Horror / Science Fiction
Distributed By: Bad Robot Productions
Reviewed by Justine Manzano
I have just seen Cloverfield and I am excited to share my experience. To be quite honest, I am shaky. And I spent the whole drive home expecting to be attacked by something. I know it sounds crazy, but never, EVER has a movie made me feel so much like an 8 year old child since I was…well…an 8 year old child! And I have to share, because a horror movie has never affected me this way before and it most likely never will again. Cloverfield has its critics, and I can’t tell you much without ruining parts of the movie, but in this review I promise to do my best to explain how this controversial movie turned a desensitized 25 year old tough chica into a girl who’s gonna have to sleep with the lights on tonight…here goes…I promise I won’t spoil it.
Cloverfield begins as a video taped recording of a party being planned by Lily (Jessica Lucas, Life as We Know It) and Jason (Mike Vogel, Grounded For Life, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) for Jason’s brother Rob (Michael Stahl-David, The Black Donnellys) who is leaving New York City for Japan and an awesome business opportunity. Lily’s idea to film people’s goodbye messages to Rob is the reason for the events being captured on film, and though the job is initially given to Jason, he passes it on to Rob’s best friend, Hud (T.J. Miller), who spends most of the time obsessing about party guest Marlena (Lizzy Caplan, The Class, Related) and spreading his newfound understanding that Rob has recently slept with his once purely platonic friend, Beth (Odette Yustman) and hasn’t spoken with her since. As the group of friends enjoy the party and deal with their drama, however, something attacks the city.
Thrown into a panic, the central group of friends lose track of the rest of the party guests. Explosions are rocking the city, the head of the Statue of Liberty has been detached, and something huge and alive is tramping its way through the city breaking things and causing this group to try to find their way out. The problem? Well, aside from the monster, Beth, who had left the party pissed off at Rob, is stuck and injured somewhere in the city, leaving Rob and his friends desperate to rescue her and the clock ticking before whatever has found it’s way to the city or the military operation that has been sent after it kills them all. All the while, Hud can’t help but keep the camera rolling, so unable to believe what he is seeing, that he finds himself collecting as much evidence as he possible can for the people who “are going to want to know…how it all went down (as Hud says).” The people…like us.
Sounds like a regular, run-of-the-mill horror / monster movie, doesn’t it? So what had me so frightened? Well, for one thing, this wasn’t truly a story about the monster – it was about the people running from the monster, regular folks, like you and me who just wanted to have some fun with friends and whose lives suddenly turned horribly tragic. People who believed that they had all of the time in the world and that message, in this post-911 world in which everyone suddenly has been made to realize their own mortality, touches the viewer. But it’s not even all about that. It’s MOSTLY about the camera angle. That’s right – direction is what truly made this movie. Told entirely from the point of view of the hand-held camera, and that hand-held camera sees some, again, as Hud says, “horrific shit.” Watching it through the eyes of someone who is experiencing the entire thing just enhances what would already be a scary movie to begin with. Add to that the fact that the writing was ingenious (Drew Goddard, who has written many episodes of awesome shows like Lost, Buffy, Angel and Alias), the direction (Matt Reeves) was stirring, and the production…well that was incredible. Produced by Bad Robot, the production company run by J.J. Abrams which created such brilliant hits as Lost, Alias, and Felicity, the movie was released after an intelligent viral marketing campaign that left everyone wondering what the mystery was. This movie may not have had a large amount of star power, but it certainly had some power behind the scenes.
Cloverfield has its critics, and those critics are not entirely wrong. The handheld camera does have the potential of making a person nauseated (my friend left the theater looking a tad green), and the monster COULD look a little cheesy at times (although that might have been to take the edge off of the absorbing nature of the movie). However, the movie DOES cut, and so the camera WOULD last for the entire time. Believe me, I thought this through when I couldn’t sleep at night. Either way, no matter what happened with the monster, the things that occurred between the characters as they struggled to survive haunted me for days. And that is the true sign of an effective horror movie.
No matter what you may have heard, see Cloverfield and decide for yourself…unless you get dizzy really easily…then, maybe not so much…