It was a dark and rainy night last evening in Toronto. Not the greatest weather if you’re standing in a line on Bloor Street, waiting to get into the Hot Docs Cinema. But it was the perfect weather to enjoy a little film called Grabbers, which opened the 2012 Toronto After Dark Film Festival for some bloody good times. And the they were delivered. Not just the good times, but the blood as well.
The film is a Horror/Comedy that takes place on a remote fishing village off the coast of Ireland where it rains most of the time and there’s not much to do there but get drunk. And that’s what Garda Ciaran O’Shea (played by Richard Coyle) does for most of the time. So much so, that when his commanding officer has to go on a trip back to the mainland, he calls in another Garda to keep an eye on him. That’s how Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) finds her way to this sleep little town. But it doesn’t stay sleepy for long. Over the course of the next few days, the two police officers investigate a series of strange occurrences and eventually come across an honest to goodness sea monster (or alien….it really isn’t explained). The creature, or Grabber as some of the characters begin to call it, looks like an Octopus with a series of sharp teeth coming out of its center and it’s after one thing: blood. The creature survives on water and blood. With a storm coming in, the townsfolk look to be a taste-y meal for this Grabber unless Lisa, Ciaran and a few others can stop it. They’re a little outgunned but they know it’s weakness. Getting Drunk. If you’re pissed out of your head, the Grabber will be sick if it tries to eat you. So they’ve got to start drinking and come up with a plan if they’re gonna last the night. There’s that old joke that God invented alcohol so that the Irish couldn’t take over the world. In this film, alcohol is the reason they can save it.
With a premise like this one, you’d expect the film to be a raunchy ruckus. But it’s exactly the opposite. It’s a slow starting film with more of a down home feel that makes it kind of sweet. At times, a bit too sweet. There are moments where the movie goes for a cute joke instead of an over-the-top one. But as the film progresses, so does the comedy. As the threat of the Grabber increases, the characters begin to take bigger risks which leads to bigger laughs. That being said, the jokes are pretty tame. Aside from a few cusses and the odd innuendo, this could almost be classified as a family comedy. The gore within the film is also light as the violence shown is more cartoonish in its execution. The gags play off suspense instead of being graphic. From a visual standpoint, it’s obvious that the filmmakers knew their limitations in the effects department and instead focused on delivering a more compelling story. The result is a film you can watch with your grandmother, which by no means is a slag on the film. What it lacks in bloody violence, it makes up for in great characters.
This film lives and dies by it’s characters, of which there are a few. Russell Tovey delivers an expected performance as Dr. Adam Smith that’s dripping with dry wit and pitch perfect timing. Lalor Roddy almost steals the movie as the clueless drunk Paddy. And David Pearse and Bronagh Gallagher deliver a showing as an equal parts funny and heartwarming couple who run the local pub and inn. The real weak point of the film is the performances of the two leads, Coyle and Bradley. They lack that little something extra that’s evident in the others. Lisa is suppose to be an outsider in the film, but O’Shea also doesn’t really feel right in the story either. There is a background to account for this but it feels forced. Also, the “love story” that is thrust upon the flick feels like it was put in because they felt they should have one as opposed to the story actually needing it. There is a lack of believability that a young, bright woman who’s a go-getter like Lisa would see anything in the downtrodden and at times rude O’Shea. He does nothing to deserve this interest until the end of the film and by that point, she appears to be head over heels for him….but that could be the booze talking. Thankfully, while their performances appear a step behind the supporting cast, there is still a level of likeability to these characters which is enough to keep an interest in where they end up. Plus, there’s a big sea monster to keep you entertained as well. Out of all the scenes in the film, the best has to be the party at the inn. The elements in play take a back seat to what we really came to see: a bunch of Irish folk getting shitfaced. The editing, music, camera angles and pacing of this scene really made me want to party with the people of this small village.
The great thing about this film is that it’s a comedy so it knows not to take itself seriously. And that is what makes this film. It’s not trying to scare you. It’s not trying to be amazing. It just wants to be fun. And while it’s was a slight bit tamer than I expected, it never loses sight of keeping things in the realm of good old fun. If you’re looking for a few laughs and a couple of interesting characters, Grabbers is fun for the whole family. It’s also not a bad way to start a festival.
To check the schedule for the rest of film screening, go to torontoafterdark.com.
And if you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!
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