Tuesday, 15 January 2013


It would be easy to mistake this film for one of the innumerable straight-to-DVD cash-ins that line Tesco’s bargain shelves these days. Anyone who’s seen Tremors, will, of course, make the obvious connection between Grabbers and Graboids, and the movie certainly owes a debt to its predecessor’s irreverent take on the  monster movie. However, Irish-British movie Grabbers is very much its own beast.

Grabbers only had a limited release in England, so I waited for the DVD to come out before taking a look. It’s the cast that got me interested – Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey (the three Rs?) star, supported by a wealth of Irish talent. Set on Erin Island – although that might as well be Craggy Island – Grabbers is both a pastiche of the B-movie formula and a knowing snub to the stereotype of the Irish country drunk. Coyle is Garda Ciaran O’Shea, de facto head of the Erin Island police force while his sergeant is on holiday. Coyle is one of today’s most underrated actors, and it’s about time he got a big break into the sort of major roles he deserves. O’Shea is a barely functioning alcoholic, hopelessly incapable of running a police force, of which he is normally the second, and bottom-ranked member. Not a lot happens on this island, as you might imagine.

Still, as Bradley’s character, Garda Lisa Nolan says, “It’s the quiet places where all the mad shit happens.” Lisa is seconded to Erin Island as cover while the chief’s away, something that aggravates the sour O’Shea, who’s determined that he can keep law on the island alone. The two of them go through the usual relationship development from mutual dislike to smooch romance at the end; all very predictable of course, but predictability is part of the film’s charm. It’s an easy ride through the a well-worn genre.

Both Bradley and Coyle are gorgeously watchable as the leads, but many of the best moments go to Tovey’s  Dr. John Smith, a marine ecologist studying the island’s local sealife. Tovey plays him with a posh, fey Englishness, just as stereotypically endearing as the boozing Irish copper. Smith’s openly taken with Lisa, and Tovey plays almost every scene with his eyes fixed firmly on Bradley. The only thing that can distract his attention is the new life form that’s washed up on the beach.

The Grabbers themselves are a fine creation, brought to life by an effective mix of CGI and puppetry. Hatching from eggs, the foot-long, slug-like creatures attack their victims with a vicious tongue, allowing them to drink their blood. Seemingly the only thing that can kill them is alcohol. The only way to survive the onslaught is for everyone on the island to increase their blood alcohol level to become toxic to the creatures. Time for a lock-in!

It’s a little slow to get going, but that merely emphasises the slow-paced way of life that the island is about to have snatched away from it. Once the party starts, and the truly impressive Daddy Grabber turns up, things kick into high gear. It’s funny, exciting, with some superlative drunk acting by all. The supporting cast are all excellent, but Bronagh Gallagher (best known for The Commitments), and Lalor Roddy as local soak Paddy steal their scenes. The movie storms along in its final scenes to a gripping climax as Gardas O’Shea and Nolan face down the Daddy Grabber.

The film is beautiful, of course, utilising the best locations of Ulster and Donegal, making the contrast of the monstrous Grabbers all the more effective. It may not be the most original film released in 2012, but it’s so much fun that it’s impossible not to love.

Looks more like a Krynoid to me.

Best line: “’Tis no feckin’ lobster!”

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