Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Funniest monster movie in a decade? Yes, if you can deal with thick Irish accents: Jon Wright and Kevin Lehane's irrepressible GRABBERS streams

Whoever came up with the idea for GRABBERS -- the just-now streaming movie released in the USA via IFC Midnight -- deserves free drinks for the rest of his or her life. This is one of those utterly inspired riffs on the good old-fashioned monster movie that takes the genre places we've not yet seen. The premise is so good, in fact, that I hesitate to give it away here. I'll just say that, as one of the movie's many clever posters (at left) suggests, "enjoy irresponsibly" -- if that gives you any clue. Written by Kevin Lehane and directed by Jon Wright (pictured below), the film takes awhile to get going, but once the gears are set in motion, there is no stopping this funny, frisky, grizzly, gory, thoroughly enjoyable genre-jumping comedic monster movie.

This film has a lot in common with Edgar Wright's recent The World's End in its love of alcohol and aliens, and yet the two movies are also quite different. (For one thing, E. Wright's has close to ten times the budget of J. Wright's). Beginning at sea, below, when something from space crashes into the ocean around Ireland and the crew of a nearby fishing vessel suddenly disappears, we know we're in for trouble. Mr Wright has a fine time building up suspense and finally letting us in on the space travelers' agenda and vulnerability. The only real problem here: those pesky Irish accents. Normally, when the dialog grows uncomfortably difficult to understand, we would simply turn on the English subtitles via Netflix streaming.

When we did that on this film, turns out the all the subtitles appeared in UPPER CASE BOLD -- which is more difficult to read quickly and takes up a lot more space than when upper and lower case letters are used. And with a film this dialog-heavy (you know those yakety-yak Irish!), this meant that sometimes half the screen was filled with subtitles -- which soon proved so annoying we turned them off. Then we did the best we could with our aging ears and probably missed around one-quarter of the verbiage on display, some of which is pretty damn funny. And we still enjoyed the film.

Grabbers, my friends, is an alcoholic's dream come true, for reasons you'll eventually learn. So when the travelers in that space ship begin terrorizing the little town, the townspeople take the proper measures, resulting in one of the funnier several scenes you will have seen in movies of late. There is irony here aplenty, and thankfully it is not underscored but simply adds to the delight.

The able cast is talented and lots of fun, the pacing is just fine (the movie lasts only 94 minutes) and the special effects are surprisingly good. No, they're ever better than that. This is not just a well created and executed pair of monsters. Even their offspring are delightfully thought-out, too. The scene in which those little guys destroy the town bar -- just like we remember from so many western movies -- is simply terrific.

Best of all, Wright and Lehane know their movie clichés well and so are able to upend them often enough to keep us happily on our toes. Which characters survive -- and why -- is always a fun guessing-game in films like this, and so it is once again. The romance (above) -- yes, there's one of those, too -- is handled better than most in this genre, as is the inevitable and final battle with Mr. Big, below. (I do wish they could have found some better way to deal with the last denouement cliché, though. A movie this good deserves a better send-off.)

Grabbers can be streamed on Netflix now, as well as on Amazon Instant Video and on DVD. Monster buffs will flock, of course, but I'll bet some of you who don't necessarily enjoy this sort of film will buy in, too.

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