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Cloverfield

A movie directed by Matt Reeves

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"Godzilla" Collides With The "Blair Witch Project"

  • Oct 13, 2010
Rating:
+3
When one thinks of "Cloverfield" (2008) the awesome "hyped-up" trailer comes to mind. The teaser trailer was very well-marketed and does grab our attention. J.J. Abrams (Mission Impossible, Lost) definitely knows how to arouse the curiosity and attention of moviegoers. Now, the only problem with hyping up a film so much is that it either works or it doesn't. Hype can definitely work in putting people on theater seats but once word gets out that the film is "anything but...". Well, again, kudos to the producers who thought of the gimmick.

                   A scene from "Cloverfield."

The film's premise is looked at from the scope of POV of a DV camera during the farewell party for one bound for Japan executive Rob (Michael Stahl David). Suddenly, an unknown force rocks Manhattan. Wild fear and panic ensues as the military attempts to stop the gigantic menace on its path of destruction. Rob and a group of partygoers attempt to navigate through the city to save Rob's one true love; Beth (Odette Yustman). They find little hope as the rampage of the "unknown" force blocks all exits.

                     A scene from "Cloverfield."

                    Odette Yustman in "Cloverfield."

"Blair Witch Project" anyone? Yes, the film takes on the camera style of the hugely successful horror film. Director Matt Reeves uses a single DV camera to take the audience into the heart of a monster film. “Cloverfield” is an ambitious film, it tries to escape from the usual clichés and stereotypes that have plagued monster films before. Sadly, while the style did work for "Blair Witch", this film came off a little short. I do commend the producers for trying to widen the scope of a very limited premise in resorting to the video camera to emulate raw panic and fear. What made "Blair Witch" stand out was its ability to delve into the dramatic emotions of fear of the unknown and the unexplained; while "Cloverfield" does have a some emotions involved in the proceedings, I tend to look at its devices a bit differently. 

              Lizzy Caplan in "Cloverfield."

             A scene from "Cloverfield."

            A scene from "Cloverfield."

The gigantic monster is shown from time to time through the camera and proves to be the film‘s main draw; I liked the fact that it was only shown from time to time to allow the viewer to connect to the protagonists. But frankly its appearance does have good qualities going for it but it looked inspired by other movies. The spider-like creatures were pretty creepy but it wasn’t that different from what we’ve seen before. I admit, "Cloverfield" does attempt something different, the routes it took seem so ineffective. The film tries to give the viewer the feeling of REALITY through the video camera as if someone was trying to film a documentary; but somehow, it fumbles its premise halfway through. It still fell to the usual clichés inherent in a sci-fi monster film: a minor display of military might, evacuation and panic that mostly focuses on a single group of folks, a love-sick hero with unexpressed love, dwindling hope, death and destruction, the usual heroics. The film also employs obvious editing fakery to attempt to give the back story behind Beth’s and Rob's romance with the camera acting screwy that it rewinds from time to time. Its producers/directors' hearts are in the correct place, the film's execution becomes nauseating after awhile. Quite frankly, the DV camera feels more like a "GIMMICK" than a significant part of the film‘s narrative and it overstays its welcome rather quickly.

After all, who can hold a camera while your friends are being attacked? Why hold on to the camera when you are scaling a tipped over rooftop? What kind of moronic stupidity is it for someone to keep on recording what is happening under the shadow of raw panic and hysteria? What kind of insensitivity is it to keep a dumb camera in play in the face of your friends' suffering? The camera hampered the realism as it looked like a device to inspire stupid behavior that disconnected me from its characters; stupid decisions and behavior often plagued monster movies and this film is no different. The film requires a large suspension of disbelief that contradicts its “Mockumentary” style atmosphere to emulate a feeling of reality.

               Michael Stahl-David and Odette Yustman in "Cloverfield."

              A scene from "Cloverfield."

To its credit, at the very least, there are some intense and scary moments in the film that are reminiscent of classic invasion films. The special effects are nicely done and the movie is indeed loud. The explosions are felt and sights of pure destruction does save parts of the film. There is also some blood and gore (although some of it happens off camera) and does promote a feeling of fear amid all the panic and mayhem; the film is essentially a chase film against the urgency of the situation and it does have some pretty unnerving images.

Ultimately, "Cloverfield" could have survived without the single video camera gimmick. It could have just stuck to the basics of a monster film and still turned in a generous box-office take. Its attempts to emulate "REALITY" in the first person view may be its strength but its execution is also its greatest weakness since having a “first-person view” gimmick would mean rough cinematography and the film looked too polished for something meant to be unintentional. The pure "gimmick" of a single video camera tries to give the viewer a first-person view and/or spectator's point of view is an attempt to hide its weaknesses. The film is pretty clichéd and while it does have the message of "seizing the moment", life is short, and love is powerful; they were all candy-coated to make it more attractive.

“Cloverfield” isn’t a bad film at all and it can be entertaining; but it is nothing spectacular, it has earned a low recommendation for me for monster films fans and a rental for everyone else. I guess I just wasn’t too impressed with the execution of its gimmick cinematography that hampered the experience for me.

RENTAL [3 Out of 5 Stars]



                  

                 

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August 17, 2011
Dude, I realize you don't want to be too unkind on this review but must we give it 3 stars? This one makes my list for one of the worst films ever made. Paranormal Activity comes to mind as well. Oh well, I still dig your writing skills.
 
October 22, 2010
It wasn't bad but it could have been a lot better. I thought it took forever to get up a head of steam. The shakiness that so many complained about didn't bother me since I saw it as a rental. The handheld video camera can be a great way to cover up a low budget but it does make you a target for those who regard the tactic as just being trendy. I liked what little they showed of the monster and thought that the little secondary monsterettes were a stroke of genius. I'm frankly getting sick of the movies that shove CGI monsters in your face for the movie's entire running time--it's nice to have to wait for a change. A little delayed gratifaction never killed anyone. It would have been better if there had been a stronger story though. There have been monster movies that don't rely on the characters doing stupid things just to further the story--TREMORS comes to mind. CLOVERFIELD just barely rates a 3 from me. 3 is such a broad category.
August 17, 2011
Karen, my sweet lady. I guess I should commend those who sat through Cloverfield & could find anything redeemable or unique as I failed to do so. Coming from someone like myself who loves movies & even has gone so far as to defend bad movies, this was a lost cause for sure. I really like your comments by the way. Thought provoking as always.
August 24, 2011
I swear to God that the first half hour was the most painful experience of my life. I've never seen any flick take so long in setting up its characters. I think my rating was merely a response to all the hate being heaped on that movie. I sometimes respond that way...and I really did like the monster.
 
October 21, 2010
Yeah, it does look like you liked it more than I did. I think of it as an ambitious but failed attempt at something unique, with emphasis on the failed. You seem to be emphasizing the fact that they were aiming for something unique and almost got there.
August 17, 2011
Hey Nate, almost got there? I don't even think they were aiming very high. I was appalled at how well this did at the box office. Then again, multiplex moviegoers usually do have low standards.
 
October 19, 2010
I gotta say, when I read your review, it sounded like somewhere between a -1 and a +1. I was surprised to see your ranking was +3. For me, a +3 is a solid B to B+ ranking.
October 19, 2010
Yeah, I know. I guess for all its flaws I still thought that this movie was decent because of its efx and ambition. I usually don't use the negative ratings here unless I am rating a bad political move, a tyrant or something else. I just stick to my 1-5 ratings. But you're right I could've easily have rated this a 2.
 
October 14, 2010
Is this a new review? I'm getting deja vu.
October 17, 2010
huh? what happened to my comment?!
October 17, 2010
What comment?
October 17, 2010
I just stated that I cleaned it up and edited the material for Lunch--made it better actually since my old review was more of a rant. Hm...
 
October 13, 2010
Yeah man this was hyped up big time, they wouldn't even give Fangoria a look it ahead of time.
October 14, 2010
I agree. This wasn't a bad movie, but I just couldn't connect with the characters in the film. I also thought it was too gimmicky at times. But Odette Yustman is super-hot!
August 17, 2011
No, Woops you're much too kind. This IS a bad movie. Even Ed Wood's films put this to shame.
 
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More Cloverfield reviews
review by . May 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
***1/2 out of ****     I've gotten tired of the gimmicky "found-footage" style of filmmaking, especially in horror films. I love the horror genre for many reasons, and these films...they have plagued it with the same old approach. However, "Cloverfield", in spite of its premise, offers something new for movie-goers. Think of is as "Godzilla", but if it had been filmed with a piece-of-shit camcorder. Also, the monster here isn't Japanese.    In the end, I think …
review by . February 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Godzilla on steroids
  When reviewing Cloverfield obvious comparisons to movies like Godzilla are easy to make, but this film is so much more then a simple monster bash. Cloverfield is a wild mix of Godzilla like monster fun, blended with The Blair Witch Project camera style and Jaws (30th Anniversary Edition) like suspense all blended together to make one of the most perfect monster/disaster/horror films of the modern day.       First off lets give some credit to the incredible job the producers …
review by . May 28, 2009
WTF???
I highly recommend watching Cloverfield this year or any other year ...if you are being held at gunpoint. Otherwise, you are free to skip it as I wish I had. Thankfully, a friend bought me the movie ticket & I even felt sorry for the poor chap afterwards having to invest money on this hunk of steaming crap.       I have heard all the rumours on how Cloverfield is the new Blair Witch Project. Just forget it! Blair Witch Project & Cloverfield …
review by . February 09, 2009
Just like many of you, when I saw the preview for this film I instantly dubbed it "a must see". What can I say? Something about the head of the Statue of Liberty rolling down the streets of Manhattan had me hooked. More importantly I couldn't wait to find out what exactly was causing this carnage. So it was with great expectations I strapped myself in for what was sure to be an incredible ride.      Now I could go on and on here about who the cast is but you would have no idea …
review by . April 28, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Special effects, pacing      Cons: Nothing original, terrible narrator, very shaky camera--not for the motion sick.      The Bottom Line: If you've watched half a dozen scary or alien movies, then Cloverfield stole part of it; still there's enough to entertain.  Warning if you are prone to motionsickness, skip it.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Cloverfield is the …
review by . August 02, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
To give the utmost atmosphere of authenticity, `Cloverfield' films all its monster movie proceedings as though an amateur were using an average video camera. All the starts and stops of footage are effective enough, and the glimpses of the modern equivalent of New York City's Godzilla keep tangible, but not always present.     Just like all disaster pictures, the prologue introduces us to all of the characters. We need to know and care about them. Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) …
review by . July 05, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
The idea behind the film is clever, even if it is a bit obvious -- to the point where it's surprising nobody has done anything quite like it, or at least nothing on a similar scale. Somebody thought, let's make a monster mayhem flick but instead of a blockbuster make it an indie, shot amateur style: Godzilla meets the Blair Witch. That allows them to economize on the special effects, using sparing effects that would work on tv but not on the big screen -- but when shot on a consumer video camera …
review by . November 03, 2008
You know a movie is bad when it is set in New York but named after a road in Santa Monica, CA..... This gives you an idea how unimaginative and mindless the movie is.    I didn't mind the cinimatography. However there wasn't really a plot to peak of, the characters were pretty lame, and the monster was pretty one-dimensional. In general, I say don't bother with this movie.
review by . October 02, 2008
Pros: no pros in this film     Cons: darkness overrides production     The Bottom Line:   "No one knows what I am  No one knows why I did it   No one knows from where I come  I am Clovie!"  ~wjmmovieman         For once I get to bash a monster flick in the same decade as it was released. Never seeing any trailers for this film, and reading only summary comments from viewers, …
review by . September 08, 2008
Now that all the hype has die down I was able to give this film an objective look. I have to admit I was impressed. This movie throws out the music, set-ups, and cheap scares out the window - in a good way. Nothing in this movie tells you you're watching a movie of course. You're completely disorientated from start to finish, completely uncomfortable and on edge. And that is a hell of an achievement in today's de-sensitized movie environment. While I didn't jump once, I did find myself clutching …
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One of the first things a viewer notices aboutCloverfieldis that it doesn't play by ordinary storytelling rules, making this intriguing horror film as much a novelty as an event. Told from the vertiginous point-of-view of a camcorder-wielding group of friends,Cloverfieldbegins like a primetime television soap opera about young Manhattanites coping with changes in their personal lives. Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is leaving New York to take an executive job at a company in Japan. At his goodbye party in a crowded loft, Rob’s brother Jason (Mike Vogel) hands a camcorder to best friend Hud (T.J. Miller), who proceeds to tape the proceedings over old footage of Rob’s ex-girlfriend, Beth (Odette Yustman)--images shot during happy times in that now-defunct relationship. Naturally, Beth shows up at the party with a new beau, bumming Rob out completely. Just before one's eyes glaze over from all this heartbreaking stuff (captured by Hud, who's something of a doofus, in laughably shaky camerawork), the unexpected happens: New York is suddenly under attack from a Godzilla-like monster stomping through midtown and destroying everything and everybody in sight. Rob and company hit the streets, but rather than run with other evacuees, they head toward the center of the storm so that Rob can rescue an injured Beth. There are casualties along the way, but the journey into fear is fascinating and immediate if emotionally remote--a consequence of seeing these proceedings...
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Details

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: January 18, 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
DVD Release Date: April 22, 2008
Runtime: 1hr 25min
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