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Exclusive Interview With Kevin Lehane Writer Of Grabbers
By James Whittington, Monday 3rd September 2012
One of the stand-out pieces at FrightFest 2012, personally speaking was Grabbers.
This superb creature feature was written by the very talented Kevin Lehane (picture left). We had a quick chat to him about this inventive crowd pleaser and what future plans he has.
HC: Are you a fan of the creature feature genre?
KL: Yeah, absolutely. What I love about Creature Features is the creativity involved in making them. At their best they're intelligent, character driven stories about survival and societal ills. Alien, Tremors, Jaws, Predator, An American Werewolf In London, Attack The Block, they're all fantastic films and great examples of 'elevated genre', and I'd argue they are as important as any Oscar-bait film. You can also view a lot of Creature Feature's monsters as metaphors for something more profound. Dawn Of The Dead and Gremlins are nightmarish tales about consumerism and how its warped society, or in Gremlins case, eroded the concept of Christmas. The Thing is a tale of paranoia and how quickly we as a society can destroy ourselves when we cannot identify the threat. Ginger Snaps is as much a horror story about puberty as it is about werewolves. District 9 is about apartheid. There's a lot more going on in a good monster movie than just characters fighting for their lives.
In Grabbers case, our story is about two self-destructive, dysfunctional heroes whilst also a social commentary for rampant drink culture and peer pressure to conform-the film being set at the weekend for this reason. Our monsters (that kill sober people) are as much about the metaphorical demons associated with alcoholism as they are great, big f**k-off amphibious spider-squids from outer space. I like that you can tell multilayered stories with horror films, and other than the western, I don't know of another genre that's as focused on subtext as it is on entertaining the shit out of its audience.
HC: Where did the idea for Grabbers come from?
KL: I was backpacking in the South Pacific and being bitten by mosquitoes. I kept being told to eat lots of Marmite as the vitamin B would act as a deterrent. It's a myth but I thought it was fascinating that you could conceivably eat something that would make you inedible, and it struck me while I was having a few beers and slapping mosquitoes left, right and centre that it'd be a lot more fun if they were allergic to alcohol. I woke the next morning with a hangover and a load of new bites and wrote in my travel journal: get drunk to survive. After that, I couldn't wait to get back home and write the script, and I spent the rest of my travels praying no one else would beat me to it.
HC: How long did the script take to come together?
KL: It took about six weeks to write, and it was that draft that we took all the way to pre-production. Once I had the story, and the characters, the rest just became about doing the premise justice and writing the kind of (Irish) film I really wanted to see.
I remember, too, writing the "Weapons, what have we got?" scene first and realising that if I could build a film around that moment then I could have a lot of fun with the script, and I did.
HC: Were you involved in the casting at all as it really is perfect?
KL: We had a brilliant casting agency in VHJ Casting, who are ubiquitous in the industry at the moment. They were the ones who found all of our actors, and really populated the film. I did get to see all the tapes and chime in with my thoughts but it was obvious to all of us who the right actors were for each part. I remember Lalor Roddy (who plays Paddy) was the first person we cast and once we had Paddy cast it really became about making the rest of the cast fit into Paddy's universe. A lot of it came down to chemistry, too, especially with Ruth and Richard. They just clicked, and were a lot of fun to watch in their audition, so we knew they were the perfect Lisa and O'Shea. You can tell watching the film that the cast are having a ball on screen, which is infectious, I think.
HC: It's an effects heavy movie with many stand-out pieces but were there any scenes that had to be cut due to budget?
KL: Yeah, there are a few, but that's inevitable really. The good thing is you don't really miss them, I hope, but it's fair to say we had a lot more on the page than what we could afford to do. My two favourite scenes from the script got cut on the day of shooting due to scheduling issues, which was a shame, but then when you're shooting through blizzards and gale force storms and bitter rain, you have to do what's best for the film as a whole. The scenes I miss most of all tend to be focused around the pub in the third act. We had a lot more drunken anarchy that never made it off the page but it still works, I think.
HC: Would you like to revisit the creatures and create a sequel?
KL: I have an outline for a sequel that doesn't go the route some might expect, but that's only because I don’t like that many sequels, especially as too many tend to undo all the work of the original just so they can tell the same story again. If Grabbers 2 ever did happen, I'd hope it would up the stakes even higher and show another side of the creatures. A lot of it would be set out at sea, figuring out what exactly sunk at sea and following what the coastguard were up to while we were on the island. That being said, it'd take something incredibly special to bring all of us back and do Grabbers 2. We're too proud of our film to do anything that could sully it.
HC: Were you nervous before it was shown at FrightFest?
KL: A little, but I've been lucky enough now to see the film with audiences all over the world, at different festivals and whatnot, and I've enjoyed every screening, so I tend to just enjoy sharing the film with audiences. Grabbers is a very different film to the kind that's more commonly made nowadays, and it's fun to watch it with a crowd. We're not a brooding, cynical or nihilistic horror film, we're more of a heart-warming, irreverent and fun ride. An old-school date movie.
HC: Do you think the humour in the movie will be translate well in other countries?
KL: Foreign audiences won't get everything, but I don't think they should. There are a few lines that land with Irish audiences that don't anywhere else, and that's intentional. I wanted the characters to speak like real, everyday Irish folk, rather than fictional characters constructed to deliver punch-lines for the masses. I also felt that for Grabbers to work, it needed to subvert its stereotypes rather than perpetuate them. The Irish sense of humour is more laidback, flippant and mercurial than most, too, a cross between whimsy and cynicism, and that's quite different to the American style of quips and snark, or the British style of irony and socially awkward situational comedy.
HC: It’s been in many people’s top 5 from the event, you must be proud of that?
KL: Absolutely. The FrightFest and the Edinburgh Film Festival audiences have been fantastic to us. Hopefully the good word of mouth will spread from them and folks will seek Grabbers out and take it to their hearts. It comes out on a limited release in the UK on December 28th and follows in the US not longer after that.
HC: So what are you working on at the moment?
KL: I'm always working on a few things at once and right now those are a high-concept action-thriller, an epic adventure set in mythological Ireland, an action-comedy TV pilot, and a Sam Raimi-esque horror-comedy that's very different to Grabbers but equally as fun, I think. Just keeping busy, really.
HC: Kevin Lehane, thank you very much.
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