Xavierpop Does @TADFilmFest – Louis Takes On (And Loves) The Opening Night Film ‘Grabbers’

The population of isolated Erin Island have a calm, quant life free of most of the worst aspects of the modern world. That is until this idyllic existence is disturbed by the arrival of a meteor in the night that happens to release some sort of blood sucking aliens bent on, well, sucking the life out of the islanders.  And so begins Grabbers, the opening night film for this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival. A delightful film that showcases not only the island, but a genuinely funny and well directed film.

The local Garda (Richard Coyle), his fresh-off-the-ferry colleague (Ruth Bradley) and a valiant marine biologist (Russell Tovey in Barbour), begin an investigation when several whales wash up on the beach together. When one of the local drunks captures a ‘grabber’, and subsequently kills it from the sheer volume of alcohol in his blood when the grabber tries to kill him, the trio discover a way to keep the island inhabitants alive until help arrives. And help won’t arrive until after a impending storm rolls through that very night. How to keep them all alive? Keep ‘em all drunk. The twists and turns of not only discovery, but of getting all the residents to the church are as amusing as they are charming.

The writing is well done. One can see and feel each of the characters in this small community as living and vibrant. Director Jon Wright does a good job of echoing 80’s b-flick atmosphere throughout the film with an emphasis on the fun and irreverent. The characters all have a ring of truth to them, but without descending into the cliché or bad dialogue. There is a very realistic tone to the scenes where the various actors are supposed to be drunk. Rather than blame the characters for poor decisions, their drunkenness serves as an obstacle to both amuse and understand.  Taken with the honesty with which the characters are written, the overall effect works outstandingly well for a low budget film. The relationship between Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley, while predictable, is no less fun to watch because of the witty and clever banter the two share throughout the film.

Related – Check out our ongoing coverage of The Toronto After Dark Film Festival

The acting is superb and the CGI monsters are quite passable. While treated to three basic types, small, medium and large, the effects work very well most of the time, with only a few instances where someone in the production didn’t quite match the effects to the film. Despite this, the film has enough other aspects that work so well as to overlook the minor flaws. In the end, one feels the cast is laughing with you, not at you, and through good acting and well placed irony, you are laughing at the situation and not the bad effects.

Filmed in a very stylish and slick manner, the film is bright and well lit, even in the night scenes. Shot in the north of Ireland, it showcases the rugged beauty and we get a feeling for both the imaginary islanders isolation and the harshness of their lives. The soundtrack only enhances the action unfolding onscreen, rather than being either distractive or generally awful as is the norm for lower budget films.

Recommended as a fun, old school horror film.