I just revisited Cloverfield, the movie that caused a sensation in 2008 and still gets a strong reaction from genre fans that seem to either love it or hate it with few opinions falling in the middle. Call me indecisive, but that’s precisely where my view of the film lands, that is, I have a love-hate relationship with Cloverfield because there are things I both enjoyed about it this time around and other stuff I still don’t like. The film often gets described as Godzilla meets the Blair Witch Project, which, I suppose sums it up pretty well.
I should probably start by saying I am not a fan of the found footage school of filmmaking. I have to admit the approach of telling this film’s story from the point of view of a video camera proves to be a useful device here, by instilling the film’s events with an added dose of chaos while the inconsistent quality of the camera work also increases tension. The same method works as a detraction from the film at the same time, after all, one of my favorite things about watching movies is the beauty of how the images appear on the screen, the composition of the shots and the artistry of a motion picture done well. Instead, here we get short chaotic shots often out of focus. I can never see myself referring to such intentionally sloppy filming as great cinema
If for some reason, you don’t remember Cloverfield: It primarily takes place over a single night in New York City when a massive monster attacks the city. The film’s narrative starts out depicting the honeymoon stage of a pair of twenty-somethings, a new couple who seem to be very happy together and then jumps ahead several months to a gathering of twenty-somethings who are celebrating Rob’s going-away party, all shot on the same tape. As this section of the film continues we get more of a sense of these jaded before their time young people and the drama of their self-centered lives, and just as it seems I have maybe put on the wrong film and wondering if perhaps I am watching some soap opera by mistake, everything changes.
Cloverfield sets things up nicely, manipulating its portrayal of events to lull the viewer into wondering just what sort of movie is unfolding. The human drama of the young people followed by the sudden shift to an attack by a gigantic monster as the film’s focus is a brilliant use of contrast that sharply sweeps everything else away.
When the monster arrives, things escalate quickly. Some characters die immediately; others get separated from the group. Keeping its focus on a small group of characters works to give this monster story more of an emotional impact, and suddenly I found myself caring about characters who shortly before I didn’t give a damn about at all.
Dramatically and effectively showing just how trivial the problems of the party-goers were Cloverfield becomes a story of survival in what suddenly, abruptly transitions into a nightmarish situation. As the film continues, it develops into a hellish odyssey complete with a frightening journey into the darkness of an NY subway tunnel and an attack by bloodthirsty alien creatures that eventually proves fatal for one of the group.
Cloverfield never provides a clear look at the invading monstrous entity, but patching together the scattered glimpses provided I managed to create a mental image of a gigantic quadruped with a tail and maybe some tentacles growing from its midsection? That along with a lot of unanswered questions about the creature, it’s source and what brought it to New York in the first place, and what happens next are all part of this film’s charm I suppose. Love it or hate it, it is what is. Cloverfield overall scores points for being a pretty effectively scary, suspenseful classic monster movie that never slows down long enough to allow the viewer to get bored.
The Cloverfield Universe has grown and expanded since the original Cloverfield flick came out back in 2008. In the time since, producer J.J. Abrams and co. have developed the universe with stories that touched on the original premise, but were also wholly their own distinct stories. However, recently Paramount and Abrams revealed that another Cloverfield movie is in development, and this time it is planned to be a “true, dedicated” sequel to the original film. There is no date when this film might arrive.