Director – Jon Wright, Screenplay – Kevin Lehane, Producers – Tracy Brimm, Kate Myers, Martina Niland & Piers Tempest, Photography – Trevor Forrest, Music – Christian Henson, Visual Effects Supervisor – Paddy Eason, Visual Effects – Molinare (Supervisor – Nik Martin) & Nvizible, Creature Effects Supervisor – Shaune Harrison, Production Design – Tom McCullagh. Production Company – Forward Films/Samson Films/High Treason Productions/Limelight/Bear Rock Films/Erin Island Films
Richard Coyle (Ciaran O’Shea), Ruth Bradley (Lisa Nolan), Russell Tovey (Dr Adam Smith), Lalor Roddy (Paddy Barrett), David Pearse (Brian Maher), Bronagh Gallagher (Una Maher), Pascal Scott (Dr Jim Gleason), Michael O’Gruagain (Father Potts), Clelia Murphy (Irene Murphy), Louis Dempsey (Tadgh Murphy), Ned Dennehy (Declan Cooney)
Police officer Lisa Nolan arrives on Erin Island from Dublin to take up a position on the Garda while the local supervisor is away for two weeks. She is paired with Ciaran O’Shea who has an alcohol problem and a cynically laidback manner that is at direct contrast to her earnest enthusiasm. Soon after she arrives, they are drawn into examining an alien creature that a local has found, which has been nicknamed a Grabber. They soon find eggs and other creatures on the island and realise that the Grabbers feed on human blood. They also discover that the Grabbers flourish in water but are made ill by drinking blood with a high alcohol content. As a storm crowds in on the island, the only solution to stay safe would appear to be for the populace to gather at the local pub and get drunk.
Grabbers is an Irish alien invasion film of which, as far as I am aware, it is the first. It is not an alien invasion film in the traditional sense of mass destruction, invasion and infiltration by pod people etc. It is more an alien invasion film in the postmodern sense – one that is either determined to reference past efforts or in this case simply mess around with and have fun with the genre. Indeed, you could say that Grabbers is intended to be part of the traditional genre of the British alien invasion film in the exact same way that Shaun of the Dead (2004) was intended to follow the George Romero zombie film.
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 one’s attention being drawn to the similarity between that film’s creatures known as Graboids and this film’s 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 schoolyard supernatural retribution 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 film’s 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 everybody’s blood-alcohol levels to a point where drinking blood is considered poisonous to the aliens, resulting in a massive piss-up at the island’s 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 Ireland’s 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).