The morning after a mysterious object lands in the sea and some local fisherman are attacked on their boat, the beach of an Island off the coast of Ireland is left covered with dead whales. Mystified by it, local policeman Ciaran and newcomer policewoman Lisa try to investigate but soon discover the normally quiet island has been invaded by bloodsucking aliens.

Making its European premiere at EIFF, Grabbers is a fun and inventive mash-up of monster action, comedy and heart that pays homage to everything from The Creature From the Black Lagoon to Shaun of the Dead and beyond. But writer Kevin Lehane and director Jon Wright still somehow manage to make it feel original in spite of its obvious influences, finding astute ways to integrate the alien attacks with a small town cast of characters who are as funny as they are believable.

Richard Coyle, also seen in the Pusher remake (EIFF review here), is an extremely likeable lead, filling the Simon Pegg sort of shoes as a man usually so drunk “he’s no used to nobody” (as he says himself at one point) called into action to help protect the locals from the aliens. It also somehow manages to work in a love story involving him without it feeling forced or contrived. Coyle and Ruth Bradley have a lovely chemistry together and their growing relationship throughout adds a sweetness among the anarchy.

The alien monsters are fantastically well done, craftily utilised to achieve fun scares mostly involving, as the title suggests, them grabbing their victims suddenly. The effects – a clear mix of practical and digital – used to bring them to life are quite astonishing particularly for a low-budget flick and the film doesn’t let them go to waste as many other similar movies would. We see plenty of the aliens, especially towards the latter half and the inevitable climactic showdown, and it has the necessary quality of effects to make that very much a good thing.

It may not be the most unpredictable plot in the world and the end may not come as a total surprise. But it nevertheless makes up for that by being a hugely enjoyable, imaginative and often hilarious monster movie with as much heart as it has bite. A little gem of a film.