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 at the time was terrifying and is now quite funny. It’s that B-movie sentimentality that’s difficult to capture honestly, precisely 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 – it’s 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, 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, 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. The result, 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 when the crabs descend upon the town, with a Gremlins inspired anarchy, these crustaceans devour everything in their path.
READ MORE: LOVE AND MONSTERS
There’s a lot to enjoy about Crabs. However, it does at times suffer from its intermittent sound design. For example, the prom scene is far too quiet, feeling sonically empty in its atmosphere. 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 on ideas towards its conclusion. While I won’t give anything away, it’s fair to say it tilts from a creature feature into a full-on Kaiju-meets-Power-Rangers climax. The result of which will either leave the audience praising its madness or shaking their heads in confusion.
Crabs reminds us that sometimes, films don’t have to be incredibly engaging or thoughtful to be effective – sometimes, play, entertainment and escapism is 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.