The subgenre of horror comedy often works best when executed with a straightfaced delivery of story, allowing circumstances of the narrative to play into the humor instead of diving too deep into the world of parody and spoof. Humor, at least when combined with the horror genre, tends to not rouse as hilarious or memorable reactions when you expect the joke, and when the joke grows organically out of the terrifying and often ridiculous scenarios that the characters encounter, the unexpected slice of humor will in fact elevate the next unexpected scare. And often times, horror will increase the danger within the comedy scenario, and therefore, the film will even become more emotional than an audience may have expected.
Of course, it’s this emotional core that landed Shaun of the Dead into the annals of horror comedy history, and also lends greatly to its cinematic companion, Grabbers, out now in theaters and on VOD from IFC Films. Grabbers takes a very similar, albeit culturally involved, scenario of battling the horrific around a pub and adds an extraterrestrial element, using malevolent and monstrous aliens to incite the gags that follow. But rather than copy any film of its ilk, Grabbers uses an ingenious spin, one that may be more grounded in its Irish setting, to truly make the film stand out, then populating it with a devoted and superb cast of character actors. Brilliant, visually impressive and drop-dead hilarious, Grabbers definitely feels like a seminal horror comedy in the making, implementing a new-school execution on an old-school concept.
Grabbers would not nearly be as effective as either a horror or a comedy if not for it’s wonderful narrative, unafraid to make the proceeding film thrilling while savvy enough to not become somber and unforgiving. The film mostly concerns the audience with the film that they’re watching, allowing most of the character backstory to be learned through action and dialogue cues rather than exposition, which is more impressive when you realize how recognizable and enjoyable these characters are. Kevin Lehane’s script brings about an incredibly innovative method for fighting back against these aliens, which is too good to ruin here, but even without the aforementioned twist, Lehane’s parallel between the characters previous lives and eventual fates is top-notch and terrifically revealed by director Jon Wright. Wright also benefits himself with a splendid mix of special effects, using practical when he can but also reveling in some budget-astounding digital effects as well.
Another reason why the film is as funny and emotionally gratifying as it is lies in the brilliant casting, relying on an ensemble that works off one another without mugging for the camera or competing to steal scenes. The personality type of each character compliments the dry and dark humor of the film, and each performance of the film is accentuated with such gusto and sincerity that it’s difficult not to sympathize with them. The actors all around are magnificent, and Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley’s chemistry is incredibly charming and wonderful, which grows organically and logically throughout the film; a rarity in the genre world. Commendation is also owed to Russell Tovey, David Pearse, Bronagh Gallagher and Lalor Roddy, who each are given moments to shine and never feel like caricatures, even when defined by their quirks and intuition.
Most importantly, however, is the film’s balance of horror and comedy, using the mechanics and expectations of both genres to springboard one great moment after another. In all honesty, the film places laughs before laceration, using several deaths as punchlines and working with musical cues reminiscent of the early films of Peter Jackson. However, Wright and Lehane assemble a genre tale that’s reflexive without being explicitly self-aware, which is key for the film to find relatable humanity in both physical humor and comedic dialogue. In fact, Lehane and Wright’s use of native dry humor consistently hits its marks and never delves too far into being just plain mean-spirited and repetitive.
Overall, Grabbers has its priorities in the culturally appropriate place, letting the horror work its magic from the nastier moments and give way to the broader comedic moments. Lean, mischievous and focused, Wright seems not to ape any horror-comedy brethren but instead forges a genuine value with the film, which makes the characters and the story itself feel weightier and ultimately, more enjoyable. Whether Grabbers works for fans of just comedy or just horror is based on individual preference, but Grabbers is a fun and clever ride while it lasts, and is a top contender for cult status, especially with the encouragement of alcoholic enhancement.
ED. – You can check out Colin McCracken’s chat with Grabbers writer Kevin Lehane and SFX Artist Shaune Harrison in Issue #17 of Diabolique Magazine, on sale soon!
– By Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine and Fangoria Magazine. He’s a graduate from MontclairStateUniversity, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.