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by Jay Seaver

"Grab a pint and fight some sea monsters!"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Even if the name of "Grabbers" didn't make one think of the monsters in "Tremors", the rest of the movie would, in the best possible way. It has the things that this sort of movie needs to succeed - a cryptozoological threat and an enjoyably eccentric cast of characters, with the latter naturally providing humor from their interactions while still having the sort of ingenuity needed to counter the former's very real danger.

Soon after the crew of a fishing boat mysteriously disappears near Erin Island, Ireland, another boat arrives, this one a ferry bringing model Dublin Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) to work alongside Ciarán O'Shea (Richard Coyle). The two events aren't related; the island's other local officer just needs someone reliable to share duties with oft-hungover O'Shea while on holiday. Of course, when a pod of pilot whales washes up on shore, mutilated, and local lobsterman Paddy Barrett (Lalor Roddy) catches a small "sea monster" in his trap, things start to get hairy for the cops and marine ecologist Adam Smith (Russell Tovey). It seems that this never-before-seen organism feeds by sucking its victims' blood, and can do so from a distance, but the good news is that it reacts poorly to alcohol.

Yes, writer Kevin Lehane means to have some fun with certain Irish stereotypes, and if you don't foresee large chunks of the last act involving the characters "defending themselves" in the island's pub, you are very easily surprised. It's good fun, though, in part because it never seems to be the result of laziness or a celebration of boorishness - there's thought put into how this is deployed, the characters are different sorts of drunks, and O'Shea's alcoholism doesn't suddenly become a good thing. Grabbers isn't a one-joke movie earlier on, and it doesn't become one in its last act.

An even more pleasant surprise is that while "straight-laced cop has to get drunk to save the day" is pretty much inevitable, Lisa is actually a lively character from minute one, chipper, confident, and capable rather than being a humorless hard-ass. Why, she and Smith even flirt adorably, much to O'Shea's consternation. She is fun just about every second that she is on-screen, which holds true for just about the entire cast; it's an enjoyable ensemble of actors and characters that each has a distinct personality and who all work well together; there's nary a weak link to be found.

The monsters are as much fun as the humans, establishing themselves as a threat early on and actually scaling nicely - director Jon Wright has exciting scenes in a bathroom and then increasingly larger environments before getting to an SUV being chased on an open road (with the tentacled beast looking and moving much better than such things usually do on land). The effects work is nice - the CGI is often aided by darkness, but still looks good, and the practical effects are actually effective rather than lame and rubbery.

Wright creates a fun atmosphere without winking at the audience too much; there is seldom a gag that doesn't arise naturally from the characters and he's not looking to gross the audience out with blood and mutilation. The big finale is a proper action set piece, the soundtrack is occasionally slyly funny (Wright and composer Christian Henson opt to pay homage to the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" segment of Fantasia at one point).

It's a genuinely entertaining movie from what could have been a highly annoying premise. Charming monster movies aren't a dime a dozen, so this one is worth checking out.

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originally posted: 08/05/12 23:56:55
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2012 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2014 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

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  19-Jul-2013 (NR)
  DVD: 12-Nov-2013


  DVD: 12-Nov-2013

Directed by
  Jon Wright

Written by
  Kevin Lehane

  Richard Coyle
  Ruth Bradley
  Russell Tovey
  Bronagh Gallagher

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