Grabbers

by Joseph "Jay Dub" Wade

EXPECTATIONS: At some point in the past year, somebody sent me a link to the trailer for this film. For the life of me, I cannot recall who that person was, and everyone I ask has no idea what the hell I'm talking about. The only conclusion I can draw is that I imagined the trailer and then suddenly a film appeared. Why can't I do this in reverse? It would be pretty cool if I could just imagine Smurfs sequels out of existence. That would solve so many of the world's problems, but alas...

REALITY: Grabbers is one part Tremors and one part Gremlins, with a bit of an Aliens chaser. While the film delivers on what little action it promises, the comedy part of the equation is sorely lacking. The slapstick scenes connects sometimes, but the dialogue works about as well as your dad imitating a real comedian's routine: Kind of funny at first, until he starts driving the catchphrases into the ground.

We're gonna call 'em Graboids.

When two police officers, boozehound Ciarán O'Shea (Richard Coyle) and workaholic Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), are left in charge of a fishing village off the coast of Ireland, the two quickly discover that blue tentacled aliens (the titular grabbers) are about to invade the town. O'Shea learns the hard way that not only do the aliens feed on blood, but also they're allergic to alcohol. In order to keep the people safe, O'Shea and Nolan convince all the locals to join them at the local pub for free drinks. Once they're all drunk out of their gourds, the tipplers mount an attack on the grabbers.

What would happen if drunk people tried to fight aliens? They'd bungle it at every turn, due to their diminished motor skills and common sense! That's a fine setup for a comedy sketch or even an action montage, but as the centerpiece of a sci-fi film, it's just plain obnoxious. By the third time the drunken idiots stumble out of the bar to confront the big bad Grabber, only to realize they're too wasted to do anything useful, it just becomes tedious.

Everyone overreacts when there's a mouse in the room.The film is at its best when it plays things straight. The buildup and gradual reveal of the aliens is as effective as anything in the Tremors films, and it benefits from the fact that the grabbers actually look dangerous. The two main creatures are writhing masses of blue tentacles and spiraling fangs, and the lack of a concrete form is strangely disconcerting as they roll about the frame. For such a small budget, these effects are surprisingly good - except for the baby grabbers, which look like props from the movie Slither turned inside out.

It's a shame that writer Kevin Lehane and director Jon Wright insisted on turning this into a comedy about drinking, when the morality tale about alcoholism lurking just under the surface suggests a much better film. Grabbers picks the low-hanging fruit in a number of ways, and O'Shea's emotional journey becomes one of the casualties as a result. When we first meet him, he's a pathetic excuse for a cop, drinking on the job and generally acting like a surly dick. Introducing Nolan as a love interest and the grabbers as a direct threat forces him to sober up in a hurry. As the town drinks itself stupid, O'Shea decides not to have that next pint, and it ought to be one of the defining moments of the film. Instead, it's played like another in a string of weak gags that don't quite hit the mark.

At times, it seems like even the cast members realize how dull this script is. So many of the one-liners are mumbled, possibly due to drunken diction, or perhaps out of fear that the audience might actually hear how unfunny they are. Richard Coyle clearly tries to give his character some depth, but all the story seems to want is for him to be Simon Pegg instead. Like much of this film, though, Coyle's performance is very low-key. Bursting into hysterics the way Pegg tends to do might have been funnier, but it also might have ruined one of the few character arcs the film actually establishes.

For all of its creature-feature influences and genuinely dark production aesthetics, Grabbers desperately wants to be this decade's Shaun of the Dead. The only problem is that it lacks the energy, the charisma, the comedic timing, and, perhaps most damningly, any sort of affection toward the movies it's riffing on. If you can't even muster that, then why bother?

Plot5/10
Humor0/10
Cinematography7/10
Creature Effects7/10
Would Drinking Make Watching It Any Funnier?Almost Certainly
Overall19/50

MINORITY REPORT: It could've been worse: The aliens could've been allergic to booze AND potatoes. Then, Grabbers would be the Irish Signs. - Sean "Keanu Grieves" Hanson

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