Frightfest presents Crabs, book festival tickets here.
In the 1950s and 1960s, creature features were all the rage; from Creature from the Black Lagoon to The Blob and The Thing from Another World, you couldn’t stop creatures from coming and trying to invade! They had a pulpy earnestness to them that was as terrifying as it was funny. That B-movie sentimentality is difficult to capture honestly because it lands on the knife-edge between lovably crummy and convincingly engaging. You’ve got to go into it knowing what you want to do, and fortunately for us, Pierce Berolzheimer knows precisely how he wants us to see Crabs.
From its first minute, you can tell Crabs intends to pay homage to its B-movie roots – its typical American seaside town and upcoming high school dance more than familiar. Here, Philip (Dylan Riley Snyder), who uses a wheelchair, is determined to create a pair of cyborg legs to assist his walking. His mission is to dance at the school prom with his crush, Maddy (Allie Jennings). However, monster crabs are about to be born following a radioactive incident, and the town’s safety is about to be held in the pincers of a new foe.
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The integration of practical FX alongside CGI can either work or fall flat in low-budget horror, but it works exceptionally well with Crabs. The scuttling, hard-shelled monsters are reminiscent of cult classics like Critters, and just as Critters laced its horror with humour, Crabs does the same—the action on screen, surrounded by a goofy self-awareness of its B-Movie heritage. Of course, it will not win any screenwriting awards, but that’s precisely the point – it’s schlocky and intentionally stilted- a love letter to the classic creature flicks that made us laugh, jump and spit out our popcorn in delight.
Chase Padgett’s Radu is the comedic stand-out, with some Wagyu-beef comedic chops; it’s the delivery that sells the humour, laying it on thicker and thicker like a caricature. But, despite its goofy schlocky atmosphere, Crabs also embodies some genuine horror. After all, crabs are inherently freaky-looking creatures, naturally horrifying without ramping up their appearance. Recent movies, such as Love and Monsters, have also played with this visual horror, by expanding the decapods to gigantic proportions, just as in Roger Corman’s Attack of the Monster Crabs (1957). But Crabs doesn’t need to fully super-size its menace as the fun begins and the crabs descend upon the town.
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There’s a lot to enjoy about Crabs; however, it does, at times, suffer from intermittent sound design. For example, the prom scene is far too quiet, feeling sonically empty. This takes you out of the moment, and while it doesn’t ruin the film, it certainly does undercut it, which is a shame. Equally, Crabs does perhaps overindulge ideas towards its conclusion as it transforms from a creature feature into a full-on Kaiju-meets-Power-Rangers climax.
Crabs reminds us that sometimes, films don’t have to be incredibly engaging or thoughtful to be effective – sometimes, play, entertainment and escapism are just what we need. Crabs delivers this in spades. Its hungry razor-sharp pincers snapping at your heels as humans are placed on the menu.