.:Movie Review: Cloverfield

January 26, 2008 at 6:25 am (movie review) (, )

Hud: Do you guys remember a couple years ago
when some guy would light homeless people on fire
in the subways?
Rob Hawkins: Now is not the best time.
Hud: I was just thinking about how scary it would be
if a flaming homeless guy came out of the dark right now!
Marlena Diamond: Shut Up!
Lily Ford: Shut Up!
~Cloverfield

cloverfield_poster.jpg

A promised, I caught the film Cloverfield this weekend. It was my first time to see a film in the theaters all by my lonesome… and I doubt I could have picked a better flick to go see by myself.

There was a lot of buzz about this movie in the viral world leading up to its release last week, and I was one of many who visited some of the fake sites in order to get as much information as I dared. As Michael Caine said in The Prestige, “Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.” This is one reason I wanted to see Cloverfield as soon as possible…

I knew pictures and details would leak shortly after it was released, and I wanted to relate to the people who were running from whatever it was they were supposed to be running from. When I saw a link on imdb.com yesterday about a figurine of the Cloverfield monster, I knew it was time to see the film ASAP or else I ran the danger of knowing what the boogeyman looked like (and thus ruining a good portion of the fun). I wanted the mystery.

Well, I got what I wanted. I won’t ruin this for you by any means, but I won’t be remiss in saying that the film does an excellent job of teasing you for a good long while without letting you down or feeling jipped that this was ‘a low budget film’ that maybe couldn’t afford too many effects shots.

Speaking of the effects… I hold a lot of respect for the people that were behind them… the whole film is handheld, shaky camera-work… and putting something on the screen that wasn’t there with any sort of movement in the camera is a challenge. They did a good job of making you feel like the tape really was discovered, and that it was one continuous thread of footage with some amazingly brilliant storytelling work done in the unorthodox method of taped-over footage occasionally cutting in when the characters wanted to review footage of what they just saw and then didn’t sync the timeline back up properly again (those of you in the video world that have had to reuse old tapes would get an extra kick out of this storytelling vehicle).

I have much more to say about the different aspects of this film in the rest of the review, but for now I’ll just poorly segue into the summary…

Summary: Cloverfield is not for the weak of stomach… if you get seasick easily or can’t stomach some blood and guts (nothing too prolonged), I wouldn’t recommend it. Or, at least wait until it hits the small screen when you have your trusty remote to fast forward (and a friend who has seen it to guide you past some of the parts).

Overall, the story was not the king here, but the devices used to bring the story to the screen were nothing short of groundbreaking. I don’t look forward to the plethora of film students who try to mimic the style since it is fairly easy to accomplish and is forgiving of lower quality footage, but the film was outstanding in it’s unorthodox reinventing of a genre.

This is the new standard for American monster movies. While monster movies are a little more tolerable than horror movies to me, neither are really my shtick. But I enjoyed it thoroughly, even if I had some minor qualms with the story (which I won’t go into and ruin anything for you).

Grade: A-

A little interesting tidbit… this movie recreated one of my worst reoccuring nightmares I had as a child… big monster, plenty of people… yet I’m singled out.

On another note… on the first time that I saw a movie by myself… I managed to wear a trenchcoat. I really hope I didn’t creep anyone out, but hey, it’s really cold outside, it’s my dad’s trenchcoat, and I’m a sucker for noir and the 20s. It just didn’t help that I was by myself…

For a further look into the aspects of Cloverfield:

Cinematography: Astonishing. All the roto work and CG effects passed through the ‘downgraded handheld camera’ were convincingly done. There were only a few seams that I could nitpick about a few of the explosions (not that I could do any better), but otherwise any other monster-work was solid.

I can see why people felt nauseated by this film, but for me, it reminded me a lot of looking through the footage I took when I was a camp counselor (sans monsters…) with me taping over my past work continuously, and having shaky footage that I would throw out or edit down to the stable clips. While I had to close my eyes to re-center my feeling of normalcy a few times, it wasn’t too bad. Now, getting up and walking out of the theater I felt a little off, but it wore down quickly.

Music: There was some music at the party at the beginning, and in the credits… but there was no soundtrack. And it worked. It worked well.

Story: I enjoyed what little development the characters had, and the tenuous love story of a guy going after his love through the midst of hell on earth actually got to me. I’m still trying to process what I feel about the overall story and how it played out… and since I’d like to keep my reviews spoiler-free, I’ll leave it there.

Acting: Mostly unknowns. It needed to be like that, or else this wouldn’t have felt like you could relate to a bunch of people at a party who were just trying to have a good time and wish a friend well as he was heading off for a job overseas.

They were very convincing, and only one person would occasionally say something that I felt was a little weak, but everyone else sounded very convincing in a ‘we’re just regular people responding to a horrendous situation the only way we know how’ sort of way. No complaints here.

Well done, Cloverfield. Innovative to say the least.

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2 Comments

  1. prettyforthemoment said,

    I only have time to do a quick scan of this review, but from what I’ve read it sounds really good, yet I’ve sadly heard a lot of people say otherwise. Do you care to maybe shed some insight as to why?

  2. Ryan said,

    Sure, and thanks for commenting! When Godzilla first came out, the monster genre was something of a collection of the people’s fears. Some people saw a guy in a rubber suit, but others saw more. I appreciated Cloverfield’s reimagining the monster genre and putting a fresh spin on it. But not everyone may see that (or maybe it’s me that’s just reading too deeply).

    I think people may not enjoy it due to being difficult to watch at times (not for the weak of stomach due to the shaky camerawork), or the bleak nature of the story… which I’m not going to ruin anything by saying that the body count is obviously high when something is knocking buildings down.

    But I think something that is somewhat overlooked is that the monster is the backdrop, or the situation, crafting a story of love, loyalty, survival, and action when action is needed. When everything go haywire, and the one you love is separated from you… what would you do to help them/get them back?

    To summarize, Cloverfield took the Blair Witch phenomenon, and added special effects (which is no small feat when the camera is constantly moving) to give great action to compliment the human interest side of the story. It’s too bad other people didn’t enjoy the film, but it’s sitting at an 8.0 on imdb.com, which says something for it.

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