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There lies rich tradition of dark tales in Ireland, but this
year’s midnight lineup in Sundance is aiming to subvert the somber with
GRABBERS, an Irish monster movie that’s poised to leave audiences buzzed. Fango
spoke to screenwriter Kevin Lehane about the film, its roots and the tentacled beasts
"Something sinister has come to the shores of Erin Island,
unbeknownst to the quaint population of this sleepy fishing village resting
somewhere off Ireland’s coast. First, some fishermen go missing. Then there is
the rash of whale carcasses suddenly washing up on the beach. When the murders
start, it’s up to two mismatched cops—an irresponsible alcoholic and his new
partner, a by-the-book woman from the mainland—to protect the townsfolk from
the giant, bloodsucking, tentacled aliens that prey upon them. Their only
weapon, they discover, is booze. If they want to survive the creatures’
onslaught, everyone will have to get very, very drunk!"
FANG: So what exactly is GRABBERS?
LEHANE: Well, I suppose trying to pin it down as a genre is
quite hard so we’ve always just referred to it as a monster movie. I don’t like
to refer to it as a comedy/horror just because the vast majority of
comedy/horrors or horror/comedies are terrible, so it’s sort of a little bit
like TREMORS, I suppose, or GREMLINS. It’s scary, but funny; not really an
extreme in either way.
FANG: I’m glad you bring up the difficulty of horror/comedy…
LEHANE: It is for a lot of films, but I find it’s just about
prioritizing what is supposed to be scary and what’s supposed to be funny. As
long as your monster is scary and your characters then are just sort of dealing
in funny ways, you’re usually able to get by quite easily. But the minute you
try and turn your monster or villain into a figure of fun, then it never works,
FANG: Does the comedy come via a buddy aspect?
LEHANE: It’s quite a big ensemble, really. It’s about sort
of a siege and a whole load of ragtag characters come together and try and
survive the night pretty much. It’s the characters that you would never expect
to see in this type of film, so they’ve got very different reactions to what
you’d normally expect. It’s headed up by sort of a buddy element with the two
police characters, but it’s an ensemble film.
FANG: When you’re writing an ensemble about folks you wouldn’t
normally see, are any of those based on people you know?
LEHANE: I wanted to do something that was authentically
Irish and a really cool Irish film that we’d never seen before. I just wanted
to write something that I would actually go and see on a Friday night the first
weekend it was out. I never expected it to really happen, because there hasn’t
been another film like it. It was just, really wanting to put my aunts and
uncles and friends into that situation and just imagine what would be the first
words out of their mouth if they saw something that you never really see. How
would they react? And just to play against a lot of the stereotypes, there’s no
sort of paddywhackery in it. It’s very modern and authentically Irish, and
quite accurate I suppose. I just wanted to make the characters clever as well,
so the solution that they come to is the smartest option.
FANG: While you were writing, how much were you visualizing the
monsters as well?
LEHANE: I’m quite a visual writer, so for the most party,
they turned out exactly like how I had imagined. There’s a whole ecology to the
creatures that I suppose you see in the film, and the first phase of their
evolution is slightly different to what I imagined, but it’s cool the way you
can deftly plot their progression. Once I met up with Jon [Wright, director] and decided I was
going to hand the script over to him, we had loads of conversations and built a
core unit between myself, Paddy [Eason, FX supervisor] and Jon and the producers, and just had a lot
of fun just bringing the world to life. When I was writing it, I wanted the
creatures to be sort of unique; the easy option would be to do vampires or something
like that. I wanted to create a new movie monster, pretty much.
FANG: When you say you wanted to make the film authentically
Irish, monster movies have a history of directly addressing national issues. Do
you think you tied their creation and what they look like to an Irish/cultural sensibility?
LEHANE: No, they’re quite symbolic I suppose. The main
character is dealing with his own demons and it’s quite literal that he’s
having to overcome monsters in order to put his own demons to rest. But no,
they’re aliens and nothing like you’d expect to see, and completely beyond the
pale, I suppose. The way we sort of summed it up was like, the clash of the
obscene with the serene.
FANG: When something is quite specific in its aim, and
locale and characters, it almost becomes even more universal. Do you think
GRABBERS will be relatable in its mission to specifically Irish?
LEHANE: I totally agree. I think that we watch movies to be
transported to things that we’d never normally see in our own daily life, so I
wanted it to just be really accurate and not to make any compromises for an
international audience or anything. The characters talk the way they would talk
if you met them in the street walking around Ireland and I don’t think there’s
anything that’s going to bump you, apart from possibly the word “crack” which,
in Ireland, basically means fun banter. Of course, ATTACK THE BLOCK last year
was full of its own sort of lingo; as long as you can understand the intent. We
just have a way with words, quite sort of lyrical I suppose.
For more on GRABBERS, head right here.
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