Cloverfield review by The Grim Ringler


For some people, the perfect movie is one where they can go, pay their money, and just tune out and let themselves be lead into a world that isn’t their own. For me, I am one of those rare weirdos who loves the mystery, the chase, and the world beneath the surface of the film. It isn’t just how a movie is made, but the story behind the story. The myth beneath the surface. Sure, it’s a very rare film that does something like this, but when they do, jeepers creepers I get all wound up. This is a big part of why I loved The Blair Witch Project so much. I loved the movie, but just as much I loved the story behind it. I loved the world of fake documentaries they created, and the world of the myth that had been created. With Cloverfield you get a mysterious monster movie and with it, a deep back-story that, if you are interested, makes it all the more fun. But, after months of hype, is the movie even any good? A resounding yes friend, oh boy, is it.

Rob Hawkins is about to begin the adventure of a lifetime. On the eve of moving to Japan to take a vice presidency with a soft drink company, Rob’s friends have thrown a going away party. All goes well until Beth, one of his closest friends and someone he has recently consummated a long time crush with brings a date. All of this is captured on video by Hud, Rob’s best friend, who was tasked with capturing all the moments of the evening so Rob would have something to remember this night. As things are going though, all he wants is to forget it all. After a fight with Beth about her guest, she leaves and Rob is left to brood. In the middle of all of this there is an earthquake, and then another, and as everyone moves to the roof to get a better look at what is happening, they get an idea that something isn’t right in Manhattan. As soon as the party moves to the roof though, the full scale of what is happening becomes clear, as does the danger. The film then becomes a race to escape Manhattan island and the looming horror but for Rob, there is only one person that he wants to save, and that’s Beth, who has called him and told him she’s injured at her apartment. Whatever monstrosity may be threatening the city, its love and friendship that has more power over these friends and survivors, and if any of them have hope, it’s together.

It’s a shame that so many are lumping this film into the ‘oh it’s just a Godzilla movie’ pile. Just as too many are falling on the silly ‘oh, it’s a Blair Witch movie’. Um, no to both. Not ever monster movie has something to do with Godzilla and, unless you are referring to the first film in that series, then it’s a bad analogy. The first Godzilla film is emotional, deep, and has a lot of subtext. The rest were just fun giant monster movies. So, yeah, CLOVERFIELD is like the FIRST Godzilla movie, but that’s it. And just because a film uses a similar style to another film doesn’t make it the same, a rip-off, or more than inspired by that previous film, at most. BWP’s style was not wholly original, hell, they got their inspiration from documentaries, and before that there was a creepy cannibal movie to look towards for inspiration on first person narrative. So, past all the criticisms that will be pasted on the film before a frame is seen, you have a very engaging, very scary, very emotional film about friendship and tragedy. The monster is there, and boy is it, and it isn’t alone (take that however you’d like), but the heart of the film is the people, and, like The Host, it’s that aspect that makes the film so unique and special. The characters all have moments of truth and reality. They all have aspects that make them real. It’s not fair to say – oh, they’re the archetypes/stereotypes that you see in these movies. That can be said of most films made. There is a lot of clever dialogue thrown in with the spectacle and the special effects, and the dialogue rings true. The dialogue isn’t glib, and there are no great, heroic speeches. These are friends speaking to one another as they try to survive something they can’t even fathom. There is a scene in the film, where there is a break in the running, and in the horror, and the true face of what they are dealing with is revealed when one character gets a call from their mother and has to explain how they watched their sibling killed by the creature. THAT is what makes this film so good, that the focus isn’t on the monster, but the people, and that’s what makes it all the scarier.

Ok, so I liked the movie, and I liked the people. What else? Technically this is a pretty inspired film. To imagine that they made this film and kept the idea that this was all handheld footage is pretty impressive. You can tell that there is a lot of technical know-how behind the making of the film but truly, they keep the heart of that hand held film feel. I can’t say enough either about the special effects which, when considering the modest budget, is very well done. To answer the question everyone wants to know – yes you see the monster, and it’s pretty gnarly. I can’t say you ever get a clear idea what it is, or what it looks like (do some digging on the ‘net, kids!) but there is no cheat; you will see what has been hyped for so long.

A lot of people won’t like the style – the shaky-cam stuff – but it didn’t bother me. The camera doesn’t jostle around as much as it did in BWP and, if you don’t sit right up on the screen at the theater, you should be fine. Also, if you find that non-linear stories bother you then this one won’t go down easy. It’s not that the film has a strange structure but that there are connections you must put together yourself, and that might frustrate some. The big bash against the film some will have is that not all questions are answered and not all t’s are crossed. I heard a few people complaining about the ending, and I can see that, though I won’t agree. Can you tell that I loved the crap out of this thing?

This is the rare film that, as hyped as it was, really lived up to that hype. You get exactly what you were promised – people trying to survive a giant monster, all shot first person. There are deeper mysteries, and is a very human story, and all of that is what makes this not just a good film but a great one. This film takes a known and tired genre and makes it real and immediate. With the added online portion to this mythos, you really get a fascinating tale. I will say this, also – watch through the credits. Besides getting a brilliant main theme (that you only hear at the end), you will get a last teaser about the film which, while you’ll have to look it up online to decipher it, gives a chilling coda to the film.

In a word – wow.

9 out of 10 Jackasses

blog comments powered by Disqus