Dollar for dollar, nothing beats a creature feature for entertainment value, and with trashy B-movie fun like this, it’s hard to go wrong. Find a random thing to mutate (ants, spiders, sand – the weirder the better), throw a load of horny teenagers and a couple of buckets of goo at it, and you’ve got yourself something with selling power. But Crabs! (much like Them! – the exclamation mark is important) and its writer/director Pierre Berolzheimer, don’t stop there, hamming up even the hammiest of set-ups, and eventually taking things far beyond the realms of “so bad it’s good”, into frankly brain-scrambling territory.
“Crabs!” shrieks a mortally injured woman with one eye hanging from its socket, as nothing short of an army of vicious horseshoe crabs swarm the beaches of the Amity-style island of Mendocino. Like little rubber suited roombas, slowly edging closer and closer to a town full of unsuspecting teens, and on Prom night. It’s a helluva set-up for monster movie fans, and most will buy into it based on that alone. But Berolzheimer seems to have grander designs still.
For one thing, the teens in question here aren’t beer-chugging American Pie-types, but more twinkly-eyed local sweethearts, and more than half the runtime is spent on a bizarre, and poorly executed sci-fi subplot involving the wheelchair bound lead trying to invent himself a pair of bionic legs. Factor in plenty of lifetime-style teen drama and a vaguely offensive parody of what I think(?) is supposed to be a foreign exchange student, and the crabs themselves – at least in their original form – aren’t really enough of the focus here. In fact, anyone looking for a straight-up killer horseshoe crab movie might actually leave a little disappointed.
Because while it quite often walks the line, Crabs! is undeniably more a comedy than it is a horror, always favouring laughs over any sense of tension. Every twist and horror set-piece seems to fall apart insanely quickly, giving flashes of the usual sort of anarchy, before switching gears into something even bigger, sillier and a whole lot more confusing. Berolzheimer’s sense of humour is a pretty baffling beast to behold; it’s hard to understand what the actual intended effect is a lot of the time.
From casually dissecting dead cats in Biology class, to the aforementioned foreign exchange student Radu (American actor Chase Padgett rolling a silly accent over what can only be described as a Simple Jack impression) – who thumps about screaming in people’s faces and making a nuisance of himself, like a better-dressed Jar Jar Binks – the comedy is often borderline surreal. The closest thing to compare it to would be a particularly bloody episode of a 90s Nickelodeon comedy, like The Amanda Show or All That.
That’s not to say that Crabs! isn’t ludicrously entertaining, it’s just a very specific type of entertaining; outlandish, offbeat and almost exhausting in just how many sharks (or crabs?) it threatens to jump. By the credits, it feels like Berolzheimer and co. have surpassed the B-movie pantheon of “so bad it’s good” many times over. In fact, Crabs! is so bad at being “so bad it’s good”, that it almost loops back round to somehow being good again. Almost.