“Last call at the bar.”
Director: Jon Wright
Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey
Synopsis: When an island off the coast of Ireland is invaded by bloodsucking aliens, the heroes discover that getting drunk is the only way to survive.
Jon Wright’s Grabbers is a comedy-horror that mashes the Ealing Studios’ movies of the 1950s with a touch of Father Ted and a major dose of those Z-Grade alien invasion movies the British sometimes made in an effort to duplicate the low cost-high return success of their American counterparts back in the 1950s. As such, while it has some strong points in its favour, it feels a little too derivative to be considered entirely successful. Had it managed to establish its own personality, Grabbers might have felt less like the result of a collection of influences and more like a self-contained story in its own right.
Ruth Bradley plays Lisa Nolan, a rookie cop sent to a remote island off the coast of Ireland. She’s greeted by Ciaran O’Shea (Richard Coyle), a semi-alcoholic colleague struggling to come to terms with the loss of his wife. Naturally, Lisa’s initial impression of her new colleague — who’s nursing the mother of all hangovers — isn’t a positive one, but Ciaran takes a shine to her despite himself; this becomes apparent when he instinctively resents the cheesy compliments paid to Lisa by Dr. Adam Smith (Russell Tovey), a scientist examining one of a number of mutilated whales mysteriously washed up on the island’s shores. It turns out these whales are victims of an alien that has crash-landed on earth and already devoured three hapless fishermen.
Watching Grabbers immediately after watching the same years’ Pusher, it became apparent how important a well-written part is to the performance of an actor. Richard Coyle appears in both movies, and in Pusher he delivers a compellingly watchable performance, but in Grabbers, an admittedly much less character-oriented movie, he borders on the bland simply because his character is a cut-out of countless damaged movie heroes we have met before. Bradley’s character is equally weak, lacking depth or distinctive qualities.
Of course, this is a monster movie and so to complain about the weak characters is perhaps a little harsh. After all, monster movies aren’t exactly renowned for insightful characterisations. And the monster is actually quite effective, although exactly how a giant squid could design, manufacture and pilot a spacecraft is a mystery that is wisely left unexplored by writer Kevin Lehane. The comedy, when it works, is sometimes hilarious, but too often it falls flat, and the film drags badly in the middle third, just when it should be building to a frantic climax.
Grabbers isn’t a bad movie, it just isn’t a particularly good one.