October 1st, 2012

Steve Buscemi with a chainsaw

31 Days of Halloween II: Electric Boogaloo

I'm doing it again, because I'm a glutton for punishment.

Last October, I watched -- and wrote up -- a different horror movie every night. It was a great little exercise. I got to do some writing, I got to make a small dent in my depressingly long backlog of films, and I may have broken my brain on the Japanese movie Hausu. I had such a good time that in spite of the various weeknight commitments I've picked up in the meantime, I've decided to do it again! God help me.

As stated last year, I have regular obligations on certain weeknights which may prevent me from watching a feature film, but I have fond memories (fonder, in most cases, than is really warranted) of the Halloween specials that used to air every year when I was a kid, and I plan to revisit some of those. There are also quite a few excellent short films available around the web, that might make good fodder for nights when I just don't have a lot of time. The emphasis will be on feature films I've never seen before, mostly on older ones, and while they'll all be generally Halloween-appropriate, they may not all be horror. I haven't made a definite list yet, so we'll see how it goes. Got suggestions? I'm willing to entertain them.

Now, without further delay, 31 Days of Halloween II: Electric Boogaloo

October 1: Grabbers
October 2: Troll
October 3: Two Thousand Maniacs!
October 4: Sleepy Hollow
October 5: Monster Dog
Octoebr 6: The Toxic Avenger
October 7: Garfield's Halloween Adventure
October 8: The Lurking Fear
October 9: Vigor Mortis
October 10: The Shadow Out of Time
October 11: Angel Heart
October 12: The Beach Girls and the Monster
October 13: 20 Million Miles to Earth
October 14: Moon of the Wolf
October 15: House
October 16: The Cabin in the Woods
October 17: Messiah of Evil
October 18: Alabama's Ghost
October 19: Psychos in Love
October 20: The Black Cat
October 21: Brain Dead
October 22: The Wasp Woman
October 23: Tales of Terror
October 24: The Real Ghostbusters: The Halloween Door
October 25: Tucker and Dale vs Evil
October 26: The Theatre Bizarre
October 27: The Invasion of the Bee Girls
October 28: Prey [The Terrible Old Man]
October 29: Night Train to Terror
October 30: Haunted Honeymoon
October 31: Mockingbird Lane / The Worst Witch / The Amazing Screw-On Head

31 Days of Halloween: Grabbers

Talk about starting with a bang! Grabbers is one helluva giant-squid-from-outer-space movie, and the most surprising thing about that is that it's a good film. No, really, I was very pleasantly surprised. I'd heard about this one several times over the last year -- mostly on various H.P. Lovecraft-related blogs, which is a fine way to get recommendations for indie horror movies I might otherwise miss, but it's never a sure sign of quality. I end up hunting down a lot of dreck, and movies like Grabbers are the reason I keep doing it.

Grabbers is an Irish film set in a small, coastal village. One night a meteorite flames overhead, and a fishing trawler goes to investigate. The crew are massacred by something big and unseen, and as the next morning fades up onscreen, one begins to wonder if this is going to be The Thing meets Jaws, which is a popular-but-unfulfilling recipe that I'd rather miss, if it's all the same to you.

We are introduced to Lisa Nolan, a young policewoman from the big city who has decided to spend some vacation hours filling in for a sergeant who is taking a vacation of his own. Her new, temporary partner, Ciarán O'Shea, doesn't think it sounds like much of a break. Incidentally, O'Shea is a man, which I mention for the benefit of those of you who are unfamiliar with the name Ciarán (i.e., everybody). He's also a drunkard. Our heroes' first order of business: check out the beach, which is strewn with the corpses of several whales that washed up overnight. What's with all the sores on their sides? Probably banged up against the rocks on the way in... Probably...

Meanwhile, Paddy, the town drunk, discovers an honest-to-God sea monster while lobster fishing. He takes the thing home, puts it in his bathtub, and it's not long before the little beast attacks him, latching onto his face like one o' those things in the movie Alien, 'cept more tentacly. He beats the thing into submission, and takes it to the local biologist who is over the moon about the discovery. Why, no one's ever seen anything like this before! The little creature is, of course, the beginning of an alien invasion, and its mother -- or whatever it has -- is hiding in a cave along the coast, waiting for the rest of her eggs to hatch. The aliens are lethally dangerous, so how did Paddy manage to escape? Perhaps it was something he ate, or maybe even something he drank, possibly to excess... There are worse places, I suppose, for alcohol-intolerant aliens to land than coastal Ireland. Urban Ireland, for example. They won't get that far.

I'm not giving much away. This is the first half of the movie. The second half stomps gleefully into territory already covered by Shaun of the Dead, Slither, Shivers, and any other number of horror comedies, but it's the execution that makes Grabbers stand out. This is a thoroughly Irish movie in the same way that Shaun was thoroughly British, and the filmmaking is as top-notch as one can possibly expect from a horror film. Granted, the bar is pretty low, but at a time when mainstream horror basically equates to gory torture porn, Grabbers has a lot of heart. Those other movies have a lot of, I dunno, lower intestine.

Grabbers was written and directed by Kevin Lehane and Jon Wright, respectively, neither of whom has a long or recognizable resume, but they know their craft. The players are equally unknown to me, but you'll recognize a face or two from Doctor Who and other BBC shows. Everybody is pretty good, though Paddy's dialogue could've used subtitles. I get the feeling that this is a uniquely American complaint. Oh, and I liked the musical score.

Roger Ebert, in reviewing Shaun of the Dead, said of zombies that they're tedious; they distract you by popping into frame and requiring that you bash them in the head with a pool cue before returning to whatever you were doing. "It's more fun sitting in the dark eating peanuts," he says. Grabbers has a similar climax, where the entire population of the town packs into the local pub and gets as pissed as possible in order to be inedible to the monsters. It's familiar territory, but the jukebox is playing a different song.

That's not a good joke, but it's slightly better if you've seen both movies.

Here's the trailer.