It’s impossible for me to adequately describe the charm of Grabbers (2012) without likening it to Whisky Galore (1949), Local Hero (1983), The Matchmaker (1997), or Waking Ned Devine (1998), all of which succeed in large part due to the profound sense of community the filmmakers manage to impart. Like those films, Grabbers is set in a small coastal community in the British isles, here on a small island off the coast of Ireland called Erin. And the island’s population, like the quirky communities of Whisky Galore and its ilk, is comprised of a tight-knit group of decent if hard-drinking folk. In an incredible display of talent, first-time screenwriter Kevin Lehane succeeds here in creating a sense of community that is almost every bit as rich and endearing as the notable Irish and Scottish pictures listed above had before it.
The twist here is that rather than getting caught up in some wacky/romantic scheme as the communities in those other films do, the Erin Island community in Grabbers comes under assault by a breed of tentacled, water-dwelling aliens that come to Earth on an asteroid, persist on blood and can grow up to forty feet. Grabbers is not just some feel-good comedy (although in many ways it is), it’s in fact a creature feature! And although the film is narratively a pretty predictable creature feature, Lehane utilizes one of the defining characteristics of that small Irish community about which he writes to give the story one hell of an entertaining twist. Thanks to one of the local drunks, the island’s Garda (or police), one of whom is played by Richard Coyle of Coupling, realize that alcohol is in fact poisonous to the creatures. Thus, they decide the only way to keep the townsfolk safe until they can bring in reinforcements from the mainland is to ensure the entire population of Erin stays liquored up.
It’s an hilarious and entertaining take on the standard creature feature formula. Still, I couldn’t help but feel that it could have been more of a horror film. The truth is, Grabbers is rarely actually scary. Surprising and tense at times, sure, but rarely scary. The reason for this is that we don’t get that sense of community I’ve been writing about until much later in the film, when the creatures are already in full force. Had we been given perhaps another twenty minutes with the townsfolk early on the proceedings and been endeared to the community from the start, the climactic conflict with the aliens would have been exponentially more frightening given the added audience investment. Understand that I by no means want to imply that the film is particularly lacking in any way. It’s not. I simply felt like it could have been more of an emotional roller coaster had the filmmakers chosen to take it in that direction. In what they apparently set out to accomplish, however, Grabbers is indeed extremely effective and immense fun at that.
Grabbers is set for DVD release on November 12, 2013 from IFC Films. By way of special features, the DVD will include the theatrical trailer and a making-of featurette that includes interviews with the cast and crew and an fascinating discussion about the film’s special effects, which are indeed thoroughly impressive. In fact, so impressive are the film’s visuals due to the combination of the creature effects and the Irish landscapes, that I really wish Grabbers had been granted a Blu-ray release. It’s practically begging for an HD transfer! Don’t get me wrong, the DVD looks fine, but it could look so much better.