Sunday, August 11, 2013

Grabbers














GRABBERS                C                    
Ireland  Great Britain  (94 mi)  2012  ‘Scope  d:  Jon Wright           Official site

A riff on the cheap 50’s B-movie sci-fi flicks like THE BLOB (1958), or the tongue-in-cheek 70’s revisionist ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES! (1978), though compared to that, a $6.5 million dollar budget for a movie like this must seem like a blockbuster budget, as this is a movie, first and foremost, about having low expectations.  If this had been made by a high school student, they would be commended for succeeding in referencing the era of the 50’s, while also making something ridiculously absurd, where the exaggerated Irish stereotypes might be forgiven due to youth and inexperience.  But for two fully grown Irishmen, written by Kevin Lehane from Cork and directed by Belfast born Jon Wright, you’d think they’d have had their fill of Irish stereotypes.  Apparently not, as they’re instead using their familiarity to portray an array of local drunkards, a quirky small town community, a church filled with ardent non-believers, dysfunctional police, and a venerable old drunken fisherman with a tall tale that nobody believes, like spinning a drunken fable into a mythical yarn, and while it’s supposed to be goofy fun, it ends up being tedious and overly repetitive, little more than mindless entertainment for the evening, a far cry from the beauty and depth of say John Sayles’ THE SECRET OF ROAN INISH (1994), which really has the fairy tale feel of local Irish legend.  This movie, on the other hand, is all about using stereotypes and cliché’s, reinforcing throughout that the Irish really love their whisky, getting everyone in town stinking drunk, thinking it’s all jolly good fun, continually paying homage to movies from the past, but the sheer thoughtlessness of much of this film is overwhelming.  Even the opening scene where three fishermen at sea witness a flash of light coming from outer space, their response plays out as dumb, dumber, and dumbest, attacked by blood sucking aliens, setting the tone for what follows. 

Set in Erin Island, a sleepy fishing village near the coast of Ireland, the town is so small there are only two policemen, and while the chief is away on a two-week trip, they bring in a temporary cop from Dublin, Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) a by-the-numbers rookie who feels that without any real crime to speak of this should be an easy two-week holiday.  Her local partner is Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle), a wildly alcoholic and buffoonish cop who can barely think or speak straight, falling over himself at every turn, appearing to be little more than an obnoxious lout.  When a local fisherman named Paddy (Lalor Roddy) claims he’s caught a mysterious sea creature in one of his lobster cages, no one bats an eye, as he’s perhaps the most drunken man in town, a guy who brings his own home brew “into” the bars to swig along with the usual fare, but always has a ready smile plastered across his face.  But after a group of dead whales wash onto the beach, and the fishermen are reported missing, the police think maybe they’ll take a look, bringing along a crack scientist, Adam Smith (Russell Tovey).  When the female blood sucker suddenly attaches itself to Paddy’s face, an homage to Ridley Scott’s ALIEN (1979), it quickly spits it out in disgust, leaving a trail of slime, where the booze-guzzling cop figures out it must be the alcohol in his blood.  As there’s a male lurking out there searching for the female, they figure the only way to save the town from impending disaster is to get the entire town drunk, making them each toxic to the creatures from outer space.  While it may sound brilliant, the technical expertise is lacking in creating a feel of impending doom, where it’s nothing like John Carpenter’s THE FOG (1980).  Adding to the mix, the town is attacked by a barrage of baby aliens, a tribute to Joe Dante’s GREMLINS (1984), where brooms and sticks and stomping feet seem to do the trick with the little critters, while the giant creature is right out of James Cameron’s ALIENS (1986), where in no time the town is under siege.   

While the entire spectacle has a cheesy mid 80’s feel to it, an era before the arrival of the quality CGI special effects that really took hold in the mid 90’s with Pixar’s TOY STORY (1995), the story actually unfolds through the initially chilly relationship between the two cops, where O’Shea, threatened by her arrival, is so astonishingly drunk that Nolan sticks him in the slammer to sleep it off.  But when they realize what they’re up against, a surreal invasion from outer space, nothing makes more senses to this team of amateurs than to stomp the damn thing to death, giving it a thorough beating, something of a defensive reaction to getting slimed by the creature, where science hasn’t even a clue afterwards if the critter is still dead or alive.  Despite the danger level, humans absurdly continue to put themselves at risk while herding the local church parishioners into the tavern for an open bar, oblivious to the danger lurking outside, where the director sends out baby monsters to contend with while withholding a glimpse of the nasty creature while the entire population proceeds to drink and party  themselves into a state of oblivion.  Meanwhile, the master plan is to get the rookie cop filthy drunk along with everyone else while the actual drunkard cop remains sober, like a designated driver, becoming the eyes and ears for the town, like their gallant night watchman who’s expected to save the town against the monster.  This little twist allows the thoroughly straight-laced Nolan, who’s never been drunk before, a chance to let her hair down, where after plying her with alcohol, in no time she’s confessing all her personal secrets.  This allows the two of them to actually develop some chemistry together, where’s she’s the one now making a goddamned fool of herself while he has to exercise personal restraint not to take advantage of her sudden sexual promiscuity.  Of course the sexually charged moments are a cue for the appearance of the badass monster, where the rest of the film is a showdown between a suddenly responsible and often clueless O’Shea, with a ragingly drunk partner as his back up, while townsfolk are mere foils against the evils deeds manifested by this mammoth blood-sucking creature from outer space.  The drunken carousing gets pretty stale after awhile, yet it’s the predominate image onscreen, where rather than a cleverly crafted horror film, this plays out more like a neverending Irish wake, which the creative team behind the film obviously thought would be hilarious.  While this creature feature is silly fun, it’s also stupid fun, never really rising to anything beyond that.  Unfortunately, audiences are so deadened by what Hollywood throws at them these days, and so starved for ideas, that this is what passes as creative filmmaking.

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