Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Grabbers, or: Alcohol Is the Answer

New round of Jillian & Christa’s Great Blog Collab! Compare/contrast with Christa’s excellent review on her blog.

(We’re just going to pretend it’s still Sunday or I have to acknowledge my role as the worst collaborator in history. Worse than the Nazi collaborators.)

The Film:

Grabbers

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Premise:

Alien tentacle monsters terrorize a small Irish island until everyone realizes liquor solves all of your problems. Or at least all of your alien tentacle monster problems.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

In the beginning, an ominous light streaks across the sky towards Earth (presumably aliens).

Whatever THE THING is (yeah, it’s aliens), when it crashes off the coast of Ireland, it takes out the entire crew of a fishing trawler (admittedly, a very small fishing trawler).

What will happen next??? Will we discover humanity is the true monster? (No, it’s the alien tentacle monster.)

Cut to eager young policewoman arriving on a small Irish island. A hungover cop is there to greet her/grumble and generally act like a dick.

Meanwhile, shots of the gorgeous Irish coast are interrupted by a significant number of small-ish whales washed up on the beach (immediately thought this would be a Star Trek IV rip-off, and the Enterprise crew would turn back time to save the whales). At this point, we get two stories of ocean life gone wrong—the first follows the whales, which the police and a marine ecologist investigate. Marine ecologist Russell Tovey (actual actor who has been in real movies; you have now entered the Twilight Zone of bad movies) says sometimes these pilot whales just wash ashore for reasons no one understands. The power of science has failed us, just like it’s failed to bring us a reliable method of teleportation.

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This is by far the most gorgeous monster movie I’ve ever seen.

Other ocean life gone wrong story happens when a crusty old fisherman, Paddy, catches what he describes as a lobster. (In the words of another Irishman, “It’s no feckin’ lobster.”) Paddy VERY wisely decides to give the “lobster” a new home in his bathtub. Largely because he is in a constant state of intoxication, Paddy brags about his discovery to anyone who will listen, including that cop, O’Shea, who is not so secretly an alcoholic.

O’Shea is definitely really into new cop Nolan, which he makes embarrassingly clear by showing up at her door drunk and asking her out. She responds by putting him in lock-up for the night.

At the same time, the creatures kills at least 3-4 more people. The “lobster” in Paddy’s bathtub has migrated to the ceiling and attacks him (coincidentally, it looks quite a lot like the tentacle/vagina monster from Watchmen).

I decided not to use the tag "Vagina monster" for this post (to avoid [more] internet creep traffic), so I'll make up for it now: vagina monster vagina monster vagina monster vagina monster vagina monster.
I decided not to use the tag “Vagina monster” for this post (to avoid [more] internet creep traffic), so I’ll make up for it now: vagina monster vagina monster vagina monster vagina monster vagina monster.
All of this is punctuated with some gorgeous shots of the island. Sea monster tentacle aliens or not, I want to live on this island.

Next day: Smith, the marine ecologist, is studying the grabber (as Paddy calls it). Based on the structure of its tongue, the grabber must attack its victims and drink their blood like a leech. It essentially just needs blood and water to survive. This particular specimen was pregnant and full of grabber baby eggs.

It was pregnant and full of grabber babies. Smith suspects the whales were killed and used as a food source for the spawn.

After investigating one of the grabber attacks, Nolan and O’Shea return to the lab, where they light the grabber on fire. That’s right—IN THE LAB, which triggers the sprinkler system. Remember how the grabbers just need blood and water to survive? As Smith comments, “You really are Irish” (apologies to the Irish).

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At least Nolan is on stand-by with the fire extinguisher? However, everything else about this picture demonstrates terrible fire safety.

The grabber attacks O’Shea’s face so he becomes difficult to distinguish from Davy Jones in POTC. It then turns to Paddy, but shows little interest in his blood. The old drunk guy is still alive, and the thing wasn’t interested in him; so they realize Paddy’s blood-alcohol level would’ve been toxic to it.

Brilliant plan: have a lock-in at the pub, stay out of the way, and drink. The only problem is that Nolan doesn’t drink and doesn’t even know if she can get drunk, which leads to an inspirational speech from O’Shea. As it turns out, Nolan CAN get drunk. Slurry, giggly, stumbly drunk. After the island doctor injects the tentacle monster with Nolan’s blood, there is one less tentacle monster to worry about.

So the cops get everyone to the pub, and the small group of people that knows about the real reason for the party discusses defense plans.

When a supersized version of the tentacle monster crashes the party along with some of the tentacle monster babies, the cops move the party upstairs. A fight breaks out because of course it does; there are many drunk Irish people in a small, enclosed space (sorry again, Ireland).

When the islanders realize the reason for the party, they start brainstorming, coming up with some GREAT drunk ideas like throwing a bomb at the monster or pushing it off a cliff. TOTALLY going to work. Finally, Nolan comes up with the least terrible idea to catch it with a crane and leave it out to dry. Unfortunately, she also inadvertently lights the pub on fire.

Will the plan succeed??? Does this movie suddenly become The Towering Inferno??? Can the poor Irish villagers ever stop drinking???

For dramatic effect, I will leave these questions unanswered. Also because this post is already 1,000 words long, and I need to cut myself off.

Seriously, I think you should watch this.

The Critique:

This movie has way better production values that I expected; it’s an IFC Film, and the effects/acting/film techniques are decent to good. Even if this movie were totally awful, the beautiful shots of the Irish coast would make up for it (though this movie is far from awful). It was surprisingly subtle/non-exploitative, especially for a horror-comedy. As Christa notes, most of the time I was laughing with the movie rather than at it. The entire experience was like stepping into the Twilight Zone, but in a good way—like in that episode where the grandmother comes to live with the kids and everyone is pretty much okay when she turns out to be a robot.

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Seriously, the most charming fucking setting for a horror film ever.

Biggest complaint is that there were several times I had to turn on the captions, especially to understand Paddy and other drunk characters (plus there was a character named Tadhg, for feck’s sake. So many consonants, so few vowels).

Also one of the lessons of this movie is sorta that love solves all of your problems, including and especially, alcoholism. But hey, that’s Hollywood.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I know; this rating is losing all meaning because I use it for EVERY film.

Check out Christa’s review here.

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Film Reviews

Pontypool: Or, Quebec Rises Again

The Film:

Pontypool

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Premise:

A talk radio show host begins receiving calls as strange events (aka the zombie apocalypse) unfold in a small Canadian town.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film opens with a Twilight Zone-esque radio broadcast. The narrator tells us ominously, “Something’s about to happen. But then, something’s always about to happen.”

This narrator turns out to be Grant Mazzy, controversial talk radio host just about to begin broadcasting on a small-town radio station after being fired from his hit show.

Grant is driving to work in a blizzard when he stops to answer his phone. (Canadians are so responsible.) As he’s pulled over, a woman suddenly appears, bangs on the passenger window, and disappears. Grant is kind of freaked out, but continues on to work anyway.

When Grant arrives at the radio station, his assistant, Laurel-Ann is already there. It’s apparently Valentine’s Day, a detail I really appreciate. He begins a rant on-air about people growing pot in their basements until his boss, Sydney, abruptly cuts him off. Grant then makes an announcement that Honey the cat is missing.

A bigger story breaks, however, when Ken in the Sunshine Chopper reveals that a large group of people have gathered downtown outside of a doctor’s office. Military vehicles are also present. A group of people suddenly explodes from the building, and chaos ensues. Then Grant loses contact with Ken.

Not the most exciting screen cap in the history of blogging, but I didn't have a whole lot of options.
Not the most exciting screen cap in the history of blogging, but I didn’t have a whole lot of options since the majority of the film takes place inside the studio.

Meanwhile, Grant is scheduled to interview a group who will put on a musical version of Lawrence of Arabia (which, coincidentally, would make an excellent bad movie). The interview goes pretty well until one kid starts babbling, “I can’t remember how it ends. It just keeps repeating.” Not good.

After the interview, Grant begins taking calls from those who are first-hand witnesses to the events. They describe masses of people repeating bizarre chants and cannibalizing other people. These calls all end with screaming and a suddenly lost connection. Some suspect it’s the Quebec separatists because, I mean, it’s always the French.

Ken in the Sunshine Chopper calls back and reports it’s not safe outside. He sees someone he knows who is just making weird alien baby sounds. Grant advises him not to approach and, of course, Ken doesn’t listen. RIP Ken.

Suddenly, a French announcement interrupts the broadcast: stay inside, avoid contact with close family members, terms of endearment, and the English language as a whole.

At this point, Grant starts losing it. He storms out of the recording studio, yelling at Laurel-Ann and Sydney as he prepares to exit the building. His yelling draws the zombies, who start repeating the words he’s said. Ultimately, he is forced to stay as the zombies trap everyone inside. Laurel-Ann becomes infected, repeating “m” words to herself. The doctor mentioned earlier breaks into the building, and they all barricade themselves in the recording studio. Well, except for Laurel-Ann, who is locked out and keeps throwing herself against the glass.

It's not good to be Laurel-Ann.  Or really any kind of assistant in a movie.
It’s not good to be Laurel-Ann. Or really any kind of assistant in a movie.

The doctor explains that the virus is transmitted by infected words in the English language (this film seriously is Quebec separatist propaganda). When the word is understood, the virus takes over and copies itself in our understanding. It’s in the language and thus has the ability to reach into reality (THIS is why we had that Twilight Zone intro earlier).

We finally get some of the blood and guts required in basically every zombie movie when Laurel-Ann EXPLODES. The other zombies also manage to break in, but are drawn back outside when Grant and Sydney broadcast a recorded message over the loudspeaker: “Sydney Briar is alive.” This message is repeated so many times that it doesn’t even sound like words after a while. Then “O Canada” suddenly blares in the room Grant and Sydney are hiding in (I’m onto you, Quebec separatists).

The doctor starts to lose it, going out into the blizzard, and later returning. He says that if the disease is in the words, the cure must be in words too. When it becomes obvious the doctor is infected, Grant and Sydney leave him and barricade themselves in another room. Then Sydney becomes infected, and both she and Grant attempt to disassociate words from their meanings in an effort to cure her. For example, “kiss” becomes “kill.” So when Grant says to Sydney, “Kill me,” they begin an end-of-the-world, linguistic experimentation make-out session. Because nothing brings people together like a zombie plague.

"I'm so turned on right now.  Kill me." Uh...what?
“I’m so turned on right now. Kill me.”
Uh…what?

Grant goes back on the air and spreads the word, telling people to stop understanding what they’re saying: “Yellow is crowded, friends are verbs.”  And he’s not even a New Age poet.

The cure may all be in vain, however, as the government begins bombing the infected.

EL FIN.

The Critique:

I think this is a really cool concept—a linguistic zombie plague. The symptoms of the disease are loss of language and repetition of certain bizarre phrases (along with the standard slow, mindless walk and craving of human flesh).  As a blogger and librarian, I believe words are perhaps the most powerful tool we possess. The failure to communicate is an under-emphasized consequence of zombification.  Probably because being a rotting corpse that kills and eats people usually takes first place on the “Reasons It Sucks to be a Zombie” list.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther heads

Nice concept, but the film suffered from some execution problems.  It’s interesting that the action occurs almost entirely in the radio station; however, I got really sick of staring at those cold, gray walls.  And there were also limited opportunities for screen capping.