Pierce Berolzheimer’s Crabs! is a rollicking creature feature that would make Ed Wood proud. It’s endearing to see a film completely revel in its lewd goofiness, which is immediately felt in the opening scene. A young couple has enthusiastic cowgirl-style sex on the beach before the boyfriend has his face eaten off by a giant horseshoe crab, Alien-style. We learn that these creatures have been mutated by a nuclear powerplant collapse.
It’s up to Phillip (the charming Dylan Riley Snyder), a teenage inventor who uses a wheelchair and is working on making an exoskeleton to walk again, and his best friend/crush Allie (Maddy Menrath in a bubbly performance) to save their peaceful seaside town of Mendocino, which seems like a tumbledown version Amity Island from Jaws. It’s nice to see a person with a disability framed as heroic, as well as a positive inter-abled romantic relationship. Although the actors seemed older and it comes as a surprise that the characters are in high school, it’s not too distracting.
Philip’s older brother, Hunter (Bryce Durfee), is the local sheriff’s deputy who loves to smoke weed and play video games. He falls for Allie’s mother Annalise (Jessica Morris), a strong-willed and flirtatious science teacher. She’s impossibly young-looking and has no qualms about dating a former student.
Rounding out the cast is Radu (Chase Padgett), a foreign exchange student who sounds like Borat. It’s a dated concept to use cultural differences for laughs, but Padgett is so committed and outrageous that it’s difficult not to be amused.
Everything descends into gory madness at the school dance, like a science-fiction version of Carrie. Then, the film culminates in a gleefully cheesy robot vs. kaiju face-off. The special effects are cheap and ridiculously phony, but that is part of their hilarious charm. Instead of being so-bad-it’s-good, like Birdemic or Troll 2, Crabs! KNOWS it’s bad, and that’s what makes it so good.
Crabs! is the work of a true cinephile, inspired by classic tropes and narrative ideas to create an exciting new horror-comedy. Supported by a peppy soundtrack and vivid cinematography, Berolzheimer’s wacky monster movie is a whole lot of fun. Crabs! is a delightful romp sure to become a viewing party staple.