Are crabs scary?
As creatures to flee from in terror?
Not so much.
Thus, we have Island Claws another Jaws knock-off which equals Jaws in the following ways: it has a beginning and an ending.
The scene on this box does not occur, but neither does anything good.
The movie’s plot involves some power plant in Florida that has covered up just how much waste escaped into the ocean from a leak.
Obviously that is the threadbare plot line that leads us to believe a bunch of crabs are marching in anger to the land to basically walk on the beaches and in the woods looking quite confused as if to say, “I know roles for crabs are shit these days in films, but we need a new agent”.
Director: “OK, guys-action”!
Crabs: “This IS action! We’re fuckin’ crabs, man”!
The opening credits are cheap and the music sounds like a samba which we see the crabs getting into.
A pretty reporter decides to do a story on a local lab doing work with crabs and it’s here where things make even less sense. We learn that the lab is experimenting with growth hormones and DNA in the crabs which is a no-no. So, who is to blame? The lab or the power plant? We never know. And yet, the crabs continue to be…crabs.
“Fear me silly humans. Now, it is my time to boil YOU”!
The local town is filled with morons you want to perish, especially the banjo-playing inbred named Amos. Amos lives in a bus which raises a whole series of questions I won’t bother with, but after he realizes he has crustacean visitors on the bus he begins screaming and swingin’ that ol’ banjo at them thar critters. He misses more often than not, but naturally he hits a lantern which falls to the ground and starts a fire.
The bus tips over and Amos and his banjo are soon strumming in hell. The crabs, their work done will then head toward town to change the damn menus offering up their brethren.
Here we have a trifecta of a crab, Amos and some more crabs.
The pretty reporter rides her bike, falls and sees crabs. She wonders…why so many crabs? And, why aren’t I driving a car?
She will be saved by her prospective boyfriend who works at the lab and now believes her stories, because aside from these bike-hating crabs we also find a giant shell which will lead to analysis at the lab o’ fools.
“What the shell”?
If you care, the woman is played by Jo McDonnell and the guy by Steve Hanks. They try well enough, but one guy who really does a nice job is the grizzled bar owner played by Robert Lansing (I think he owns the bar actually, but who cares? I do know one thing-he drinks a lot as does this whole flea-bitten town).
Speaking of flea-bitten…the local mutt Trouble proves aptly named as the crabs feast on his fur and the dog becomes the Shaggy D.O.A. (That was pretty clever on my part I must say).
“I just wanted to try some seafood”.
And how do we know these crabs are murderous? Well, we hear a sound equivalent to a typewriter ticking away when they are nearby plotting their attack which involves…walking like crabs.
There’s an odd side story involving Haitian immigrants sneaking onto the island and blamed by the town drunks for the killings (the theory at least makes more sense than giant crabs), but Lansing’s character sees the people with a sick child and offers help and soon the giant crab we’ve all been waiting for (at least sort of) shows up and starts killing and destroying things uniting one and all.
Though the crab is a pretty cool design, the creature moves awkwardly and also roars and grunts (WHY do all creatures do this in horror movies? Even spiders???)
“I know and you know and the audience knows that I can pretty much walk away and you won’t catch me Mr. Giant Crab, but it’s my duty to stand here and fight you to the death, so let’s dance”!
The final showdown is as cheesy as you’d expect with people standing still as the crab’s pincers invite them to death. Finally, our two heroes jump on top of the fucker and stab it with darts loaded with rat poison which naturally kills a giant crab, because that’s why it’s called RAT poison! Duh.
At least we do get the giant crab for the last 10-15 minutes of the film which is rather dull otherwise and also starts then drops several different storylines. A lot of the film is so damn dark and poorly lit that the viewer can’t even see a damn thing which is probably the intention.
The acting ranges from mediocre to good so it’s not the actors’ fault. Director Hernan Cardenas would never work again and the film was funded by Hernan and his brother Dario which was interesting seeing as they somehow spent $3.5 million on this lousy film.
The Cardenas brothers had another sibling in Gabriel who was the brother-in-law of noted Medellin Cartel boss Jorge Ochoa and word is, that a lot of cocaine money went into the crab bisque that made this cinematic masterpiece! (I’m not making that up).
“Shit, that Hawaiian Snow was ass-wicked dude!”
Island Claws has flaws (and that rhymes), but it is kinda fun and definitely cheesy. I have seen way worse in this genre and the acting isn’t bad at all. The crab is pretty kick-ass, but the poor guy can only do so much.
However, the scenes in pitch black darkness (and there’s too much of it) are laughable, and the subplots never get revisited or finished. The deaths are lame and the idea that people couldn’t simply step out of the way of normal-sized crabs walking around like they’re drunk on Old Bay seasoning and rum is pathetic.
The dialogue at times is hilarious. At one point, someone asks how the coffee is at the lab, and Steve Hanks’s character replies, “It’s good, if you like coffee”. What the fuck does that mean? I doubt anyone knows.
Island Claws most likely never played theaters in 1980 but it went to home video and played on CBS and cable quite often (my pals and I rented it on VHS somewhere around 1983 or so). It finally had a DVD and Blu-Ray release by Scorpion Video in 2014, but why you would need this on Blu-Ray is beyond me, unless you need high resolution of scenes in total darkness.
Just remember next time you see 2,000 angry crabs (yes, that’s how many were rounded up for the film) to scream and run and fall. Or, step aside and keep walking.
“Rhythm’s gonna get ya”!
1.) The giant crab was made for $500,000 and was designed by none other than Oscar-winning effects man Glen Robinson (not the former NBA star) who just 4 years earlier had designed the giant ape in King Kong. From King Kong to Island Claws? Ouch.
2.) This film is also known as Night of the Claw. Now you know.
3.) Ricou Browning co-wrote this movie. He was the actual creature in Creature from the Black Lagoon in 1954. So, he knows crabs personally.
Island Claws (1980):
2 beagles out of 4 for awfulness
Q: Should you see Island Claws?
A: Is there a Santa Claws? Of course there is, and thus you should see this and expect little. Go in with a good attitude, and please don’t be crabby.