Friday, 17 August 2012


You’ve seen it all before, but the amiable leads, eye-catching scenery and all round Oirish charm make it worth a punt

An asteroid crashes into the sea off the coast of the fictional Erin Island. It's dismissed as nothing serious, but of course, it turns out to be serious. Meanwhile, world-weary Garda Ciaran O'Shea (Richard Coyle, free of his Coupling persona) is reluctantly welcoming his new, temporary female partner, no-nonsense mainland Garda Lisa Nolan (a radiant Ruth Bradley) into the workplace. Before long, guy cop, girl cop and the whole of Erin's population are in the midst of a possible alien apocalypse; mysterious tentacled creatures known as "Grabbers" are scouring the island, stalking human prey. And only something unique – uniquely Irish, in this case – can solve the problem.

It all sounds very familiar. And indeed it is. Grabbers is basically an Irish take on Romero, romance and Ridley Scott, with the best of James Cameron thrown into the mix. It's little more than a local horror pastiche. Thank heavens, then, that it's a very charming one, with enough suspenseful moments, low-key humour and beautiful location shots of Inishowen to make it worth a look.

Carlsberg don't do Gardai, but if they did...
While watching Grabbers, I couldn’t help wondering if director Jon Wright was really related to Edgar Wright of Spaced fame, because it looks like he has taken more than a leaf out of his more famous namesake's book. In his collaborations with Simon Pegg, Wright – Edgar, that is, not Jon – has mastered the art of parodying a film or genre in the service of a good, thoughtful comedic storyline without drawing too much attention to himself*. It's far too soon to tell if Jon Wright will ever be in Edgar’s class, but he is certainly showing signs of heading in the right direction.

The film takes pride in repeatedly turning convention on its head, with red herrings and unexpected humour littered throughout. While such an approach is quite commonplace in movies nowadays, it's the Irish "tint", in addition to a focused plot and the use of sparse but effective CGI, that makes Grabbers grab your attention. Of course, having such game and engaging leads as Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley helps; the scene where alcohol transforms the usually level-headed Garda Nolan into a wannabe Henry Girl is hilarious.

"Let's 'grab' ourselves a big fish supper, eh?"

Arguably, Grabbers' modesty is both its best friend and its worst enemy. Its plotting occasionally falls back on the very clichés it purports to mock, and it sometimes resorts to tried-and-trusted Irish stereotyping – drinking, fighting, The Pogues – for easy laughs. More than that, the focus on the leads makes everyone else feel peripheral at best, with Derry's own Bronagh Gallagher getting no more than a glorified cameo for her efforts. What Grabbers aspires to be is an Irish Shaun Of The Dead with aliens, but is just a tad too reserved in its approach. One wonders what Edgar Wright or even the McDonagh brothers might have done with the material. Still, it makes more than a few of the right moves in its effort to dance with the cream of its crop.

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*Kevin Smith and Seth MacFarlane could certainly learn a lesson from both Wrights; sometimes, less really is more.