Interview with Grabbers director Jon Wright

Grabbers is the larger than life new comedy from Irish director Jon Wright that tells of a monster invasion on a small island off the coast of Ireland. In order to survive, our heroes must discover the monsters vulnerability, which, as it turns out, has benefits for the humans. met up with Jon to talk monsters, mayhem and the demon drink.

What attracted you to making an Irish movie with such an unusual concept?

JW: I read the script and I just thought it was original; I couldn’t think of a movie that had used the premise in this way before. It was beautifully written and the characters were fantastically realised. It had a superficial appeal and it works on a broad level as well as a deeper, metaphorical level.

Grabbers feels like an old school monster movie, what other movies did you use as inspiration?

JW: I was very inspired by ‘Jaws’. Our writer, Kevin was very inspired by ‘Tremors’, but I missed seeing it as a teenager; I saw it as an adult… I was also inspired by ‘Aliens’; there is no doubt. I am a huge fan of Ridley Scott.

The movie has been described as a MonRomCom (Monster Romantic Comedy), would you agree?

JW: Oh yeah. We knocked that about when we were thinking of a line for the poster. It’s a kind of film that a teenage boy can bring his girlfriend to the movie and she won’t hate him afterwards. Or maybe the other way around! Maybe the teenage girl can bring her wimpy boyfriend to see it in the cinema. Yeah, I think that description is fair. We tried to keep it a bit more grounded than ‘Shaun of the Dead’; there is a scene where Simon Pegg is throwing records at zombies, which is funny, but it is not very believable.


Where did the design and look of the Grabber come from?

JW: We wanted to get away from the idea of this creature looking ‘human’ and having two eyes on a horizon, if you know what I mean. Humans kind of move up and down, but we wanted this creature to be based on a circle in the way it moved and its mouth. It kind of moves like a tumbleweed and we had to keep reminding the animators not to fall back on a human looking creature.


The characters rely on being drunk to deter the creature, did you get blind drunk under the guise of ‘research’?

JW: Richard Coyle, Ruth Bradley and I went out on a Saturday night in Belfast; we went around all the famous pubs and got horrifically drunk, then I filmed them. I have been using camcorders for years, but it took me 45 minutes to turn this one on [laughs]. We did it to get an idea how their mannerisms and things they do when they are drunk, so they could incorporate it into their performances. After a while Ruth passed out, then I realised that Richard had passed out, so I left and slept in the hotel lobby. I woke up with a horrific hangover and got thrown out of the hotel [laughs]. I showed Ruth the footage, which I was nervous about; she is a beautiful girl, and the tape did her no justice, but she watched it. Then we destroyed it – that was part of the deal. So we went and filmed on the Monday and if Ruth wasn’t quite getting it right, I would remind her of mannerisms she used on the tape. Richard never watched it. [laughs]


The film is arguably the first Irish monster movie, how do you hope audiences will respond to the film?

JW: I hope they will enjoy it, especially the Irish audiences. It is pure escapism.


How do you follow up a monster comedy? What will you make next?

JW: I have two projects that I am working on at the moment. One is called ‘Our Robot Overlords’, which is set three years after the global domination by robots. Everyone is confined to their houses and the streets are patrolled by giant robots and nobody knows why. The film is about a gang of kids who figure out how to go outside and they go on an epic journey across their small town and they find out why the robots came and what they are up to. The other project is called Howl; a commuter train that is on it’s way out of London gets stuck in a dense forest and is surrounded by a pack of werewolves who is looking for their next ‘Alpha Male’. They are both about things that I love, but I don’t know which will happen first.

Read more in this months Movies Plus (M+) magazine – In cinema foyers now. 

GRABBERS is at Irish cinemas from August 10th

Words – Brogen Hayes