Filmed on a Red One camera in 4K digital and presented in 2.35:1 @ 24fps, the AVC-Mpeg picture is extremely clean, moody and full of detail. The transfer looks superb, as one would expect, given the source material. The favoured rig for DoP Trevor Forrest has been a hand held over the shoulder system, so much of the close up work is gently swaying. This adds to the drama and does not feel overplayed. The colour palette leans toward the earthier end of the spectrum and this fits well. Focus is very good, but exposure has had to be corrected at times, leading to occasional black level issues. One issue I did find was trying to tell if the black trousers Ruth Bradley wears for much of the movie were indeed trousers, jeans or leggings. The blacks were so crushed it was difficult to tell. The look is more akin to a Doctor Who episode than a major feature film – fairly tight, contrasty shots with little scene setting and the use of real locations, not re-created studio sets. This is not a criticism, merely an observation, as the overall result is good. The special effects and CGI is approaching Hollywood blockbuster quality, it really is that impressive. The practical monsters look very original and not too latex and the CGI really brings them to life. The great “storm” that has cut the island off is the only let down, looking more like a heavy shower than a mini hurricane. Big sprinklers are OK, but a couple of huge fans and some debris would not have gone amiss, either real or digitally created. Lighting is predictably notable by its absence, given the small, tight scenes, but a few of the larger locations would have benefited from a few extra lumens to lift some of the backgrounds up a little and balance things out. I have to keep reminding myself the tiny budget this film had, it really does look a lot better than you might expect, if not quite in the top league.
Christian Henson has written an interesting, original and suitably creepy score and it fits the film very well. The use of a full orchestra adds to the feeling of a high class production, along with the more traditional Irish instruments. Purists of Irish folk (my wife included) may snort at some of the traditional tune recreations, but most of us won’t even notice these minor faux pas. The DTS HD-MA 5.1 stream is dynamic and loaded with surround information, some subtle, some not quite so. The sound of the tentacles whipping around my head still sends shivers now, just thinking about it. Dialogue is clean and crisp and sits well in the mix, with the occasional word becoming buried. If this was a £100Million epic, I would be a little harder, but for the budget horror genre, it stacks up extremely well.
As soon as the menu comes up, you realise that some care has gone into authoring this disc. There are some major releases that don’t look or work half as well. The menu looks great, with animated buttons and slick navigation. Resume is correctly implemented and everything works just as it should do.
Moving on to the extras themselves, we get:
- Director’s commentary: Just for once, please listen to this, it is brilliant! Instead of a bunch of guys sitting in a room trying to fill the dead air with something to say, here a set of discussions have been edited together to loosely fit the film. Think of it more as an extended interview than a true commentary. The participants do admit to having a beer or too during the recording as well, which helps!
- The proper interview with the director is next and this is somewhat drier than the commentary, but still worthy. At 15 minutes long, it does not feel too much of a slog.
- The making of is another relatively short piece. It is OK, but suffers with audio issues in terms of level in some of the interviews and more importantly some serious uncorrected colour and exposure problems on location but makes good viewing all the same. Broken down into a number of sections, we hear from most of the cast and some of the crew as well. The producers also get in on the act, but this does feel more of a distraction.
- The score is superb and an audio version is included in the disc.
- The outtakes reel is somewhat laboured and gets boring after a while. There is a bit of corpsing mixed in with some larking around and unused and sometimes rambling footage where the camera kept rolling just in case something useful turned up. Not really required on this sort of film, we know the cast enjoyed making it and do not need to see their lesser performances. This might have been better split as a gag reel and deleted scenes, as the differentiation is not always that clear.
- We also get to see the trailer (advert would be a better term as this promotes the Blu-ray, not the film release) and a stills library as well set to the score as well.
Language support is minimal, with just English subtitles.
Monster madness of the best kind. Funny, gory and with some excellent CGI. This movie deserves to be taken seriously. This film snuck in under the radar on release and it would be a shame if the same happens on the Blu-ray, given the post-Christmas lull launch date.
The script, acting and action are all very good indeed, leading to a most watchable movie. The cast is strong and they really get the tongue in cheek, yet tightly focused style. Filming in sub-zero temperatures cannot have been fun, but this has not come across in the final production.
For a budget movie – and you do have to keep reminding yourself just what a shoestring this was made on, Grabbers is an excellent film. If you like your horror tinged with comedy and not too gory, look no further. A possible contender for cult status in a few years’ time.
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