Cloverfield (2008) Movie Review
Written By: YN
Edited By: Grave Reviews Staff
Director: Matt Reeves
Producers: J. J. Abrams and Bryan Burk
Writers: Drew Goddard
Date Released: January 18, 2008
T.J. Miller as Hud
Michael Stahl-David as Rob Hawkins
Lizzy Caplan as Marlena
Jessica Lucas as Lily
Mike Vogel as Jason Hawkins
Odette Yustman as Beth McIntyre
Rating = 4/5 Graves
***May contain some spoilers***
Cloverfield (2008) uses the “found footage” motif to capture a farewell party gone wrong when it is suddenly interrupted by a terrifying monster attack. As residents of New York City flees from the wreckage, a group of friends decide to go back to rescue their companion’s girlfriend. But their time is running out because the U.S. military has decided to blow up the whole city to stop the monster from causing more havoc.
The “found footage” aspect of the movie may make everything seem shaky and unfocused at times, but it does not fail to deliver raw footages of blood and gore. With its amateurish camera works, you become more intimate to spilled guts, impaled shoulder and alien-creatures feasting on live flesh. However, it only shows glimpses of gory violence since Hud the “cameraman” is often running or panicking (or being eaten) whenever these things happen, thus lessening the explicitness of the scene.
The Grave Review
If you have a hankering for a monster/alien invasion type of movie, Cloverfield (2008) will give you that “first-hand” experience of what it feels like to be on the ground. It is gritty and bloody and convincing in a way that “found footage” films often are. Special effects are bearable and seems incorporated enough into the raw video aesthetic of the film that it doesn’t appear ridiculous on screen. The story is a bit slow at the beginning, but as soon as it starts picking up, the action becomes non-stop. Just beware of possible nausea or motion sickness as an effect of the shaky and blurry camera movement because when things get crazy, it really gets crazy.
What makes Cloverfield (2008) stand out is the fact that it won’t give you the perspective of a military man or an expert. Its characters are just ordinary people who are typically the ones screaming and running away from danger in other monster movies. You are completely clueless to what is going on, but you are very much aware of the danger in the situation. Likewise, you watch completely vulnerable people braving out the unknown. Nothing beats the heart-stopping moment of running through the streets of New York City–no guns, no cars, no anything except for a camera–as military forces launch missiles and bombs at a 20 feet monster who is just at the other side of the street.
Add to the fact that it uses the “found footage” format, you are brought up close to chaos. The panic among the people as the monster begins to wreck the city is magnified by the camera’s shaky movements. It’s as if you, too, are getting jostled and trampled upon by the crowd. The confusion and mystery are highlighted because the camera can barely get a decent shot of what is happening at first, but the horror is slowly revealed as the characters come closer and closer towards the monster with the camera still rolling. The film also goes over the top with explosions, missiles, falling debris and swirling dust, so you can just imagine how crazy the camera works will go with this kind of film. For those with motion sickness, you might want to close your eyes during these scenes.
Special effects are bearable although not superb. From afar, the monster looks almost authentic. The bodiless head of the Statue of Liberty that has been thrown in the street appears convincing enough. This goes the same with the scene of a ruined New York City. But when it comes to those smaller monsters, they look superimposed on the film especially when they come up close.
The story has a slow start as characters are introduced and their relationships with one another are explored. This may seem unnecessary at first, but this is the only time the movie can establish the characters’ motivation and personality. Through the introductory sequence, their behaviors in the later part of the film will start to make sense. After muddling through a montage of typical young adult drama/romance, the action picks up pace. Once the monster starts attacking, just hold on for the ride.
Overall, Cloverfield (2008) is thrilling and satisfying. Its “found footage” format makes it stand out from other monster movies, and it heightens the intensity of the chaos caused by the creature. The emotions in the film run high and raw as you are taken into an intimate experience of what it feels like to be on the ground as a monster goes berserk.
With these reasons, Grave Reviews give Cloverfield (2008) four graves out of five graves.
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