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projectcyclops [Film Festival 07.08.12] Ireland (Republic of) scifi horror comedy

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A perfectly fine little bit of horror-comedy from Ireland, Jon Wright's 'Grabbers' works in a similar vein to films like Attack The Block, FAQ About Time Travel and in a sense is born from the films of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, not least because the characters in these Brit flicks always seem to take it back to the pub. In Grabbers however, they have a more specific reason to go in search of booze than Shaun and Ed, for the monsters in this one are deadly allergic to alcohol.

We open on a fishing trawler in distress off the coast of Ireland as a meteor storm passes overhead the island of Erin. Calling for distress, it's not long before the crew are picked off by some kind of weird sea monsters which start to move inland. The next day we're introduced to Garda O'Shea (Richard Coyle), a hungover and disheveled local cop who's mightily pissed off to discover that his elderly boss is being replaced by a tough, no-nonsense young woman named Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) who's been sent over from Belfast, and doesn't appreciate the layed back ways of this little rural island, especially the heavy drinking culture and hostile natives. That afternoon Nolan and O'Shea are called to the coast to check out a beached whale, where they meet a posh English scientist named Smith (Russell Tovey, The History Boys) who suspects foul play and decides to stick around for a while despite O'Shea's grumblings that it's just another days distraction. Later that night the local pub plays host to Paddy the town drunk, and O'Shea has a few jars of Guinness himself before trying his luck with Lisa, who quickly realises the guy is a bit of a boozy wreck and helps him to bed. Meanwhile the 'Grabbers' (a kind of blood sucking squid) are stalking the island and start to pick off unsuspecting local residents under cover of darkness... Soon the islanders realise something sinister is happening, and O'Shea finally finally has a reason to sober-up, and along with Nolan and Smith in tow starts to investigate.


So far so sci-fi/comedy/horror, complete with direct references to Night of the Living Dead and Father Ted (an odd combination but this is Ireland after all). Grabbers plays out pretty much as the seasoned traveler of such films might expect, but that ain't no bad thing as it's a film that cheerfully passes the time even if it seems familiar. The film belongs to the three leads Coyle, Bradley and Covey who do a good job of inhabiting their mismatched characters and keeping the tone light and fun, while Wright's direction is smooth and slick and the moments of comedy - more likely to raise a dry smile than cause genuine laugher - are amusingly handled and all in good fun. The town is home to a cast of eccentric characters, all of whom seem happy to involve themselves in the unusual solution to the alien menace, which comes to light after Paddy avoids a mauling when his blood-alcohol level is just a little too much for one poor Grabber to handle. The pub becomes the main location as O'Shea busts into a local church and insists on an emergency lock-in before which he announces to the townsfolk, "We're probably gonna have to do shots... maybe even rip the arse out of it..."

All of this leads to a late night third act during which friendships are tested, heroes born and much booze is dispatched down throats. The night time setting seems convenient for the CGI effects used for long-shots of the beasties as it makes things easier to animate, but on the whole this is understandable given the moderate budget, and besides, the film is more about the human characters than the special effects. 'Grabbers' will probably see a few more festival screenings and then hit DVD, after which a cult following would be perfectly deserved. All in all it's an enjoyable flick for a rainy day and I wouldn't be surprised if the Grabbers Drinking Game became a staple for late night horror-comedy fans.

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