When watching Grabbers, the latest film from director Jon Wright and writer Kevin Lehane, it is immediately noticeable that the film is either a masterful parody or a badly executed creature feature. The trick is that the film doesn’t really show its true colors until nearly an hour into its running time. Until then, we watch the film wade through familiar characters, set pieces, and tropes with a general sense of confusion of what kind of movie this really is. When Wright and Lehane finally tip their cards, though, they do say with a noticeable smirk and nod, as if to say “gotcha”.
Assuming a viewer were to watch this movie with no previous access to the trailer or marketing materials, Grabbers plays it pretty straight during its first hour or so. Yes, there is humor sprinkled throughout, but that humor is subtle enough, and peppered within the normal buddy cop tropes, that it isn’t quite clear if the film is a parody or an awkwardly paced creature-feature. This narrative tightrope is what really sets Grabbers apart from most horror-comedies that come to mind. When a parody film lives this comfortably within its targeted cliches, it manages to be both a comedy and a loving tribute.
On the other hand, though, this same comfortable trope traipsing is a bit disorientating for a large portion of the film. While clever and loving nods to cinematic history and narrative structures are always welcome, when it is unclear if those nods are intentional or not the result is a bit of confused distance for the audience. Again, judging the film upon its own running time and not its advertised hook, Grabbers might play it a little too straight during the first couple of acts.
When the third act, and that advertised hook, kicks in though, there is no doubt what kind of movie Grabbers has intended to be the entire time. And to be completely fair, it is a pretty glorious conceit and subsequent execution. Once the action, and the comedy, begins in full force viewers will have a hard time keeping the grin off their face. The same familiar tropes are present, but in an amped up, nearly slapstick way. This fervor of a finale is not only spectacular, it shines a more favorable light on the intentions and execution of the scenes that have led up to it.
So, in the end, Grabbers feels a little uneven and strangely paced for a large portion of its running time, but the final thirty-minutes or so not only make up for it, it changes the viewer’s outlook on everything that has preceded the finale. The only problem is that Wright and Lehane have held their narrative cards so closely to their chest it is unclear if that final, comedic reveal will be enough to convince some viewers of the film’s own cleverness.
With that cleverness in mind, I should at least mention the marketing of Grabbers. As many of you know, I have had a pretty staunch hate/hate relationship with trailers. They not only often misrepresent movies, they tend to spoil important plot points and visuals. In the case of Grabbers, however, it may be the best plan of action to watch the trailer first. The marketed plot point will go a long way in framing what an audience is to expect as they travel through the first, relatively procedural, portion of the film.