Jon Wright’s latest offering, Grabbers, brings a modern twist on the classic monster movie, containing all of the elements you would expect to find in a British creature feature – bloodthirsty aliens, a mad scientist, an isolated beach town… oh and drinking, a lot of drinking.
When the shore of Erin Island is found littered with whale carcasses that have been mysteriously drained of their blood, this proves to be the start of Garda ’s Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle) and Garda Lisa Nolan’s (Ruth Bradley) problems. It soon becomes apparent that the dead marine life aren’t the only victims of strange alien beasts that are terrorising the protagonists’ idyllic Irish town. However, after an encounter with one of the creatures, our unlikely heroes discover that the monsters have an aversion to a high blood alcohol level, leaving the inhabitants of Erin Island with only one solution if they’re going to survive the night. A lock-in…
Grabbers daft plot coupled with the stark, but beautiful rural setting provides the basis for a brilliantly British movie. As the director himself stated before the screening, if you attempted to play the Grabbers drinking game you “probably would die”, the cast of characters certainly getting their beers in and seemingly having a great time as they face potential slaughter. Grabbers subscribes to several horror clichés, and although at times this makes the plot a bit predictable, director Jon Wright executes them extremely well. The ‘Grabbers’ themselves are visually superb, a truly lovecraftian monster that’s construction bares all kinds of obscene connotations, ensuring the audience’s discomfort throughout. The ‘Grabbers’ also demonstrate a rare successful execution of both CGI and prosthetics, the use of which can be very difficult to distinguish between at times.
The protagonists, for the most part, are fairly understated versions of stereotypical horror characters. Richard Coyle never takes his performance too far in his portrayal of O’Shea, the gruff, disgruntled alcoholic cop who sobers up in his town’s hour of need, obtaining the right level of pathos needed to make a believable hero. Similarly, the enthusiastic Ruth Bradley plays the conventional uptight, “married to the job” counterpart to Coyle’s character, the actress providing both an excellent comic foil and a hilarious drunk performance in the second act. Sadly, the one character who is misplaced amongst Grabbers motley crew is Russell Tovey’s marine biologist, Dr Smith. Whilst Tovey turns in a good performance as a flamboyant, mad scientist figure, his eccentric character just isn’t in keeping with the tone of the film, and at times his exchanges with Coyle, as well as his upper class English accent, feel forced.
Russell Tovey’s misplaced performance can be attributed to Grabbers most fatal flaw, its indecision. Wright can’t decide whether he’s going for a Shaun of the Dead style comedy or an Alien-esque slasher film and as a result Grabbers lacks consistency. With only a limited amount of gore on display the monsters themselves don’t seem a big enough threat to warrant drinking yourself catatonic, whilst the final act lacks the comic relief that provided Grabbers’ with the unique charm that characterized it at the start. Nonetheless, although Grabbers lacks some of the essential elements needed to rival the great horror-comedies of recent years, Jon Wright has created a very polished film that makes for a very fun, enjoyable watch, with plenty of visual cues and references to keep horror fans thoroughly entertained.