Garda Ciarán O'Shea (Richard Coyle), an alcoholic, initially resents his new partner, Garda Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley), a workaholic seeking to impress her superiors by volunteering for temporary duty in a remote Irish island. After discovering mutilated whale corpses, the quiet community slowly comes to realise that they're under attack by bloodsucking tentacled aliens of various sizes that came from a ball of green light that fell from the sky, dubbing them "Grabbers". When Paddy (Lalor Roddy), the town drunk, inexplicably survives an attack, the local marine ecologist, Dr. Smith (Russell Tovey), theorizes that his high blood alcohol content proved toxic to the Grabbers, who survive on blood and water. O'Shea contacts the mainland, but an oncoming storm prevents any escape or help. The group also realizes the rain will allow the remaining large male Grabber to move about the island freely. Seeking to keep calm in the town, Nolan and O'Shea organize a party at the local pub, intending to keep the island's residents safe but unaware of the danger. Initially hesitant to join in a celebration when no good reason can be offered, the people enthusiastically agree when Brian Maher (David Pearse), the pub owner, offers free drinks. O'Shea volunteers to stay sober so that he can coordinate the towns defenses, and everyone else becomes drunk.
In a drunken stupor, Nolan reveals that she has come to the island to escape the shadow of her more-favoured sister. When they are alone in a squad car, Nolan confesses to O'Shea that she has feelings for him despite turning down his advances earlier. Smith wanders outside the pub and tries to get a picture of the beast, reasoning that his inebriated state will protect him from being eaten. Instead, the monster throws him into the air and kills him. Nolan and O'Shea escape to the pub, where they try to protect the townspeople. Nolan drunkenly reveals the danger they are in while trying to reassure everyone that nothing is trying to kill them. Panicked, they retreat to the second level of the pub, and baby grabbers take over the first floor. Nolan accidentally sets the pub on fire while trying to sneak out, but she and O'Shea manage to draw the attention of the adult.
O'Shea and Nolan drive to a construction site, and the monster follows them. There, they hope to strand the monster on dry land, as it needs water to survive. Before they can successfully set a trap, the monster arrives and attacks O'Shea. Although wounded, he survives the attack, and Nolan uses the heavy construction equipment to mount a counter-attack, pinning it at the base of a pit. The monster grabs O'Shea, but before it can eat him he dumps a bottle of Paddy's moonshine into its mouth, sickening it and causing it to release him. Nolan then ignites nearby explosives with a flare gun, killing the Grabber. As the storm clears up, they return to the town and O'Shea throws away his flask. The film ends with a shot of more Grabber eggs hatching.Richard Coyle as Garda Ciarán O'Shea
Ruth Bradley as Garda Lisa Nolan
Russell Tovey as Dr Smith
Lalor Roddy as Paddy
David Pearse as Brian Maher
Bronagh Gallagher as Una Maher
Pascal Scott as Dr Jim Gleeson
Ned Dennehy as Declan Cooney
Clelia Murphy as Irene Murphy
Louis Dempsey as Tadhg Murphy
Stuart Graham as Skipper
Micheál Ó Gruagáin as Father Potts
The film premièred at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and played at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2012. The film continued its festival run across the world screening at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Taormina Film Fest, Fantasia Film Festival, PIFAN, Sitges, Toronto After Dark Film Festival, Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival, London FrightFest Film Festival and held its Irish première in July 2012 as the opening film of the 24th Galway Film Fleadh.
Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that Grabbers received positive reviews from 72% of 29 surveyed critics; the average rating was 6.3/10. Damon Wise of Empire film magazine described it as "a romantic but surprisingly scary monster movie that feels like a lost Amblin flick, shaken and stirred with a dash of The Guard. ... a finely crafted tribute to a long-lost style of filmmaking [that] stands up in its own right too." Matt Glasby of Total Film rated it 3/5 stars and called it "a bright, breezy Irish monster mash boasting gorgeous cinematography, appealing performances and great SFX". Gareth Jones of DreadCentral rated it 4/5 stars and said, "it is one hell of a good time that offers plenty of laughs, excellent characters and performances, and big slimy monsters." Jordan Hoffman of US cable channel IFC summed the film up as "a delightful romp", while Upcoming Movies gave it four stars and called it a "fun, monster movie roller coaster" with a "mix of laughs and scares". The Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin called it a "cherishable Irish B-picture ... with an unimprovable premise". Kim Newman of Screen Daily said of the film: "Kevin Lehane's smart script is canny enough to sidestep the expectations of fans who might think they know how films like this are supposed to play out, while the monsters are as well-realised as anything in far more costly productions." The Irish Times said, "Grabbers has an atmosphere all its own: the humour is earthy without being patronising; the action sequences are both absurd and properly exciting." Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian rated the film 3/5 stars and described it as "a likable and technically impressive comedy-horror" that is "fantastically silly, often funny". Sam Adams of The A.V. Club rated the film B- and criticized the film's climax as "a letdown" and "cheap imitation" compared to the first half's "sharp-edged parody". Marc Mohan of The Oregonian rated it C- and called it "a one-dimensional, one-joke film." In a negative review for Variety, Dennis Harvey called the film polished and watchable, but criticized the writing as "pretty tepid, middlebrow stuff". Nigel Andrews of the Financial Times rated it 1/5 stars and said, "For a horror comedy it needed some comedy and some horror."
At the Edinburgh International Film Festival, it was announced as one of the "Best of the Fest" of the 2012 line-up. At the Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival, it won the Audience Prize for Best Film, and at NIFFF, it won two awards: the Audience Award for best film and the Titra Film Award.
The film picked up two 2014 Fangoria Chainsaw Award nominations for Best Script for Kevin Lehane and Best Creature/FX for Shaune Harrison and Paddy Eason. It was also nominated for a Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for Best First Feature for Kevin Lehane as well as for four IFTAs at the 2013 Irish Film and Television Awards. Bronagh Gallagher for Best Supporting Actress, Kevin Lehane for Best Feature Script, producers David Collins and Martina Niland of Samson Films, alongside Forward Films and High Treason Productions were nominated for Best Film and Ruth Bradley was nominated and won for Best Actress.