Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cthulhu Theater: Grabbers (2012)

Recently I have begun to gain a strong appreciation for horror films produced in other countries such as France, Korea and Finland. I also continue to be a sucker for tentacled-cult-elder-gods movies in the spirit of H.P. Lovecraft's popular fiction. Though Lovecraft's unique vision has yet to have been fully realized in any big budget straight adaptations of his own work, Lovecraft's influence is all over a number of horror movies, some with an explicit connection to his source material, and others with simply a visual nod to his creature designs and Cthulhu mythos. In most cases when movies are said to be "Lovecraftian," it is a reference to either the creature designs or the setting. Horror-comedy Grabbers (2012) directed by Jon Wright and written by Kevin Lehane meets those limited criteria in addition to possessing enough Lovecraftian tropes to suggest a strong influence by some of his literary works as well.

Come for the satire, stray for the
formulaic monster flick?
Set on a remote Irish island, the setting does indeed get dark, wet and suitably moody and the creatures are "tentacly" in design, but the film shares much more in spirit and pacing with Tremors (1990) or any number of the Nick Frost/Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright horror-action comedies of the past decade. Thanks in large part to the effective effects, a game ensemble cast of actors doing their best to enliven standard small town stereotypes (weird-old-timer, goofy-but-handsome-doctor type, grizzled detective and attractive newbie in town) and fine cinematography of the Irish coast, Grabbers does serve as an adequate snowy day distraction.

The one place the filmmakers would have seemed to have missed the boat is in product placement. Given its importance as a plot point (as well as carrying significance to the characterization of nearly every character in the film), Grabbers would have seemed natural for the pervasive alcohol use throughout have been sponsored by someone. If not for the fact that this film was made by Irish filmmakers (using partial funding from both the Irish Film Board and UK Film Council), it would be easy to dismiss the film's alcohol consumption as deus ex machina all too stereotypical jab at the Irish. But on some level, especially when one sees the promotional posters for the film's European theatrical release (above, left), Wright and Lehane do seem to be aspiring to some sort of satire with their film. The balance between humor, action, ad social commentary never seems natural or well developed enough in one direction.

Like many horror-comedies, its frustrating to realize halfway through that had a more focused approach been taken, say purely a horror one, the resulting film could have been infinitely more entertaining. This is evidenced by the handling of the creatures. The initial reveals of the tentacled creatures in a variety of stages (whether hiding in the corner of a licencing, or hatching from eggs) are very well realized and creepy. The drunk shtick (a town full of Irish folks--including the town priest--has just got to be funny, right?) and romance between the two characters (you just know will hook up by film's end) serve to dissipate the building tension and ameliorate the few scares that are here.

Entertaining, but with almost no rewatchability value, Grabbers (2012) is a completely satisfactory, ultimately forgettable, direct stream Netflix offering.

Standing in the middle of the street when our town is under attack
by large tentacled creatures is never a good idea.



Nice review Mr. Scott! Have a great holiday.

Mister Scott said...

Thanks... you have a fantastic holiday, too!