Some films make you suffer, others make you laugh. A lot of films make you wonder in real terms, how it is possible to spend upwards of $150m and look as bad as they do. There are great comedies just like there are great dramas. The making of films that make you laugh and put a smile on your face is an oft underrated skill. For everyone that pulls it off there are a lot more films that fail spectacularly. So when I had heard that there was to be an Irish comedy horror (rarely good) with special effects on a budget of around £3.5m I worried. That is probably the same as the catering budget on a Transformers movie and look how bad those films turned out. Early reviews from festivals were positive so my worries lessened. But could this tale of monsters on the coast really stand up to the advanced word?
The answer to this is a resounding yes but with a reservation. Whilst there are monsters (insistently called grabbers throughout the film) there is not a huge amount of horror. This a film along the lines of Tremors and Shaun of the Dead. The laughs come in tongue in cheek style ahead of any scares. With this then established, the comedy elements had better be good. In this regard it comes up trumps. The story set up is a classic template: the mismatched cops. In this case there is the hard drinking local Erin Island Garda, Ciaran O’Shea (Richard Coyle) and the quiet professional newly arrived from the mainland Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley). Together with local Dr. Smith (Russell Tovey) they investigate the strange goings-on on the island. There are also the assorted island characters to contend with at the local bar such as the local drunk and the married and funny owners of the bar (David Pearse and Bronagh Gallagher).
When it is discovered that the bloodsucking creatures cannot process blood with a certain amount of alcohol in it, a plan is made which could not be more brilliantly Irish: to survive the night they must have a lock-in at the local pub and drink as much as possible. There follows some very funny drinking scenes in the pub. These scenes also ingeniously solve that classic horror film cliché: namely the stupidity of characters who do silly things inexplicably like going towards the creatures. The characters bravery with drink taken works great in this respect and is also very funny. All credit to screenwriter Kevin Lehane for this nice conceit. There is also some gore here but nothing too graphic, while similarly there are some mild scares. But the onus is on the comedy and Lehane’s script shines in this regard.
Ah, the special effects. This is the area that a lot of films with budgets way north of this have come unstuck. A lot of credit must be given to the VFX people at Nvizible who have created quite brilliant effects on such a small budget. This is vital, as bad CGI can affect your viewing of the film. If it too shiny or without heft it can pull you out of the spell of the film. In this case the effects are excellent and really add a sense of scale to the overall feel of the film. Director Jon Wright uses the effects sparingly and very well, adding to the excitement. The cast all acquit themselves well, with a special mention for Ruth Bradley who lights up the screen. There is a real chemistry between the two leads.
Grabbers is a film that has all the ingredients to be a sizeable hit. How Erin Island is filmed is an example of this. It is bathed in an unusual state of perpetual sunshine to maximise the prettiness of the film. Even the name Erin Island conjures up a magical place, with a special eye presumably on the American market. This is no bad thing as it is important to show that we can produce a blockbuster style film in Ireland. That is what is unusual here. There is no real angst on show or what has been referred to in Irish film terms as ‘misery porn’. It doesn’t need it. It is too busy being very entertaining and that is more than enough especially coming in at a nifty 90 odd minutes. The only downside is that we can probably expect poor imitations of this formula in Ireland. If any can be as much fun as this it can only be a good thing for Irish film.