comedy instead feels oh so magnificent.

As far as visual direction, it gave us what we want.  We got some looks at the Irish countryside… as it was being mauled by tentacled terrors from the skies above!  The cinematography captured some visually  pleasing and aesthetically engaging images of Irish landscapes when there wasn’t grabber-related action going on.  Even the action scenes were pretty well done without hogging too much screen time or feeling drawn out.  And while the special effects were kinda goofy, it all comes with the price of admission.  You came expecting a ridiculous monster movie, so the monsters themselves are gonna look like a carnival attraction.

As mentioned a couple of times, the film has quite a few enjoyable gags.  While only a few of them are amazingly funny, I was almost always smiling.  Among my favorite scenes was the plot twist being revealed early on in the movie, where it looks like Ciaran is just on a drunken ramble.  Of course, I refer to “What’s this?  A dead one of these!”  In a sense, it gives the viewer a reason to watch the film again.  Plus, instead of traditional bits of heroism, we see completely crazy acts of drunkness which end up being quite helpful in defeating the eponymous “Grabbers”.  But hey, when your enemy is allergic to alcohol, throw drunkards at them…  Although, that doesn’t quite work either.  The rest of the humor continues on alcholic antics or morbid slapstick.  And to the film’s credit, it works pretty well.  The scene where the crew boss is dangled like some deranged meat puppet in front of a local residence is morbidly hilarious.   Hell, the scene afterward  where the officers try to unclog the bloody chimney is a sick delight too!  Following that up with a furious beating of the Grabber in Smith’s laboratory was glorious on its own, made better by the battering becoming worse as Smith said he wanted to study it.  Plus, we get that paid off at the big party, where we see Smith trying to study the big grabber up close, while taking a picture.  Couple that with him being treated like a golf ball.  All in all, there’s plenty to appeal to a hard drinking, slapstick loving market who enjoys cheesy horror-comedy.  Hell, some of the suspenseful scenes are well crafted too.  The scene where the officers are checking the alcove is likely to make a few audience members jump, perhaps the same with the home invasion scene too.

But as the movie as a whole, I’d say it’s worth at least one watch.  Are there better comedic horror movies?  Certainly!  However, this movie is a party in and of itself.  The characters aren’t the most deep, but they’re never dull to watch.  That said, the set up and paid off romance sub-plot felt really corny, even for a movie like this.  Could it have been played with a bit more?  Certainly.  But, it’s not a game breaker.  They wanted the story of the slob and the busy body, who through unlikely circumstances, hook up.  Sure, it’s an overplayed romcom trope, but it doesn’t take that much away from the film too much.  While the movie has some amusing twists and turns, you can probably gather where the movie is headed.  Overall, the movie’s a delightful booze-soaked treat that’s just in time for the Halloween season.  Just because there are other booze-heavy comedies and horror films out there that would garner more laughs or have a better story, this film still does a fine job of mixing the two up and creating a few scares and laughs along the way.  With that, do yourself a favor, snag your favorite drink, and join the fight against the Grabbers!

Grabbers gets 7 blood-sucking beasties out of 10.  Ya know, those grabbers are almost kind of cute looking…  Almost.

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