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During the film’s opening moments, I was curious about which route the filmmakers would take. To show the monster, or not to show? A brief, violent pre-credit sequence piqued my interest, as a man on a fishing boat is jerked into the night sky by an unseen creature. A slim, sharpened tentacle plunges through his torso, there’s a scream and woosh!….he vanishes. Grabbers, indeed. And for the first 15 or 20 minutes, the movie is content to develop its sweet, endearing characters and keep the monster in the background.
Leads Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley share a genuine chemistry (Bradley‘s enchanting performance is one of the highlights of the movie - her ability to “play drunk“ is uncanny). The Irish location shots are gorgeous. A few background characters are rolled out, all well-developed and memorable. At one point I realized that I could come to care about these characters and setting, and if things got ugly and frightening later on in the movie, it might be disturbing. But then Grabbers revealed its cheesy mid-budget CG squid monsters, and you could feel the collective tension drain from the Sundance audience. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on your preferences. Rather than tease the audience along with the promise of potential scares, Grabbers declares its intentions early on: “I am not a scary movie,” it says, “I am a monster movie.” And as we all know, there is certainly a difference.
I realize it sounds like I’m beefing with a completely enjoyable monster flick, and what’s my problem, right? Why not just leave it alone, let it be what it is? Because a monster movie can be both fun and scary. Don‘t get me wrong, I liked the hell out Grabbers, but if it had revealed its monster just a little less often, and been just a little more menacing in its approach, it could have transcended mere likeability on the way to horror greatness.