Grabbers

Drink to live
★★★★
☆
Released: 
2012
Director: 
Jon Wright
Starring: 
Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley, Bronagh Gallagher, Russell Tovey
The Setup: 
Monster on Irish island avoids people who are drunk.
Discussion: 

Everyone loves a good monster movie. The problem is: how do you know which ones are good? Especially with so many stinkers out there. But a quick perusal of IMDb showed this one gaining almost unanimous praise, and it had a funny idea: Irish people have to drink in order to survive a monster, so sure, line it up. It also, by the way, was a warm, breezy night in Chicago, and allowed me to live the dream of watching a movie while sitting out on my balcony. [That was in November. Now, come February, that seems unimaginable].

We open with some quiet music and a lovely shot from way above Earth as a meteor enters the atmosphere. It's amazing how one good shot can bring you right on board to a movie. It lands near a fishing boat, and the three guys there are soon monster snacks. The next day we meet local policeman Ciaran, waking up from a bender. He picks up arriving policewoman Lisa, who is fresh-faced, chipper, and will soon be revealed as a real stickler for rules. They have the usual tension at first, which we know will warm up later. Already we can see that this movie is not holding back on the beauty of the island, which will continue throughout, all rendered in lovely and rich cinematography.

Soon we see that a bunch of pilot whales have washed up, with deep gashes. There we meet local scientist Adam, who is handsome and charming while Ciaran is not. Local elderly drunkard Paddy gets a small monster in his lobster cage, takes it home, and puts it in his bathtub. When he returns, it has escaped, and we see it for the first time... a big slimy mass of tentacles, with a mouth in the middle, and a long tongue that shoots out and impales its prey. The tongue shoots Paddy, then rejects him, allowing him to beat it and take it in to Adam for dissection. They realize it likes water, and go looking in a big cave, where they find a huge one. They call for help but--you'll never believe this--there's a huge storm coming!

SPOILERS > > >
Around now you might be asking "I thought this was a horror-comedy, yet it's just not very funny." This starts to change when, after soaking the one in the lab, Adam picks up a shovel, Lisa picks up a knife... and Ciaran carries a rolled-up magazine. They soon deduce that it rejects anyone who is drunk, and that a particularly strong homemade drink of Paddy's will actually kill it. Lisa reveals that she doesn't drink, so the first task is to get her drunk, which leads her to be very smiley and happy. They go to church and tell everyone [apparently every single townsperson is there] that they're serving free liquor at the bar, and everyone gets up to go. They have a big party.

I don't think it'll surprise you to learn that the monster attacks. What is a bit of a surprise is that all the monster's babies come bouncing up, as previously we have seen eggs all over the island. And we knew that Lisa and Ciaran were going to overcome their animosity and fall in love, which happens as expected, but in an unexpected and charming way. When drunk, she tells him that she likes him, and he says he's flattered, and that she's "a beautiful drunk," but that it's not the time. Barring a few wrinkles, things proceed exactly as you might suspect.
< < < SPOILERS END

So it brings very little to the genre, and almost nothing new and surprising, but it is light, entertaining, charming and beautiful to look at, and that makes it worthwhile. The characters are rote, but the actors are charming and they make going through the expected paces go down smooth. It's not particularly scary, or funny, but it is well-made and good-natured, and more than amusing enough.

Curiously, they don't make as much as you might think about the gimmick of being drunk as a way of surviving the monster. I know some Irish embrace their stereotype as big drinkers, while others resist, and this one tries to have it both ways. Ciaran, a drunkard for the first half of the film, finds his sobriety during the climax, which is narratively neat, but a bit ridiculous, considering that there are actual practical reasons to get drunk, that night of all nights. But the thing they do focus on and bring to the forefront is pub drinking as a warm social tradition, and the entire film is good-natured and made with pleasant fellow-feeling. While also displaying the visual charms of Ireland. As tourism-boosters go, I could imagine a far less genial one.

Should you watch it: 

Sure, you can get to those dishes later, although I wouldn't stay in for it.