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Cloverfield (2008)

  Tags: Blake Lively, cloverfield, creature, giant, Greg Grunberg, handheld camera, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan, Matt Reeves, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, monster, Odette Yustman, pov, T. J. Miller

Your rating: None Average: 6.9 (14 votes)
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Matt Reeves
94 minutes
Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T. J. Miller, Greg Grunberg, Blake Lively

Produced by Lost creator J.J. Abrams and his Bad Robot company, the film was pretty much kept silent until the mysterious teaser depicting onlookers witnessing the Statue of Liberty's head being thrown onto the street was shown before the theatrical release of Transformers over the summer. Credited simply with Abrams name and a release date in replace of the title, the film caused quite a stir amongst the online community, leading to a lot of Lost fans and general viewers speculating as to what exactly this movie is about. For a while the film was thought to be another take on Godzilla, and while that idea was debunked, others cropped up, like a new H.P. Lovecraft adaptation or some sort of alien invasion. Either way, one thing was clear: we were dealing with something big and very angry. Once the second trailer was released, we were finally shown more footage of what we were getting into and the title "Cloverfield" (military codename for what took place) was revealed.

The movie's publicity campaign was brilliant -- we were never given a clear look at what's attacking the city and all we knew from the story was that we'd follow a group of friend's as they try to survive through some sort of monster attack, and we'd witness all this via a handheld camera. The camcorder deal has obviously been done in the past, but never in this scale. Normally films like an attack on a major city calls for millions of bucks to be thrown around, where-as the budget of this film was reportedly an estimated $30-million, proving that if done right, you can make a big-budgeted monster movie without the big budget. Supposedly J.J. Abrams got the idea to make a new monster flick in the US after realizing that we don't really have a large destructive monster that we can really call our own, and I suppose after the box office disaster of the Godzilla remake, a giant monster attacking a major city wasn't in the minds of Hollywood execs.

So, finally having seen the movie, I have to say, while the film doesn't really offer anything we haven't really already seen from similar movies in the past, the whole handheld camera aspect definitely makes it stand above the others. The movie is told through the point of view of a man oddly named "Hud", who's given the duty as camera man to record people's last words to a man named "Rob" who was recently surprised by a going-away party, as he’s recently been promoted to a vice president position for his job that'll take him to Japan. During the party sequence (which lasts around 20-minutes) all the lead characters are established, and so is the revelation of the love between Rob and his long-time friend "Beth." The whole party sequence in the beginning proved to be the hardest to watch, not just because I was bored by the character development, but also because of the nauseating camera work.

Luckily, once the destruction kicks in, not only does the film seem to suddenly get clear, but it also becomes less shaky. Abrams was obviously smart enough to realize that an audience definitely can't sit through an entire movie of gratuitous close-ups and shaky camerawork. In what seemed like a repeat of the 9-11 attacks, a large explosion is seen miles away, and objects (head of the Statue of Liberty included) are flown around the city of Manhattan, and while the streets are filled with smoke and debris, large stomping and roars are also heard, leading our main characters and various other people to seek shelter in a nearby convenience store. Shortly after the group of friends gather together and who has survived and who hasn't is established, it's revealed via voicemail that Beth (who left the party early after a brief spat with Rob), is hurting and possibly dying. This is where the real premise of the film is revealed, and the rest of the movie plays out as we watch the remaining leads attempt to make it across the city with hopes of reaching Beth's apartment before she expires (if she hasn't already).

Originally Abrams wanted a ballsy, violent, and gore-filled monster flick, but naturally in order to secure a PG-13, that didn't happen. However, it's said that much of the gore scenes were shot and will likely turn up on a DVD release. Regardless, what was shown on screen was still good enough for me. The movie doesn't use the standard scare tactics to put fear into the viewers, as the whole concept of this being shot on a camcorder gives you the realism aspect and makes it seem as though what's happening on screen can actually happen in real life. One of the most frightening scenes for me involved a helicopter towards the end of the film, mostly due to how real it felt. Since the story is told through the point of view of regular people, the whole story behind the monster is never revealed. We're merely given hints here and there as to the origins of the beast. We get numerous shots of the monster through brief shots from the camera and news broadcasts, while the clearest shots are given towards the end. I personally would have preferred not seeing such clear shots of the creature, but I have no complaints from what was shown, as it's not exactly like anything that we've seen before.

A good and original take on the old giant-monster sub-genre. Although I wasn't a big fan of the first 20-or-so minutes, due to the boring character development and nauseating camera work, all that is quickly forgotten once the attack begins. The movie doesn't really offer much of what we haven't already seen, but the fact that it's shot in the P.O.V. of a camcorder makes it much more entertaining than many of its predecessors and even offers a sense of realism that you never see in these types of films. Worth a check.

Posted on October 22, 2009 - 11:20pm | FrighT MasteR