On a pure plot level, there is little difference between Grabbers and the British alien invasion films of the 1950s and 1960s see similar efforts like Devil Girl from Mars (1954), The Trollenberg Terror/The Crawling Eye (1958), Invasion (1966), They Came From Beyond Space (1967), The Body Stealers (1969) and in particular Terence Fisher films like Island of Terror (1966) and Night of the Big Heat (1967). There are common locales and themes in many of these of residents of a small British town or island that is blocked off from the mainland as an alien menace crowds in. Most of these films feature a crosscut of provincial locals from different walks of life who come together in a siege situation as they face off against the monsters before discovering a previously unknown flaw in their armour.
The difference between Grabbers and these others is all in the way that this film is played. In this case, it comes with a not inconsiderable sense of humour. One is constantly reminded of the US film Tremors (1990) and its adroit mix of monster movie and comedy (although maybe that was just ones attention being drawn to the similarity between that films creatures known as Graboids and this films Grabbers). To get an idea of the sublime wackiness that is Grabbers, imagine Tremors, which was set in Nowheresville, Arizona, transplanted and recast with the characters from Father Ted (1995-8).
Grabbers is only a second film for Irish director Jon Wright who had previously made the undead revenge film Tormented (2009). Wright displays great assurance, particularly when it comes to the comedy aspect. The film comes with an enormous number of asides, wry reactions and tossed-off lines that leaves one constantly laughing the entire way through. All of the actors cast pull their respective parts off with perfectly in-character timing to quite hilarious results. Richard Coyle a British as opposed to Irish actor who has had bit parts in films like Going Postal (tv mini-series, 2010), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), W.E. (2011) and Pusher (2012) has a great deal of fun. He has a predictable character arc that of the cynical, burned-out drunk who has to rise to become the hero of the hour throughout the course of the show and handles the part with a wry likeability. Ruth Bradley has a quieter role that essentially gives her the part of the uptight by-the-rulebook straight cop in uncharted territory but has some equally funny moments during the latter half, which she spends in a state of intoxication.
The films funniest aspect is the climax where it is decided perhaps in a take on The Faculty (1998) and its using homebake as a means of defeating the invaders that the only means of combating the alien is to raise everybodys blood-alcohol levels to a point where drinking blood is considered poisonous to the aliens, resulting in a massive piss-up at the islands bar with the locals then having to enter the fray while hammered. If nothing else, it makes Grabbers the only film to date that celebrates that getting drunk as a means of saving the world.
The creature effects are kept sparse but are modestly effective. The film was shot around Irelands County Donegal, in particular on Rutland Island, which has only a population of 1000, where Jon Wright and his cinematographer have determined to shoot the landscape for exquisite tourist postcard perfection.
Jon Wright next went on to make Robot Overlords (2014).
(Screening at the Vancouver International Film Festival)