The Toronto After Dark Film Festival kicks off tonight as it returns to the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema after a year away. Running October 18th through the 26th, the festival enters its 7th year of showcasing some of the best horror, sci-fi, and genre films from around the world. For tickets, a full list of films, and information, head on over to torontoafterdark.com, and stay tuned throughout the week for reviews and previews of a lot of the festival’s programming. Today, we take an advance look at one of the two opening night films: Grabbers.
Aiming for a crowd pleasing middle ground between last year’s foul mouthed Irish misanthropy of The Guard and the crowd pleasing North American monster movie stylings of something like Tremors, the Emerald Isle import Grabbers achieves a really basic set of goals without taking too many chances. It’s got a handful of belly laughs, moderate scares, and it will go over well with a crowd. In short, it’s a perfect selection to open a series like this.
On a remote island, a drunken and disgraced cop Ciaran O’Shea (Richard Coyle, soon to be seen in the British Pusher remake) and the temporary new girl (Newfoundland born and British raised Ruth Bradley) are asked to watch over the town while the sheriff’s away. Unfortunately from them, water dwelling aliens that look vaguely like relatives of the opera singer from The Fifth Element with grabbing and face hugging abilities have laid claim to the township, getting in the way of their potential romance and impeding O’Shea’s drinking problem.
The set up itself isn’t all that special and it takes a good 45 minutes to really get going. The meet-cute relationship between Coyle and Bradley is well handled and acted by the pair, but the sci-fi and horror elements are simply cribbed from any number of the films that came before it. The real hook comes when everyone finds out that the aliens are allergic to alcohol and everyone in the town starts getting piss drunk to gain some sort of immunity. Needless to say, not everything goes according to plan and that’s part of what makes the film end a bit more fun than it started.
The CGI on the creatures isn’t always consistent, but Jon Wright directs with a steady hand, getting the most possible out of some gorgeous cinematography and settings. It’s not perfect, but fans of old school “town under siege by monsters” movies will be sure to enjoy it quite heartily.