Black comedy

Taboo subjects, gallows humor and dark comedy.


grabbers_poster“Tis no feckin’ lobster.” No, but it’s an Avatar-blue practical effects and CG sea monster which has locals on edge in Grabbers.

Lisa Nolan is a “garda” taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Dublin crime-fighting to take a sub role on “Erin Island,” a pastoral fictional backwater where everyone gets lacquered at the isle’s sole pub (Maher’s).

Chief among these, Nolan’s new partner, Ciarán, a perpetually whisky-drunk lawman with little in the way of laws to enforce (unless you count, self-arrest for DUI and of course he turns a blind blood-shot eye to that). That is, until blue blood-sucking tentacled creatures invade, picking off locals and bungeeing them airborne, shooting them like elastic bands over thatched cottage roofs.

Richard Coyle (A Good Year) and Ruth Bradley (In Her Skin) are effortless as the cop buddies and reluctant acquaintances, who, along with resident egg-head Dr Smith, have to make sense of dead whales washed up on the beach and other mysterious incidents that are plaguing the remote locale. Their physical comedy camaraderie is on-point, and the film’s peppered with eccentric locals such as unreliable narrator and other town souse, Paddy.

We eventually learn that alcohol is toxic to these creatures, so law enforcement interrupt a Sunday mass to announce a (free) party at the local pub in order to get locals sufficiently sauced to build up a resistance. It’s a terrific send up of the oft-excessive Irish drinking culture; it’s the country that gave us The Ginger Man for crissakes, not to mention, exporting blarney pub culture all over the planet.

grabbers_pubGrabbers though, is really just a lovely, leisurely and persistently charming send-up of 1960s creature features, a real Cork-er if you will…

Irish writer Kevin Lehane asked himself, “Why do the aliens always land in America? Why couldn’t they land somewhere else?” Lehane, born and raised in County Cork, reproduced real-life Sherkin Island on screen here. And that somewhere else is lovely, with rugged terrain and beautiful sunsets.

You can see the love that went into Grabbers.

Grab a pint, build up your immunity, and enjoy.

And Happy St Patrick’s Day.

***1/2 (out of 5)

Instruments of Evil

instruments_of_evilA shape-shifting Norse god deploys musical demons to plague prairie earthlings. Oh no, no that again.

In Instruments of Evil, the curse of the Dark Viking haunts the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, where this micro-budget was lovingly filmed (sans government support, but with corporate boosting via the likes of Benjamin Moore Paints and a brewery whose name escapes us).

This is anthology territory, and it’s pretty ingenious how things are braided together in this very, er, economical production.

In Hip Hop Zombies, an 80s recording session involving D.J. Daddy Long Leg’s monotonously catchy “Rise Up,” is interrupted by some strange sounds. Now, studio recording session mishaps are nothing new. There’s the very real “Roxanne” session where singer Sting accidentally sat on a keyboard, and the likely apocryphal tale of an unintended alarm clock going off just before Paul sings “woke up, got out bed” in The Beatles’ A Day in the Life.

Here, some voodoo chanting next door is getting under the skin of the guys behind the boards, not to mention the studio owner (should really have a sound-proof booth, but these are dark spells are impervious to physical barriers).  The curse eventually makes its way onto a vinyl press and is purchased by a skinny hipster and his girlfriend in present day (as an ironic joke).

Also kicking it in Saskatoon, MC Sikk, G Whizz, and Ice Trey (one of whom does a pretty excellent Snoop Dogg patter with his raps). They like to party with nose candy, about which Rodney Dangerfield said, “I don’t do coke, I just like the way it smells.” However, turns out it ain’t Peruvian Marching Powder they’re snorting but rat poison. And the musical trio doesn’t live to see an encore…

instruments_evilMeanwhile, back at the ranch…hipster + girlfriend are enjoying an afternoon picnic accompanied by an ironic playing of…you guessed it…”Rise Up.” And this revivifies the three dead rappers Fulci-style, emerging from their newly-dug graves.

In Gratuitous Violins, a Scream/Jigsaw killer kidnaps a boyfriend and girlfriend, chaining them together in a boiler room basement.

However, he buggers up his mode of execution, and his advanced killing apparatus fails to withstand basic gravity (it’s some kind of jerry-rigged table saw that collapses in a crash).

The killer soon becomes the butt of jokes as his would-be victims mock his inability to off them while engaging in banter about, of all things, how many burpees a human being is physically capable of performing (1000 is deemed beyond the pale, some 100 or so beyond what the authors of this site can handle, with one arm).

In the final (and perhaps weakest) segment Heavy Metal Devil, a Spinal Tappish opening act, Flame Demons (whose name is rendered on posters omitting the critical “F”), makes a, well, Faustian bargain to usurp cheesy headliners Hard & Faust.

Ultimately, where Instruments of Evil comes to life is through its connective threading. There’s never a dull moment (as promised), but there could’ve been some tightening / better execution of the jokes, especially when it comes to a certain murder weapon we’d mention if not for search engines…

It definitely captures the Troma-style DIY spirit. And low budget aficionados will enjoy the Manos: The Hands of Fate reference too.

*** (out of 5)