I Sea the Laughs That They Imagined
Please allow "Crabs!" to indulge itself, won't you?
The immediate attention grabber for the modern 1950s monster movie throwback Crabs! is found on the poster itself. It’s of a beach that’s infested with little crabs, following a giant crab, heading away from the shore. When noticing the skin tone sand, the scabby colored dots, the position of the crease, and some of the beach textures and shadows, another perspective comes up. Venereal disease suggestive imagery? Despite this tease, the movie isn’t some gross-out fest ala Troma or even a straight-up horror.
So what’s the deal with this? What is it?
In one scene, the hero Philip (Dylan Riley Snyder, Life During Wartime) says to his best friend and love interest Maddy (Allie Jennings), “That’s a mighty fine pussy you got there." They're dissecting cat carcasses for a class project. His apology comes immediately, and things move on to a throwup gag. It was difficult to tell exactly how to feel about this scene other than awkwardness. Crabs! isn’t crazy crude, no matter how much it would rather be. Immature for sure, ignorant sometimes, but not dirty. Not very.
A sex scene on the beach does open the film, but I still wouldn’t call it dirty.
Crabs! is focused on a group of so-called outcasts, made up of Philip and his cop brother, Maddy and her teacher mom, and the foreign exchange student Radu. During prom night, all must deal with a horde of deadly crabs. Ranging in size, the creatures descend on their town in droves. They bite, they kill, and they get behind the DJ booth to pump up the jams. Whatever angles that were being developed before the attacks don't matter so much after, leaving Philip “overcoming" his disability (he's a wheelchair user), and Radu speaking "funny" as the bulk of the "action."
Crabs! handles Philip as someone burdened by disability. It’s a silly notion that's wrongheaded to write, but it’s also on the low end of the ableist totem pole. Philip is clever and confident and goes to absurd and silly lengths (satirical of the genre?) to be independent. Not bad, but there's some cringe. And, while silliness is one modus operandi of the movie, being sweet is the second.
I mean it.
With some kindly and cute lovey-dovey behavior between friends turned lovers, Crabs! is best when letting moments occur between Philip and Maddy. The teacher mom and the cop brother share some nice scenes too, letting everyone have some joy on prom night. Their chemistry is genuine and sincere, and when things settle down long enough for the actors, something special happens. It’s nice.
Then the crabs come in.
And so does Radu.
Chase Padgett plays Radu with the attitude of one man taking on a whole army. Ultimately though, he runs low on gimmick by the end of the story. It's as if director Pierce Berolzheimer banked his movie all on Radu, the one character that the cheap comedy hinges on. Padgett is no marathon man, but damn does he go full blast as the foil, falling into the role with surprising ease.
Still, ease up a bit.
Or lighten up.
Should I take this advice too?
I’m uncertain what Crabs! is, or rather what Berolzheimer wants it to be. It’s so unwieldy and wild, down to the opening title credits that refuse to finish on its own beat. But, whenever it falters, there’s fun and fancy to be had. There’s plenty of romance, plenty of blood and guts, and some playful mad science too. This is sugar high cinema. In fact, the movie is much like a confectionary treat, but only of the first batch kind.
Crabs! burns fast and thoroughly before pooping out hard at the climactic battle. That’s what the movie is - a rush and a much-needed come down, all in one package. How might that read on a poster? 2.5/5
Crabs! is currently touring the film festival circuit. Coming soon.
Sincerely Yours in Moviegoing,
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Something that’s actually gross: