Tom Doty Times Columnist

April 18, 2014

A small fishing community off the Irish coast is the scene for an alien invasion of giant, bloodsucking space squids in this throwback to those creature features of the 1950s.

This flick announces its intentions with authority via the opening. A fishing boat spots a meteor falling to earth. They are almost immediately set upon by an off-screen beast that appears to have many tentacles. The boat, suffice to say, doesn’t make it back home.

The next day finds Erin Island abuzz with activity. The missing boat has plenty of people worried and the island’s police chief has gone on vacation. Luckily, he had appointed a temporary replacement. Her name is Nolan and she finds it a challenge assisting the other island cop, O’Shea. Turns out that the straghit-laced Nolan doesn’t approve of O’Shea’s constant drinking and lack of etiquette, and O’Shea, in turn, thinks she is a stuck-up snot.

The mismatched pair have their hands full. A pod of whales beach themselves on the island and appear to have been mauled. People start turning up dead (with all the blood drawn from their bodies), and then there are the bizarre eggs popping up all over the beach.

Local scientist Dr. Smith has a theory. He thinks the creatures in the eggs will grow to enormous size and then feed on the locals. He further posits that an adult version of these creatures is on the loose and looking for its offspring.

Pretty soon, O’Shea and Nolan observe proof that Smith is right. They arrange for a military solution, but no one can get to the island till morning, so they have to devise a way to contain the isle’s tiny population without raising suspicion. They have accidentally discovered that alcohol is poison to the creatures, so they hatch a plan. Get everyone to the pub for a party and make sure their blood-alcohol level is high enough to save them from harm.

That’ s right, folks, they opt to lie to everyone about the danger and get them pie eyed to boot. It actually turns out to be a decent a plan, until a crowded restroom forces one poor soul to stagger outside to relieve himself. Shea and Nolan go out to confront the monster themselves, but can they defeat it when their judgment and reflexes are clouded by drink? You will have to rent this to find out, but you won’t be disappointed.

What I love about this movie is that the people behind it like monster movies. They take modern special effects and use them to enhance their story rather than sell it. The difference is this feels like a 1950s flick (albeit with a better budget and script ) and not a SyFy Channel rip off meant to showcase a new director as he films a checklist of stuff you put into a monster movie. There is a real love for genre flicks in every frame of this movie, and it makes a difference.

First off, they give you likeable characters. Richard Coyle and Ruth Bradley have real chemistry together as O’Shea and Nolan. You wind up caring about their fate and rooting for them to stop the monster so that their awkward, yet inevitable, romance can begin.

Director Jon Wright also puts in a few nice touches that fans of the genre will enjoy. Naming the scientist Dr. Smith is an obvious one, but a mid-film attack scene is lifted straight out of 1958’s “The Crawling Eye” and sci-fi fans will love it. In the beginning, they use the infamous “Wilhelm scream” when the boat captain is grabbed off the deck.

The best bit is the alcohol concept. Getting a bunch of people drunk sounds like an invitation to a sophomoric comedy, but the film actually gets more poignant than dumb when alcohol is added. People begin opening up to each other and letting down their guard. It is touching without ever getting maudlin.

The creature is good, too. It looks like a squirming mass of tentacles, except for the hole in the center that is filled with about six manhole-sized, razor-sharp teeth that look like jagged pizza plates.

Great stuff that proves Ireland may just be the next best place for genre flicks. Look for Wright’s next picture, “Robot Overlords.” Based on the strength of “Grabbers,” he was able to net a larger budget and to land Sir Ben Kingsley and “X-Files’” Gillian Anderson as his leads.

Best Line: “I need a photograph for National Geographic, and Facebook.”

2012, unrated.