Written by: Matt Reeves
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Staring: Lizzie Caplan, Jessica Lewis, T.J. Miller, Jason Vogel, Odette Yustman, and Michael Stahl-David
Ocean is big, dude. All I’m saying is a couple of years ago, they found a fish in Madagascar that they thought been extinct for centuries. -Hud
Cloverfield was a monster movie like one you’ve never seen before. The entire film is shot from a first person camera and the entire feel of the movie retains that personal affect. The movie begins with a man video taping central park at 6:42 a.m. from the apartment of his girlfriends father. He claims it’s going to be a good day. There is interchange between the couple that suggests an obvious affection and then the camera is shut off. The next shot brings us to a new couple preparing for a going away party of sorts, and soon it becomes clear that they are taping over the tape that had previously recorded the couple and their day at Coney Island. The next twenty minutes or so are spent developing and establishing relationships between the people when suddenly the entire building shakes. After a mysterious news bulletin, it’s obvious that the quake is not local to them, but all of Manhattan. In a panic people crowd the streets in a fury when an all too familiar cloud of smoke floods the streets followed the head of the Statue Of Liberty. When more debris begins to come people seek shelter until it’s seems to pass, and run outside to see what has happened to their beloved city. The rest of the movie after this is followed by one beat after another that builds on the previous event, maximizing the amount of suspense and intensity of each individual event.
But was Cloverfield successful in utilizing this one shot camera trick? Did the special effects work and was the risk worth taking? There were inevitably some problems, but on a whole Cloverfield exceeded all expectations. To begin with, the first person camera shot works. It connects the viewer that much easier with the actors onscreen. There is a sense you are a part of what’s going on. The special effects shots were done so well, it would seem the creature did in fact exist and had destroyed all of Manhattan. One specific scene stood out and that was when the camera switched to night vision in the subway. It was the most genius and bone chilling use of the camera throughout the entirety of the film. The creative way the directer managed to convey his message without violating the camera was brilliant! And the sound was extraordinary, the most frightening and alive sounds heard on screen since LOTR.(Lord of the Rings) On a downside, some people did experience motion sickness during the film, and understandably so, but that was a risk the filmmakers knew they were taking.
The next interesting aspect of Cloverfield had to do with some of the homages it paid to particular science fiction and horror films. Obviously, it used The Blair Witches camera idea and multiplied it to the tenth power, but it also showed some likenesses to Alien and Aliens. The parasite type creatures that fall off the monster move just like the parasites that latch onto the humans faces from Aliens. While they visually resemble giant spiders more, the movement and even the sound was a perfect copy. Also, the girl who is bitten, and what precludes the bite also shadows Aliens.
Some of the problems involved the obvious mediocre acting. Most of the time everyone is fine, but occasionally it is distractingly bad, like when the girlfriend hardly shows a reaction to the fact that her boyfriend has just died. While the main reason Rob runs back for his girlfriend sells, but the rest of them following him just doesn’t make much sense. While they may still be intoxicated, it just isn’t reasonable for them to risk everything to go back.
Just an observation here, but since when does New York have a giant bulls-eye on it for filmmaking destruction? Specifically Manhattan? It seems to be the perfect playground for Giant Apes, zombies, monsters and all other atrocities that attack our world. New York is without a doubt the brightest beacon of our freedom and our country, but surely another major city could share the same kind of attention! Take out Philly, Boston or Detroit!
Cloverfield turned out to be an immaculate display of innovative thinking that turned a simple monster movie into a mysterious roller coaster ride. The intense build up of suspense to the very last minute of tape, that coincidentally ended at 6:42 a.m. in Central Park bringing the story full circle, was the best kind of fun scared experience a person can have at the theatre. Cloverfield may not be for everyone, but it won me over.