The premise of Grabbers (2012, directed by John Wright) is what you would get if Ealing Studios back in the early 1950s had been into monster movies. A meteor containing monsters that eat humans crashes off the coast of Erin Island north of Ireland. Humans who are drunk are toxic to the monsters, so bottoms up! It's like Whiskey Galore crossed with It Came from Beneath The Sea. It's ridiculous, of course, as all mash-ups are. Once you get past that, you begin to see its charm.
As I say, Grabbers follows the fortunes of the people of Erin Island when a be-tentacled monster falls into the sea just off shore. The first victims are the crew of a fishing boat who think the meteor streak is a distress flare. Then a pod of pilot whales, mutilated by the monsters, wash up on shore. The main players in this are Ciarán O'Shea, the local constable, who wakes up drunk most mornings following the dissolution of his marriage, and Lisa Nolan, an officer from the mainland who is filling in while Ciarán’s boss is on holiday. They’re the first to become suspicious as some of the island’s residents start to go missing. Local fisherman and town drunk pulls a critter out of the sea the morning after the fishing boat incident and keeps it in his bathtub. When it attacks him, it winds up falling to the ground dead. He takes it to Dr. Adam Smith, the local oceanographer, who has never seen anything like it before. One thing he can determine, though, is that the beastie is female because it has egg sacs. He also discovers the thing’s antipathy to alcohol. Ciarán and Lisa go looking for the male and, to their sorrow, they find it. It’s the size of a building. Smith determines that the thing thrives in water. Unfortunately, there’s a storm coming, and the lot of them have to contrive to keep the rest of the islanders safe. This involves gathering them at the local pub and keeping them drunk. Lisa becomes drunk, too, for the first time in her life, while Ciarán decides to teetotal. Someone needs to keep their head about them he says, especially when the male of the species comes a-calling later that night…
As I say, this is long on regional charm and it buys into the archetype of the lovable drunk almost from the get go. This is common enough in British films (technically, this is from Northern Ireland, though paid for by British money. It’s recognizably the same kind of film as Waking Ned Devine or Saving Grace (which a friend of mine called “Baking Ned Devine”), which is in love with rural characters with interesting, lived-in faces. There aren’t any fashion plates in this movie, though I suppose Ruth Bradley, who plays Guarda Lisa, could pull it off if she wanted. The charming drunk reformed is another theme that runs through this brand of film, and it couples this with a chaste romance between Ciarán and Lisa that it complicates with Smith, of whom Ciarán is jealous. In any case, Grabbers is a fundamentally a sweet movie. It just happens to have a body count.
What really tickled me about this movie is the monster, or, rather, monsters. It’s a HUGE relief to see something other than vampires or zombies in a horror film—those monsters are cheap and so they proliferate. The monsters in this film are downright Lovecraftian. The main “grabber,” the male, is a Cthulhu-scaled mass of tentacles and ravening maw and the film has devoted considerable design acumen and money to bring it to life. It’s genuinely terrifying. The smaller versions are almost cute, in a toothsome sort of way, particularly as they hop around the pub after crashing the party. These, too, are well conceived and lavished with enough resources to make them convincing. This is a film with an instinct for atavistic revulsion. All of its monsters tickle a general horror of the biological in the best tradition of slime-oozing monsters of yore. In a genre that’s been short on really memorable monster movies of late, this is a rare pleasure.
The combination of sweet romance, local character, and a terrific monster results in a fun, Halloweeny movie that probably goes well with sushi. To say nothing of booze.
Current Challenge tally:
Total Viewings: 8
First Time Viewings: 7
Around the Web:
Vitus Werdegast at The Celluloid Dreamer has a thing for Naoomi Rapace in The Monitor. And, really, who can blame him?
Zach at Horrifying Reviews has Grave Encounters and hates them.
Bob at The Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind spots Clint Eastwood and his fabulous hair in Revenge of the Creature.