FrightFest 2021: Crustacean Carnage-Comedy Crabs! Is Worth Catching

Growing up, I loved the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes movies. The ridiculous nature of those films (and subsequent animated series) was apparent to me then. Rewatching the original recently, I can now conclude that its pacing makes it a trudge to get through. Still, those films will always hold a special place in my heart for being utterly fun nonsense. It’s the main reason why I couldn’t wait to see the body horror monster movie Cyst earlier this year at the Soho Horror Film Festival and why Crabs! was among the films I was most excited to see during FrightFest. I wanted to see it because of its obvious absurdity.  

There’s a lot of films out there about the horrors of irradiated sealife coming to shore to wreak havoc. It’s an interestingly deep genre. But don’t worry, because Crabs! is all surface. From the moment the film started, showing a nuclear powerplant blowing up via over-the-top photoshop explosions, I knew I was in for some serious silliness. The film intro preludes with an abundance of aerial drone shots overlooking a delightful seaside town, granting us our first kills in moralistic horror film fashion with a copulating couple on the beach first encountering the flesh-eating sea creatures.

Maddy stabs a horseshoe crab

The sand turns red pretty quickly, and another quick ariel shot brings us into town to meet our characters. Introducing us to Phillip McCalister (Dylan Riley Snyder) and his best friend Maddy (Allie Jennings), a chaotic punk rock soundtrack is provided to the youthful teenage rebellion of living in an otherwise peaceful town while establishing Phillip’s reliance on his wheelchair. The story is quick to let you know of Phillip’s genius, though, creating leg braces suitable for him to walk with the help of an imported power source that looks to be sent to Phillip by Tony Stark himself.

Ultimately, the film embeds us into the McCalisters’ lifestyle. Living out of separate trailer units, Phillip and his police officer brother, Hunter (Bryce Durfee), look to sell their property so they can get through a financial rough patch in the wake of their father’s death. Why the film builds up any of this, I don’t know. Crabs! never elaborates on much of its exposition but uses it as a break between the crab attacks the audience came to see. Hunter and Sherriff Flannigan (Robert Craighead) come upon the remains of a half-eaten whale in the next scene, as well as our introductory kills. With this knowledge, you’d think the sheriff’s office would be coordinating with town officials, but nothing ever evolves here either. Hell, when the horseshoe crab army begins to make themselves known in town, the grisly scene of guts on the beach never makes it into the highlight reel rundown section of local news, politics, or even McCalister family conversation prior to the proverbial sh*t hitting the fan. 

Fine, maybe it’s a sleepy town complete with an Amity-like mayor refusing to close the beaches in Jaws, but that could have been a lot more fun to have seen parodied. Crabs! also does a decent job sending up Jurassic Park, Gremlins, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and even the Godzilla films. Still, the movie plays in the same vein as Syfy channel’s Sharknado slate, though it perhaps feels like the shark genre is a bit played out, and it’s time for the rise of the claw-laden radioactive crab. The movie comes to a head as the McCalisters, Maddy, Maddy’s mom (Jessica Morris), and an exchange student named Radu (Chase Padgett) have to fight back against the mutating crustaceans at prom and attempt to save their town from further infestation.

Maddy's Mother fights off a flesh-eating horseshoe crab

When the movie started, it immediately reminded me of 2014’s Zombeavers with the sexually driven and sophomorically outlandish cold open. Now, don’t get me wrong, when you’re going to see a movie called Crabs!, you have certain expectations, and none of them are of academy award caliber material. We came for the schlock of it, and that’s really what Crabs! lives up to. The movie doesn’t exactly hold the same panic that surrounded those ‘50s era nuclear paranoia films, likely because it plays things in the modern era similar to the underrated Eight Legged Freaks. Still, it finds some imaginative Roger Corman-esque charm, and there’s fun in knowing there’s plenty of gore, guts, and kaiju-sized crabs to keep even the hardened horror hound entertained for eighty minutes.

Criticizing a movie like Crabs! isn’t difficult—it’s an easy target. I think that’s why I love these types of movies. They’re unapologetic nonsense made out of a love for the genre. Put simply, Crabs! is exactly what you’re looking for if you’re hoping for ludicrous entertainment. The acting is mostly good, some of the jokes hit gut-busting territory, there are awesome practical effects, and the film’s popping color palette is far better than it should be. Where it suffers is in the sound department of overdone redubbing, but at the same time, I could argue that it kind of plays into the kitschy monster films it’s playing on. All of this wraps into an immensely enjoyable experience provided by first-time writer-director Pierce Berolzheimer, one that is probably best enjoyed with a group of friends who can laugh at the overabundant setup and gawk at the excessive carnage of the crab killings.  

Crabs! played as a part of Arrow Video FrightFest 2021 with a virtual showing scheduled for September 1. The film is currently awaiting release in the US.

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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