Crabs! opens with one of the titular monsters making mincemeat out of a couple copulating in public. Guts and sinew are plentiful. It’s not the high point of gore in a film that probably spent half its budget on red goo, but audiences expecting more lascivious pleasures from Pierce Berolzheimer’s ode to classic creature features might be disappointed. Although it starts in the Roger Corman vein, the movie veers heavily into other parts of the big-monster genre, culminating in a pretty awesome fight scene that embraces the “big” adjective.
Philip McCalister (Dylan Riley Snyder) is a paraplegic teenager with an incredible intellect. He’s unable to express to his best friend, Maddy (Allie Jennings), how he feels about her, given that he’s such a nerd. That doesn’t stop Maddy from spending every waking moment with Philip and even inviting him to prom. Maddy’s mom, Annalise (Jessica Morris), is the quintessential hot teacher — the sort who wears a pencil dress and attends prom while flirting with Philip’s older brother, town cop Hunter (Bryce Durfee). The central quartet never seems bothered by the incidental familial relations involved here. It’s never an issue to Maddy that her mom is dating her crush’s older brother. Why would it be? There’s just a sweet, weird silliness to everything in Crabs!
Rounding out the main characters is Radu (Chase Padgett), the weirdest and silliest of the group. He’s a European immigrant whose accent is unidentifiable but probably bordering on offensive to someone or another. Radu encounters the crabs and declares war on them, often citing twisted wisdom from his home country. The Radu stuff doesn’t always work, but what makes it better is that Padgett apparently provided the “nom nom nom” voices for the killer crabs, which made me laugh the whole way through.
The key to all of this is the self-aware humor. Berolzheimer’s killer crabs don’t just eat people. They also DJ, eat food and smoke weed. The movie is full of strange visual gags that pretty much work. It’s not the kind of movie that exists to make fun of itself as a way of avoiding critical scrutiny. Rather, it knows exactly what it wants to be, which is to be entertaining to a group of 15-year-olds on a Saturday night who want some cute girls, graphic core and, of course, the final battle (which is hard to not spoil so I’ll say it made me feel creatively jealous).
The horror landscape, and particularly the independent horror landscape, is currently filled to the brim with films that take themselves too seriously or are too wedded to the constraints and conventions of the genre to feel spur-of-the-moment creative. Crabs! definitely borrows from classics, but it’s held together by a real “anything goes” momentum that carries it through its final moments. At 85 minutes, it’s pretty much the perfect length for this sort of thing and is a wonderfully entertaining experience from start to finish.