TADFF 2012: ‘Grabbers’ a slight and impermanent genre affair

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Directed by Jon Wright

Written by Kevin Lehane

Ireland, 2012

For a movie about aliens, Grabbers feels all-too-familiar. Reaching as far back as Ridley Scott’s Alien, Grabbers is a perfectly serviceable and well-cultivated collection of creature features, but, despite its earnest convictions, it lacks a certain novelty to garner any postmortem traction.

The movie stars Richard Coyle as Ciarán O’Shea, a foul-tempered, alcoholic Irish Garda (think Brendan Gleeson in The Guard, but drunk). With the temporary departure of his usual partner, Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), a peppy and zealous Garda from Dublin Central, is brought to O’Shea’s humble island to make up the numbers. At first, their antithetical personalities clash, but you won’t be hard pressed to guess what happens by the end.

One day, the two are called in to investigate a strange discovery; dead whales are washing up on the beach with strange lacerations. With the help of a local fisherman (Lalor Roddy) and scientist (Russell Tovey), it’s discovered that there’s a bloodsucking, water-loving alien on the loose, waiting to besiege and invade the town. With teamwork and heavy drinking (because the film is Irish, after all), O’Shea, Nolan, and other townsfolk must band together and try to stop it.

Once the premise is established, Grabbers is essentially beat-for-beat predictable, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As an extended homage to the phenomenon of the ‘monster-in-a-china-shop’ movie, there are certain tropes we come to expect from a film of this ilk, and Grabbers doesn’t disappoint in that regard. The moviemakers (director Jon Wright and writer Kevin Lehane) know their genre well, and genre fans will get a kick out of their movie.

For example, the grabber is a called ‘the thing’ for much of the beginning, a possible reference to John Carpenter’s classic, and the creature motivations are reminiscent of the ‘facehugger’ from the Alien franchise. There may even be a nod to 1998’s Godzilla. The movie embraces its influences in the form of reverence, and is enjoyable on that basic level.

But even with that in mind, Grabbers doesn’t resonate beyond its rudimentary appeal because it doesn’t transcend them. Although it can be rowdy and often funny, it doesn’t elicit any kind of real investment that usually accompanies a new or fresh twist to the genre; the movie sort of exists in a state of imminent indifference and is tragically forgettable (there is a slight whiff of originality in Grabbers, which has to do with the creature’s Achilles heel, but the discrepancy can easily be forgotten after a couple of pints, ironically). As a result, Grabbers is a fun but slight and impermanent genre affair.

– Justin Li

The 7th annual Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs from October 18-26. For a complete schedule and ticket information, please visit the offical website.

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