Grabbers: Edinburgh Review


Park City at Midnight

Derivative Irish monster-invasion comedy is a calculating crowdpleaser with cultish appeal.  

Jon Wright's horror-comedy offers enough charm to attract a cult following, but a dearth of originality seems destined to keep its audience limited to genre fans.

EDINBURGH - Many-tentacled alien beasties menace a County Donegal fishing-village in Jon Wright's larkish, booze-soaked horror-comedy Grabbers, which could charitably be described as whole-heartedly embracing the well-worn clichés of the genre.This UK/Irish co-production has garnered mainly enthusiastic reactions from festival-goers since premiering at Sundance in January, but is never quite funny, scary or original enough to break out beyond its core audience.

IFC Midnight secured VOD and theatrical rights for North America post-Sundance; Irish release-date is August 10th via Element, while Sony Pictures have yet to announce a date for the UK. Long-term, DVD prospects appear brightest for a picture lacking marquee cast-names, its capable stars best known for Brit telly work.
It's likely that British Isles marketing will emphasise the parallels with John Michael McDonagh's The Guard - the droll Brendan Gleeson comedy about an idiosyncratic rural law-officer which hit the bullseye at home and outperformed expectations in the UK - as well as cult-favorite sci-fi predecessors like Tremors, Attack the Block and Monsters. Older viewers, meanwhile, may be strongly reminded of a brace of low-budget Brit shockers from 1966-7, Night of the Big Heat and Island of Terror - both of which featured Peter Cushing battling murderous critters on remote islands. And for those of a literary bent, scriptwriter Kevin Lehane seems to be taking a few pages from John Wyndham's classic 1953 novel The Kraken Wakes - which has long been overdue a full-blown screen adaptation.

The setting here is (fictional) Erin Island - a sleepy but spectacularly picturesque spot, pounded by the Atlantic, where local cop Ciaran (Richard Coyle) has few distractions from his preferred pursuit of alcoholic imbibement. His routines are disturbed, however, by  the arrival of a prissy, pretty, perky colleague from Dublin, Lisa (Ruth Bradley) as holiday replacement for his sergeant. This coincides with various mysterious phenomena involving the disappearance of fishermen and the mutilation of marine life. With a major storm imminent, cutting the island off from mainland help, the situation rapidly escalates as various squid-like life-forms go on the attack - ranging in size from the tiny to the human-chompingly gargantuan.

Director Wright, whose 2009 Tormented similarly combined chills and laughs, follows the well-thumbed Spielberg / Carpenter / Landis playbooks by offering only brief glimpses of his critter(s) before the big reveal around the half-way point. But rather than escalating into a full-blown monster-mash, Lehane spends rather too much time exploring the blood-sucking invaders' Achilles heel - alcohol. Becoming merrily drunk is therefore the islanders' chief weapon against attack, resulting in a wild all-night whiskey-and-Guinness-galore session in the pub and a string of hit-and-miss gags revolving around characters' states of stumbling, burbling inebriation.

All the while, mismatched duo Ciaran and Lisa edge predictably from bickering towards romance, observed by a bevy of supporting-characters fondly drawn from stock Irish stereotypes (Lehane and Wright both hail from the Emerald Isle), with bumbling scientist Adam on hand as a token upper-class Brit. It all barrels along with a certain good-natured brio, even if ultimately falling short of bringing much that's new to what's already an overstocked table. Technical contributions are functional, though Christian Henson's over-the-top score is more of a distraction than an enhancement. Supervised by Paddy Eason, meanwhile, legions of special-effects wizards deliver the goods on what's evidently a less-than-Spielbergian budget.     

Venue: Edinburgh International Film Festival, Jun. 10, 2012.

Production companies: Forward Films, Samson Films

Cast: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Russell Tovey, Lalor Roddy, David Pearse

Director: Jon Wright

Screenwriter: Kevin Lehane

Producers: Tracy Brimm, Eduardo Levy, James Martin, Kate Myers, Martina Niland, Piers Tempest

Director of photography: Trevor Forrest

Production designer: Tom McCullagh

Costume designer: Hazel Webb-Crozier

Music: Christian Henson

Editor: Miles Platts-Mills

Sales Agent: Forward Films, London

No rating, 94 minutes.