5 out of 10

UK/Irish co-production

Release Date: 26th December 2012

Director: Jon Wright (Robot Overlords / Tormented)

Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Bronagh Gallagher, Lalor Roddy, David Pearse, Pascal Scott with Stuart Graham and Ned Dennehy

Writer: Kevin Lehane


Review below by Matt Usher



One thought on “GRABBERS

  1. Review by Matt ‘Suckers’ Ushers

    Something’s grabbing Irish fishermen to their doom! Who would do such a dastardly thing and why? Well, ‘grabbers’ obviously: hideous octopus-like fiends from who knows where, rendered in surprisingly reasonable (if still unconvincing) CGI (bring back models I say!), which grab people and eat them so long as, and here’s the twist, they aren’t drunk. Yes, just as Steve McQueen’s blob was repulsed by water, here we have a blobby alien / monster thing idiotically invading the alcohol-soaked denizens of Ireland. (I apologise to any teetotal Irish folk who might be reading this and I admit that I am using the film GRABBERS as my only source of knowledge of your fair island. So you’ve only got your own film industry to blame.) (And that’s Steve McQueen of THE GREAT ESCAPE and THE BLOB fame, not the film-maker who keeps doing things to Michael Fassbender.)

    But wouldn’t you know it, the grabbers have turned up at one of Ireland’s most remote and Oirish (and oh it is so very, very Oirish) islands, peopled by very, very Oirish caricatures, where the only people who can save humanity are a drunk cop, a non-drunk lady cop, a scientist (English and therefore uptight), and a bunch of drunk locals, who soon work out that there’s some sort of beast eating them, and which they soon find a clever name for, and then they work out that survival is based on drunkenness, so all our comedy Oirish folk have to get very, very drunk and so they do, but the film occasionally changes its own rules, so sometimes that doesn’t work, and sometimes it does, and one of our main characters has to give up drink though I never really worked out why, and personal demons are faced, and it’s all very whimsical, charming, quirky and Oirish.

    So the monstrous grabbers are grabbing away at people, and they do so in what is clearly meant to be a humorous way. Which is fine as far as it goes, but the grabbing isn’t particularly hilarious, and isn’t in any way frightening at all. This is the problem. The film-makers consistently aim for funny, or rather, quirky. By ignoring ‘scary’ the film has no real threat. So if you don’t care about the characters it doesn’t really matter how funny they are. So grabbing continues, and the film stays all whimsical and cute and it’s like Ballykissangel without the edge.

    In the cast we find Richard Coyle as a policeman with a drink problem (remember there’s nothing wrong with a cliché if you do something interesting with it, though there’s no danger of that here). Then again, who wouldn’t have a drink problem when stationed in the whimsically picturesque middle of nowhere with nothing but lovable Oirish rogues for company? Coyle is one of those decent actors forever miscast in leading roles (personally, in spite of whatever I might have said when reviewing OUTPOST 2, I think he’d be much better in scene-stealing supporting roles). Anyway, he does his best here with a script which often seems contradictory and lacking in anything interesting (apparently now is the time to give up the demon drink, just as the demon drink turns out to be the only thing that can save you), and just about gets away with it. Much better is Ruth Bradley as a policewoman without a drink problem but with zeal and competence, yet somehow manages to avoid being either irritating or whimsical. And then there’s Russell Tovey as a comedy

    scientist, giving a good performance if this was a spoof or a sketch. Elsewhere, the Oirish caricature engine is in overdrive, and when will someone give Bronagh Galagher a decent role?

    For a low budget film, everything looks and feels OK. The problems are the film’s artificiality (it really is very Oirish and whimsical in case I hadn’t mentioned that elsewhere) and the sheer lack of substance. Will you roll on the floor laughing? No. Will you hide in fear behind the sofa? The idea will never occur to you. Will you be moderately diverted? Yes, perhaps, and Ireland does look very pretty. But surely you want more from that in a film? You know, stuff like peril, suspense, character, comedy, ideas, quandaries, conflict, debate, stomach-churning violence, amusing kittens. None of these are to be found in GRABBERS.

    GRABBERS wants (I think) to be a comic horror (think SHAUN OF THE DEAD, ATTACK THE BLOCK) but drifts too often into spoofland, but a whimsical spoofland where nothing is funny enough or charming enough or clever enough, and ends up falling drunkenly into a whimsical (yet moderately charming and picturesque) hole which it is unable to stagger out of. The whole thing feels like it’s been designed and manufactured by the Visit Whimsical Ireland Tourist Board. It’s one of those films which is trying so hard to be likeable that you just can’t like it. The story is wafer thin (here’s a beast! How can we defeat it? Ah, that’s how!), the characters are Oirish beyond belief and have all the three-dimensionality of very, very thin tissue paper, there are some decent gags, but the film gets so swept up with its own USP (monster-repelling alcohol) that it doesn’t do anything interesting with it. Why are the grabbers grabbing now? Why are they grabbing here? What is a grabber anyway? Is there some sort of Irish (or even Oirish) myth that might have some sort of relevance? These simple questions could’ve led to all sorts of interesting situations for our characters, but the film-makers answered them all with ‘Who cares? They’re grabbers and alcohol poisons them ho-ho!’ and left it at that.

    I wish I’d liked GRABBERS, but it’s too pleased with itself, and has far too little to be pleased about. It’s a one-joke film without the joke, drowning drunkenly in its own whimsical quirky charm. Maybe you need to be a little bit drunk (or thoroughly plastered) in order to appreciate it properly?

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