I went to see Cloverfield with a friend the other night. The trailer doesn’t show you very much, and I’m not about to spoil the movie for you here, but if you are already planning on seeing this movie and would appreciate the full effect, stop reading now. Oh, wait, before you go: I was advised to sit at the way back of the theater for this one, and that advice was sound enough for me to relate it now to you with some conviction.

Still with me? Ok, so from the trailer it should be pretty clear that Cloverfield is about something attacking New York City the same way Godzilla has ravaged Tokyo so many times in the last fifty years. In case you couldn’t tell, the whole film is shot as if being held by a consumer-grade handicam, Blair Witch style. The result of the constantly moving scene is at first disorienting and difficult to watch, but eventually, as with Blair Witch, I got used to it and forgot that it was even there.

In return for sustaining the frenetic camera, the hand-held look lends a huge amount of credibility to the events occurring within the film. Though the actions of the main characters are somewhat unbelievable, the cinematography does an excellent job of making the events unfolding throughout the film plausible. The CG work is also excellently done; the absolutely destroyed New York City that the protagonists find themselves in cannot possibly exist, and yet as they move from block to block the visuals are stark and convincing. The camera work, combined with the convincing visuals is more than enough to make this film fun. And thankfully, when the big bad threat to the city is shown, the filmmakers don’t overdo it.

What I thought was most interesting about Cloverfield is that it is so clearly a modern Giant Monster movie, and yet at the same time it is also clearly a reaction to the events of September 11th. Just as the Godzilla films reflected cultural fear about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Cloverfield’s depiction of Manhattan’s demise is quite obviously based on the terrorist attacks seven years ago. This makes Cloverfield more thoroughly a member of the Japanese Giant Monster genre than any other Western film that I know of.

I’m not generally a huge fan of Giant Monster movies, but I had a lot of fun with Cloverfield and I was impressed with the film’s ability to display such a convincing environment. The filmmakers clearly know their roots, but have done a good job of innovating within the genre.

6 thoughts on “Cloverfield

  1. I thought Cloverfield was a really good, entertaining and effective movie. Its a good example of the things that contribute to a piece of work with wide appeal: simple story and brilliant execution. There were other things that struck me about it, too. With horror, I think an important balance is between how much you show the audience and how much you don’t show the audience (so the audience is involved by imagining what could be happening, i.e. suspense). The perfect example of this is the original Jaws movie. Similarly, with science fiction, the balance that must be struck is between how much is explained and how much isn’t explained. If not enough is explained, you’re just not satisfied and disbelief isn’t suspended, if too much is explained it just starts sounding hokey (it is fiction, after all). I think Cloverfield struck a perfect balance with both of these issues. Unfortunately, I never got used to the hand-held camera throughout. Probably 50% of this movie was simply unwatchable for me. I wonder if intermittent traditional camera work would have totally ruined the mood.

  2. I absolutely was stunned by Cloverfield. It was the most effective film I have seen since Cannibal Holocauast. Its sort of thing weird thing to explain more of a “Just go see it!”. But honestly, one of the best horror films I’ve seen in a while.
    Also the quesy-cam didn’t bother me at all.


  3. I really enjoyed the movie but it seems like one that would be very ineffective outside of theaters. While the characters were at time downright stupid, it was overall a very good watch and so far the best film of 2008.

    One of the people I saw it with actually had to excuse herself and vomit because of the camera.

  4. I was just wondering, was Cloverfield reviewed because you enjoyed it as a horror film, or because you found it interesting as a “survival horror” film (or both). This is not me getting back to the earlier comments about asinine comments, but I am interested in the comparison between survival horror films based on games (e.g. silent hill) and those that have separate origins (e.g. 28 days later). Perhaps battle royal came close ii guess as being a superb example of survival horror, but the emphasis is maybe not on survival, more political allegory. For me, the survival horror films based on games have a different pacing than those developed independently.


    ps i have to wait to 1st feb for cloverfield….drat….

  5. > Lee

    Oh, I just reviewed it because it’s a horror film. I don’t typically try to apply the same metrics to movies and games. That said, lots of this movie reminded me of Disaster Report and Raw Danger.

  6. When I saw the film, I said to myself, “Wow. Kinda plays out like a videogame quest.” That’s fine with me. The camera stuff also made me think of “Michigan: The Movie,” kinda as a joke. 😀

    Great film.

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