Cloverfield

I decided that I’ve been seeing too many films lately which keep the camera still and I can tell what’s going on. Allow me to rectify this with a review of “Cloverfield”- the shaky monster movie.

Cloverfield (2008)

“Cloverfield” is what I like to call a “gimmick film”. It’s the same as any film with the 3D suffix or anything with Adam Sandler. I usually hate films where the camera moves so much you can’t see what’s going on. Michael Bay and Paul Greengrass are the prime offenders of this. I mean, what’s the point of choreographing an elaborate fight sequence if it’s just going to end up a disorientating blur on screen? I remember watching a behind the scenes thing on “The Bourne Ultimatum” and saw them filming a fight scene. The feckin’ cameraman was shaking the thing from side to side as if a massive poisonous spider was on the lens. It was ridiculous! Anyway, “Cloverfield”.

“Okay, just to be clear here, our options are: die here, die in the tunnels, or die in the streets. That pretty much it?”

“Cloverfield” is told through the viewpoints of a small group of New Yorkers. We have the character of Hud (T.J. Miller) acting as the cameraman and therefore our eyes, as he follows Rob (Michael Stahl-David), Beth (Odette Yustman), Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), Jason (Mike Vogel) and Lilly (Jessica Lucas) on a fear-frought journey through a panicking New York City. We start off with a video of Rob filming long time friend Beth as they wake up from the night before (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more…). I’m pretty sure if I had just slept with someone I had admired from afar for a long time, I wouldn’t stick a camera in their face just as they woke up and realised what a horrible mistake they’d made. Maybe that’s why I’m still single- I don’t film women that much. Anyway- we cut to a leaving do for Rob as he’s going to Japan to live and work. Hud gets saddled with the camera and we get the normal dramatic crap before shit starts going off. We see a huge explosion from far away and suddenly fireballs start raining down. Rob is now determined to see if Beth is OK and so embarks on a dumb mission to go across town and save her.

Once the gang start moving through the city, “Cloverfield” really kicks off. We get teasing glimpses of the monster and the destruction it has wrought. I still get a kick of seeing the headless Statue of Liberty- it’s a great image and a worthy successor to The White House getting blown up in “Independence Day”. It’s hard to miss the allusions to terrorism and 9/11 this film makes. The scene where they are engulfed in a huge cloud of dust and take refuge in the local deli is a direct rip from real life when one of 9/11 survivor’s video showed the same thing. I normally dislike political agendas in films- especially American politics because it doesn’t concern me as much as our politics. However, I can make an exception in the case of “Cloverfield”, because it’s a monster movie at heart. Let’s not forget that possibly the greatest monster movie ever- the original “Godzilla” was a way for the Japanese to express their fears and tension over nuclear action.

It’s hard to review “Cloverfield” as it doesn’t really count as a film in my book. It’s more of an experience. I’ve heard people say how scary the film is. Let me just say this- there is a difference between “jumpy” and “scary”. Jumpy is when you’re in a world of your own and someone taps you on the shoulder. Scary is having a gun shoved in your face. It’s ridiculously easy to make people jump when watching a film anyway. You just have the music build and build then stop, have a false relief moment and then hit ’em with an unpleasant occurance and a stab of music. Scary stuff is much harder to do and I respect it when it’s done well. “Cloverfield” does actually build up some genuine fear when we can’t see what’s going on and the constant threat of the monster is there. However, all this is lost when we see the monster’s face, in close-up no less, staring directly at the camera. Goddamn it- when will filmmakers learn that less is more? Christ, I’m sick of films building up tension and then abandoning all subtlety and finesse for the sake of spelling it out for the ‘tards out there who get angry when they are forced to use their minds.

“Do you guys remember a couple of years ago when that guy was lighting homeless people on fire in the subways?”

All in all, “Cloverfield” is a good film. What I like about it is the fact it feels like a filmic experiment, almost like an interactive ride. It’s definitely something you should check out on the biggest screen/sound system possible, because it all adds to the experience.


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