Grabbers, or: Irish Tentacle Monsters from Spaaaaaaace

I don’t expect a lot from movies about tentacle monsters, other than there should be plenty of tentacles and that those tentacles should rend many bodies asunder. Grabbers has no shortage of tentacles and plenty of rending, but the big surprise is that it’s an excellent movie. Yes, an excellent movie about tentacle creatures from outer space who terrorize a small Irish island. Bear with me for a minute here.

Grabbers is a film refreshingly free of stereoty….
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…never mind.

Okay, so Grabbers embraces the hard-drinking Irishman thing with all the fervor of a hungry tentacle beast. But it works. The film opens with that familiar shot (think Predator and The Thing) of something entering earth’s atmosphere. After splashdown and after offing the crew of the one fishing boat unlucky enough to be in the vicinity, the tentacle monsters head to the pastoral Erin Island.
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Pretty, innit?

And here the movie takes a breath to do something that not a lot of tentacle monster movies do. It establishes both characters and plot. With subplots, even! It’s a short breath, of course, we’re here for tentacle monsters, not Masterpiece Theatre. But we have enough time to meet the not-so-functional alcoholic Garda Ciarán O’Shea and the straight-laced Garda Lisa Nolan, the latter having been hired while the boss is away to keep the former in line. Garda, by the way, is the Irish word for police.

But something strange is afoot. Pilot whales with weird, tentacle-like marks suddenly beach themselves. A lobsterman named Paddy finds something that is decidedly not a lobster in his trap (and learns a valuable lesson about keeping tentacle monsters in your bathtub). And several people meet their doom courtesy of a much larger tentacle critter than Paddy’s new pet.

It isn’t long before Gardas O’Shea and Nolan, with the help of Paddy and a local marine biologist, figure out that the rolling hills of Erin Island are swarming with tentacle monsters. But these tentacle monsters didn’t check their guidebooks before heading to the Emerald Isle because they’re deathly allergic to alcohol. I won’t give away much more for fear of spoiling an enjoyable movie, but suffice it to say watching everyone cope with a tentacled menace while thoroughly shitfaced is both original and hilarious.

What Grabbers does right is character. It’s not often that I sit through a tentacle monster movie, or any monster movie, and wind up rooting for the humans. But I found myself hoping that a few of these people didn’t get decapitated, exsanguinated, or meet some other tentacled fate (especially Paddy who steals more than one scene). The solid characters raise what might have been a meh movie to a much higher tier. Above all, Grabbers is fun. It’s pizza and beer on a Friday night kind of movie.

Unfortunately, Grabbers is still hard to come by in the US unless you happen to have a region-free DVD player, but I strongly encourage you to track down a copy. Do it for Paddy.

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