Cast and crew on the upcoming creature feature
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“I haven’t seen creature features like Grabbers for a long time now and I’ve missed them,” observes director Jon Wright on the Irish coastal town location of what promises to be a 2012 genre highlight. He continues, “You know, the sort of comedy monster movie like Gremlins and Tremors, something hugely entertaining with terrific characters, but that’s still scary too. The moment the Grabbers script landed in my lap, it literally grabbed me, and I could see it’s potential. It was a brilliant concept, seeded in a very real and engaging community spirit, with that all-important ingredient, a monster ‘wow’ factor.”
Depending on whom you talk to in the cast or crew the description of Grabbers varies between “‘Father Ted’ meets The Evil Dead“ and “Jaws crossed with Local Hero“ to “Shaun of the Dead by the seaside” and “Kellyâs Heroes vs. Aliens.” But what everyone agrees on is how fantastic the screenplay is detailing what happens when the remote fishing enclave of Erin Island is shattered by an alien invasion of giant bloodsucking sea creatures and the tiny population realizes their only weapon is alcohol.
Written by 29 year-old Kevin Lehane, Grabbers is the first script from the Irishman to enter production after years of prior works just being optioned. “I think it’s the simplicity of the Grabbers idea that fast-tracked it,” Lehane points out. “Four years ago I gave up writing and back-packed around the world. Everywhere I went I kept getting bitten by mosquitoes and would be advised to eat more Vitamin B, like in the Marmite spread, so such savage attacks would stop. I found it fascinating you could ingest something that would make you immune to these vile insects. Then one balmy night sitting on a verandah getting drunk, a mosquito landed on my arm. I thought, I hope you get intoxicated too, fly into the wall and kill yourself! A light bulb went off in my head. I woke up with a hangover the next morning to find I’d written down ‘Get drunk to survive’ in my travel journal. Returning home I wrote Grabbers in record time.”
Lehane’s script was soon doing the rounds and within weeks attracted the interest of producers Tracy Brimm and Kate Myers. The Forward Films duo had already teamed up with director Jon Wright for the teen horror Tormented and thought Grabbers could be their ideal follow-up. “There was a warmth to Kevin’s writing we sparked too,” explains Myers, “That, combined with his storytelling skills, clear understanding of the Irish locale, culture and charm, and a delightful rogue’s gallery of characters you really cared about.” Brimm adds, “There was an Amblin movie old school feel about it in the Gremlins and Jurassic Park tradition that felt authentic and not manufactured. The moment the three of us met Kevin there was clear synergy between us all. Kevin loved Jon’s fan-boy credentials â they spent hours talking about all things John Carpenter â and he liked the fact we made no crucial changes to his screenplay while promising him a movie that would look at least five times its budget.”
In his first starring role since appearing in the blockbuster Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Richard Coyle plays O’Shea, the washed-up local policeman forced to sober up when the fang-jawed, barbed tongued, multi-tentacle spider-like aliens start invading his sleepy shores. “Being funny and frightening is a hard balancing act to maintain,” remarks Coyle. “But I thought the Grabbers script got that tone exactly right. Plus the irreverent comedy element had a great deal of substance to it. O’Shea does the minimum to keep people happy. Then the giant Grabber turns up followed by the smaller mother and the baby ones we call Jumpers because of their springy tails. So he has to clean up his act real fast – a big alien monster chasing you along a beach squirting nasty liquid will do that!”
O’Shea also has another motive for his sudden change in lifestyle: Lisa, played by Dublin-born Primeval TV series actress Ruth Bradley. “She’s an uptight workaholic cop whose idea of a vacation is going to Erin to help out,” states Bradley. “She’s so obsessed with being busy to hide her loneliness and insecurity. But then she meets O’Shea and her teetotal days are over. I loved the script because it affectionately poked fun at Irish culture in the way that Waking Ned did and the core relationship between O’Shea and Lisa is a superb foundation for exploring that quality. Jon Wright, Richard and I got completely drunk one night and filmed it just so we could see what we were like under the influence and what mannerisms and actions we could use when we came to shoot the scenes. I was completely mortified! It made us all realize the drunkenness had to be faked. I made sure Jon destroyed the tape. It will not be turning up as a DVD extra I can assure you.”
Vying for Lisa’s affections is research scientist Smith played by Russell Tovey, star of the hit TV fantasy Being Human. “I’m the only Englishman on the island so I didn’t have to learn an Irish accent like Richard,” laughs Tovey. “Smith thinks he’s discovered a new species when encountering the Grabbers but soon learns the awful truth. Jon has told me I’m the best drunk in the movie, which slightly worries me. I mean, is that a compliment? But I must say I’ve loved doing the stunt work tonight as we’ve all congregated at Maher’s pub where we’re besieged by the creatures Night of the Living Dead style.”
That public house location is in Moville, County Donegal, a perfect match to interiors filmed before Christmas 2010 in nearby Belfast. “Aliens always landing in America really bothers me,” comments director Jon Wright. “And Grabbers was the ideal script to blow that notion out of the water and funnel the fun monster mayhem through an independent movie prism. In these days of Monsters, District 9 and Moon, where you can’t tell what’s CGI anymore, Grabbers can deliver all the action and thrills of a Hollywood tent pole. We have an extensive post-production period where Nvizible visual effects supervisor Paddy Gleason [Clash of the Titans] can augment the work of prosthetic creature effects man Shaune Harrison [Captain America] to create and finesse the exciting alien action. I want something feral, primal and H. P. Lovecraft influenced, like in The Mist, that if it came at you out of the dark you’d experience an adrenalin rush. And when people are also drunk while battling these nightmares, well that’s the most entertaining movie I could possibly think of, one that pushes both horror and comedy buttons hard.”
Source: Alan Jones