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Review — One Good SF/Horror “B”-Movie to Watch

Review — One Good SF/Horror “B”-Movie to Watch
Grabbers Poster

Grabbers Poster

I hope all of you had either a great Thanksgiving, if you’re in the US, or a good Hanukkah if that applies (I understand the two celebrations coincided this year). Or if you’re in another country entirely, I hope you had a great week! (Here in Canada we celebrated our Thanksgiving in October!)

I may have mentioned before that my wife (the Beautiful and Talented Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk) and I are avid movie-watchers. Back in the dim past, when we’d only been married a year or two, we often checked out a half-dozen movies from the local video store and watched them all in one night. (And that was on work nights!) Alas, those days are gone. Not only are there not that many movies we’re interested in watching (we used to go on B-Movie Binges, and too many movies—for example, Will Ferrell movies—are not even watchable enough to qualify as B-movies) and we’re nearly a quarter-century older than we were then. Plus, we only have one video store within walking distance. (Believe it or not, it’s still possible to rent some VHS at that store. Here’s a free plug for them; it’s Champlain Video. Look it up if you’re in the Champlain Heights area of Vancouver East.) We still go for genre movies (SF first, followed by fantasy and horror, and then plain old action movies; like Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger and Seagal. Of course, three of those mentioned are now old farts and only Statham and Stallone can really carry off the action roles the way they used to.) B-Movie SF fans will be aware of movies like Tremors, Monsters and the like, which are two we really enjoyed; one older, one newer.

So while waiting for Red 2 to come out on video (it came out this week, finally) I settled for a DVD copy of something called Grabbers (DVD because this was one without a Blu-Ray) and I’d already seen many if not most of the newer movies. It had an interesting cover (similar to the poster in Photo 1); and according to the back cover was an Irish movie. We’ve had lots of luck with Irish movies—from non-genre stuff like The Commitments, Into The West, The Snapper, up to horror genre movies like Boy Eats Girl and Rawhead Rex, so I (ahem) grabbed it off the shelf. I didn’t know any of the actors, but that was okay with me.

Paddy (left) and friend examine strange catch

Paddy (left) and friend examine strange catch

So the movie opens with a really nice shot of the night side of Earth from above, with a glowing something tracking from right to left across the screen, then cuts to a fishing boat off the coast of Ireland, whose crew watches in amazement as something white-hot crosses overhead—lighting up the night—and plummets into the ocean. Supposing it to be an aircraft crashing into the water, the boat’s captain calls the local rescue people on the radio and chugs to where it disappeared and directs the lookout to search for wreckage, but there’s a scream and he disappears. The captain screams “man overboard” into the radio and runs out of the wheelhouse onto the deck, where something sticks into his chest and out his back, finally yanking him up and out, where he disappears into the night. The third crewmember suffers a similar fate.

The next day, new Garda officer Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) arrives on Erin Island via ferry, to use two weeks of her vacation filling in for an officer (the Garda are the Irish National Police) who’s on vacation himself; she figures working will be good for her career. She meets Garda Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle), who’s spending all his off hours (and a pretty good chunk of his on hours) drinking. We also learn that during the night, something has killed a good dozen or so pilot whales; the local doctor and his dog find their slashed corpses on the beach. Local fisherman—and town drunk—Paddy Barrett finds something in his lobster pot, but it’s not a lobster. The alert watcher (and reader) will immediately make connections among the “somethings,” surmising that perhaps the “crashed plane” was a meteor—or even a spaceship—and that bodes ill for the residents of Erin Island.

Paddy takes the thing home and puts it in his bathtub, still in the lobster pot. The Garda are called to look at the beached whales which, according to the local marine biologist, did not die from being beached; they were dead before they hit the beach; nobody knows what slashed their bodies. The town’s non-police authorities arrange for a local contractor to load the dead whales up and dispose of them. When the contractor’s crew mysteriously vanishes while retrieving a lost shovel, he goes to find the missing man and promptly goes missing himself. Meanwhile, Paddy discovers that the thing in the bathtub wasn’t happy with its confinement in the lobster pot and has broken out—and is now hanging in a ceiling corner of the bathroom—it’s kind of dark bluish and has lots of tentacles; it appears to be the size of a medium-sized dog. It attacks Paddy but then does the alien equivalent of “ptoo-ptoo” and promptly expires after biting him.

Ruth Bradley & Richard Coyle in Grabbers

Ruth Bradley & Richard Coyle in Grabbers

When Paddy takes the body to the local marine biologist, Dr. Smith, he wants to name the thing, but can’t figure out what its genus is; Paddy insists that as the discoverer, he’s entitled to name it, and he calls it a “grabber.” It’s apparently a female, as it “doesn’t have any genitals.” It has a long tentacle in its “mouth” tipped with a horny claw, that it can use to suck the blood out of prey; the Garda come in and everyone discovers that the grabber isn’t really dead, as it attaches itself to Garda Ciarán’s face. It bites him and falls over “dead” again. After it’s revived and put in a glass case, Dr. Smith theorizes it’s allergic to the blood alcohol content of Paddy’s and Ciarán’s blood and tests the theory by giving it some alcohol-saturated blood; the grabber really dies this time. The two Garda go down to the cliffs by the beach to see if they can find out where it came from, and encounter the male of the species, which is a LOT bigger than the female.

And here comes the whole action part of the movie, when our heroes have to cope not only with a really big monster, but also with their growing attraction to each other; it all comes to fruition in Maher’s Pub, the local. See, to keep the Erin Islanders safe, our Garda determined they had to get all the locals together and get them drunk so the monster won’t bite them! As you know, I really don’t like “spoilers,” so I won’t tell you any more about what happens; you’ll have to rent the movie—if you have a local video store like we do—or wait for it to show up on whatever “on-demand” service you subscribe to.

The Male Grabber!

The Male Grabber!

Did we like the movie? Yes, we did. According to the comments in the bonus section of the DVD, the film-makers set out to make a nice little action/horror film in the vein of Tremors or Monsters; I think this movie fills the bill quite nicely. There are a few slow spots, but for the most part it hangs together and keeps you interested. The male grabber is all CG—which means, for the uninitiated, Computer Graphics, although the female is part CG and part “practical” (a practical effect is one that is accomplished in real time with actual props as opposed to one that’s added later in post-production via CGI). I recommend this movie to anyone who enjoyed the first Tremors movie, which was a kind of a perfect little “sui generis”-type film. The actors in Tremors—many of whom were not in the sequels, to the sequels’ detriment, as part of its charm was the ensemble acting—included Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Reba McIntyre, Michael Gross and Victor Wong, which I think made it a bit stronger than Grabbers. (The title, of this film, by the way, is a direct tribute to Tremors’s “monsters,” which were called “Graboids.”)

Oh, and just for the record—this is a recent horror movie (2012) with NO ZOMBIES! Woo-hoo!

As always, I eagerly await your comments, pro or con. You can comment on Facebook; I post links in several fannish groups, or if you want to post them here you can register—if you haven’t already—and comment on the Amazing Stories website. Next week more fannish stuff, and maybe a wrapup on NaNoWriMoVember.

8 thoughts on "Review — One Good SF/Horror “B”-Movie to Watch"

  1. C E Martin says:

    Glad to see this gem getting the attention it deserves. I definittely put it up there with Tremors and Lake Placid.

  2. Oh, and anyone can contact me direct by email: stevefah at hotmail dot com. (To keep my email safe from webcrawlers and the like, I’ve substituted words for symbols.)

  3. The top image is the “featured” image; It’s something WordPress does. I can’t think of any way to stop it, but then, isn’t that the editor’s problem? 🙂

    I kind of enjoyed the three “Ocean’s” films–I think a lot of people like a good caper flick–but Don Cheadle is definitely labouring under the Dick Van Dyke/Adam Savage “I can do a good British accent because I’ve heard them on TV” misapprehension.

  4. Hi, John and Graeme–
    Thanks; the review has done what I set out to do, which is promote a nice little B-movie. I’ve been a fan of British/Irish/Scots movies for years–who knows, I may have even seen a Welsh movie once in a while; my maternal background is Welsh (the Jones family).

    John, I saw The Guard when it was first released to video. I generally like Brendan Gleeson; I’m fine with Don Cheadle, except when he tries to do a Brit accent as in the Ocean’s Eleven films. It’s only a shade off Dick Van Dyke’s terrible “Cockney” accent. Both of them make me want to hurl as an amateur linguist.

    I don’t think either of you will be disappointed by the movie; as one person remarked on Facebook, “Only the Irish would do a movie where getting drunk is a way to foil an alien invasion.”

    An interesting side note: though there’s no snow in the movie, it was filmed during one of the worst and snowiest winters in recent years in the Belfast area.

    1. John Dodds says:

      I didn’t see Ocean’s Eleven, mercifully. I can’t imagine Don Cheadle even attempting a British accent. But I will never forget Dick Van Dyke’s “allo Moiry Poppinshhh” accent – truly awful.

    2. John Dodds says:

      I didn’t know how to contact you direct, Steve, but the top image appears least on my browser.

  5. John Dodds says:

    Hi, Steve…I am a fellow blogger here. I enjoyed your review and will definitely look out for this film. Being Scots, I have a soft spot for Celtic films, and British films in general. They tend to have a much quirkier approach than a lot of mainstream American films. Speaking of the Guarda, I would also recommend to you a wonderful little indie film called The Guard, which stars Brendan Gleeson and someone better known to US audiences, Don Cheedle. If you can imagine a twisted, hilarious version of In The Heat of the Night, that may pique your interest.

  6. Definitely got to see this film. Exactly the classic 50s style plot I relish. Fellini? Cocteau? Pffft. Nothing beats an old fashioned B movie for sheer entertainment value.

    So thanks for the heads up. Might have missed this one otherwise. Fully intend to watch it. From your description I don’t think I’ll be disappointed.

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