Review: Grabbers (2012)

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Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey
Director: Jon Wright
Country: Ireland | UK
Genre: Comedy | Sci-fi | Horror
Official Trailer: Here


Genre hybridity is by no means a recognised strength of Irish cinema, far better known for either its bleak tragedies the like of Garage, Adam & Paul, and Hunger, or brash comedies such as The Snapper and The Commitments. Undoubtedly influenced by the phenomenal success of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, recent Irish efforts at genre pastiches have met with mixed success, only perhaps In Bruges managing to truly shine where such efforts as Zonad, Isolation—even The Guard to an extent—have floundered. Blending disparate generic conventions into a single cohesive narrative is hard, after all, and it’s to the immense credit of director Jon Wright and writer Kevin Lehane that they’ve managed with Grabbers to convincingly mesh horror and comedy within the shell of science fiction.

Grabbers thrives on the strength of a bustling ensemble brimming with comic energy. Its leads are Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley, a duo whose plentiful comic chemistry finds strong support in the little gestures and muttered words so subtle as to be easy to miss.

Impressively spectacular special effects permeate this mash-up, a crashing object from space in its first scene quick to show off the low-budget successes Wright and his team have cobbled together. The grisly demise of a trio of fishermen follows in gory CGI fashion, only the flash of a barbed tentacle offering any clue as to the latest occupant of the waters off the coast of fictional Erin Island. It’s to grumpy, alcohol-dependant Garda Ciarán O’Brien and his temporary, far more professional partner Lisa Nolan to solve the mystery of beached whales and blood-sucking sea monsters as the quiet island town finds itself at the mercy of these extra-terrestrial oddities.

Lacking a particular big name actor, Grabbers thrives on the strength of a bustling ensemble brimming with comic energy. Its leads are Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley, a duo whose plentiful chemistry finds strong support in the little gestures and muttered words so subtle as to be easy to miss. The clash of her cheery professionalism and his blatant apathy offers much of the film’s comic content, the escalating scale of the action set pieces never overshadowing the humourous minutiae of their relationship. Satirising rural Irish life without resort to stereotyping, Grabbers’ wide cast of enjoyably oddball locals incorporates a wife-fearing publican, a perpetually drunk lobsterman, and—perhaps the most entertaining of the bunch—a sardonic marine ecologist. Russell Tovey portrays the last of these in one of the film’s most enjoyably revelatory turns, spouting lines so sharply sarcastic they steal Tovey the spotlight again and again.

Where the first hour plays as a humourous take on the conventions of classic creature features with some well-timed jumps, the conclusion explodes as an energetic send-up of action excess, a deliriously entertaining escalation of explosive mayhem.

Nailing its comedic aspects from the get-go with enjoyably silly gore and a succession of solid gags, it’s up to Grabbers’ horror aspects to keep the film from falling down, a task it handles with giddy ease. Smartly borrowing the pacing of the best monster movies of yesteryear, Wright gives us fleeting glances of his creatures throughout, slowly teasing our eyes with new body parts here and there before allowing all hell to break loose in a terrifically fun, action-addled final third. Where the first hour plays as a humourous take on the conventions of classic creature features with some well-timed jumps, the conclusion explodes as an energetic send-up of action excess, a deliriously entertaining escalation of explosive mayhem.

A hugely efficient pairing, Lehane and Wright play off each other’s strengths, the latter’s confident sense of scale offering as much support to the former’s playful genre-juggling as his often strikingly scenic shots do to the more quietly mysterious moments. Grabbers isn’t the perfect marriage of generic material—its romantic aspects, though cute, feel a little like one element too many—but it’s one of the most unendingly fun to come along in some time. Without a single gag falling flat amidst a slew of increasingly spectacular sci-fi kicks, this is horror comedy done right, madcap movie entertainment at its best.

[notification type=”star”]74/100 ~ GOOD. Grabbers isn’t the perfect marriage of generic material, but it’s one of the most unendingly fun to come along in some time; this is horror comedy done right, madcap movie entertainment at its best.[/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.