After putting this movie aside in order to watch Day 6’s Kill List, I was finally ready to return to the world of giant mutant octopus things attacking Ireland, which it turns out is indeed exactly what Grabbers is all about. It’s a very intriguing premise and I’m happy to report that the movie itself makes good on this initial promise.
Normally I would do a little bit of a plot summary here but I really just did it above. The residents of a small island off the coast of Ireland find themselves dealing with a giant weird octopus type creature and have to band together to survive and fight back. The primary hook is that they all gather at a pub which at first felt like a Shaun of the Dead rip-off but it turns out the creature can’t handle drinking any blood that has been tainted with alcohol so it is decided that the best combat strategy is for the whole town to be completely drunk off their asses. It’s a pretty great way to logically have all your characters be wasted and allows the movie to be more than just “drunk Irish people fight a huge monster.”
I recently watched the first Tremors movie (a series I really need to get back to soon actually) and with it fresh in my mind I can see a lot of similarities between that one and Grabbers. The tone is very similar, with a heavy lean towards comedy rather than horror, the monsters are similar in some ways (primarily in name, Grabbers and Graboids) and you have a bunch of colorful and quirky characters as your leads. Not to mention they are both a hell of a lot of fun.
Two big reasons why Grabbers works as well as it does are the characters and the performances. Much of the first third of the movie (outside of the occasional attack sequence) is spent getting to know the residents of this island and I have to say I was surprised by how attached I got to a good number of them. They are surprisingly well fleshed out and the dialogue is smart and funny. Once you get to the more action/horror heavy final act they have done a great job ensuring that this is a group of people that are easy to root for. They’re much more fleshed out than you would expect (for the most part anyway) and the movie benefits greatly from this. Plus it would be very easy to have made a far more irritating movie out of the concept of a bunch of drunks fighting a monster so it helps that they are not obnoxious, asshole drunks, but fun and lovable drunks.
The stand-out performance is hands down Ruth Bradley as Lisa Nolan, the officer from out of town. I had never heard of her before but her work here is so damn good that she has firmly found herself in the sparsely attended category of actors who can get me to watch something solely because they are a part of it. She is god damn adorable and hilarious. She puts in one of the best drunk performances I have ever seen in any form of media. You don’t have to have done any acting to know that portraying a drunk person is immensely difficult as it’s incredibly easy to come off as forced or far too ridiculous. Bradley fucking nails it though and is an absolute joy to watch. Everyone around her is also pretty great but she is the definite stand-out here. Her performance makes it far easier to forgive the love story that largely feels shoe-horned in.
I do have to say that the actual creatures, or at the very least the main creature, are a bit disappointing which is unfortunate. The large central octopus thing is CG which was almost definitely unavoidable here but it does give the picture a cheaper feel as the effects themselves are not the greatest. They’re certainly a step above something you would see on SyFy but still far too computer-y to take this creature as much of a threat. Not to mention the actual design of the creature(s) is pretty underwhelming, looking similar to many other movie monsters that you’ve seen in the past. It’s too bad as if this movie had a better looking creature at its core, I would be ready to call it an instant classic.
There is nowhere really to go after that last sentence as my thoughts on this movie had been made pretty damn clear. It’s a very fun movie with great characters, very well written and natural dialogue and a bunch of really good performances highlighted by one amazing one. In my eyes it simply needed a better creature in order to take it that extra few steps. It’s still 100% recommended however.