Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Cinema File #43: "Grabbers" Review

Drunken Irishmen versus bloodsucking tentacle monsters from space. Otherwise known as what every movie should be about!

Grabbers follows the titular creatures, a mass of writhing tentacles, razor sharp teeth, and a long prehensile tongue, as a mating pair descend on a small coastal Irish village to breed and wreak havoc upon the delightfully crotchety populace. This movie feels like a creature feature from the 80's or 90's in the best way, a tribute to the oddball horror comedies I grew up with like Gremlins, Arachnophobia, or even Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Though a bit slow to get going, once it does, it just keeps building as the monsters become braver and a storm gives them the opportunity to place the town under siege.

As I said, the lead up is a bit long, and we don't get a lot of the monster mayhem until almost forty minutes in beyond fleeting glimpses, but even then, I can't say Grabbers was ever outright boring. The characters are all charming eventually if not right away, and what we do get of the creatures slowly sneaking inland is clever. Our first indication past the teaser is a beach filled with dead whales, and a scene where an unseen grabber attacks a family using one of it's previous victims as literal bait, dangling it in front of their door like a fishing line, is legitimately chilling, though it indicated a human level of intelligence that I wish would have been seen more later on. Instead, the monster is basically just a savage animal after this point.

It's probably a boorish American thing to say, but one of the hurdles of this movie is definitely the accents of the actors, especially considering a later conceit of the film requires that a lot them get really drunk and slur their speech. There were at least five or six lines that I missed completely, and even more that I had to strain to hear. My favorite character in the film, the grizzled old lobster catcher who manages to capture the female grabber (which he names coincidentally), is probably the most incomprehensible. Still, if you can get past that, the two thirds of what they were saying that I picked up on was usually very funny, but I'd recommend close captioning if you can swing it.

The creatures themselves are really cool, even if they are mostly CGI creations. I typically rail against that sort of thing, but given the smaller budget and how much the tone encourages my nostalgia for the recent past before computers ruined everything, I'm willing to forgive it this time. The larval grabbers, free of tentacles and pretty much just hopping mouths, are almost cute as they crawl around the floor or spin around on the ceiling fans, and the whole affair evokes a playful sense of fun that reminded me of Joe Dante or early, pre-Lord of the Rings Peter Jackson. There are no pop culture references to be had and there's a timeless nature to the movie that I always appreciate, where I can easily see myself coming back to this in five or ten years and still enjoying it as much as I did the first time.

All of that being said, there is a twist leading in to the final act of this movie that I have the feeling will be somewhat divisive, leading some to write it off as so implausible that they can't take it seriously after that point. Since its in the trailer, I can't call it a spoiler, so I'll just say it - in order to avoid the creatures, the entire town gets drunk. They realize that the bloodsucking monsters are allergic to a high blood alcohol level, so their best defense is to be plastered, and because they initially underestimate the threat and don't want to cause a panic, they trick the town into a night out at the pub to get them all wasted, thus inadvertently trapping everyone inside while the much larger than anticipated monster attacks. I thought it was a really funny concept, and it was executed very well once these drunkards had to pathetically defend themselves, but I could understand someone watching this and thinking that its such a stupid idea for these people to have, and to dismiss the movie as a result.

I wouldn't, because if you stick with Grabbers, its a fun, more than satisfying romp that I highly recommend for any horror fan or anyone in the mood for a mostly lighthearted trip down 80's memory lane. Though I personally don't drink myself, now that I think about it, it may even be a good movie to get drunk to.

Start a Grabbers drinking game - take a shot every time you see a decapitated head, a body flung hundreds of feet into the air, or miss a line because of a thick Irish accent (and not because you're getting increasingly hammered).
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