Cloverfield * * * *
Director: Matt Reeves.
Screenplay: Drew Goddard.
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T. J. Miller, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman, Chris Mulkey.
Having recently watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) the latest of found footage film’s in “Chronicle“, I decided to look back at one of the sub-genre’s most critically praised. Now, when “Cloverfield” was released in 2008, I couldn’t really give two shits. However, I feel that might have judged this film unfairly and wanted to go back and give it another chance. After all, director Matt Reeves and particularly producer J.J. Abrams have built a steady reputation on the back of this.
While documenting a friends farewell party on video camera, a group of New Yorker’s find themselves videoing something else entirely. Their send-off is interrupted by an attack on the city as a massive and terrifying monster creates incredible havoc and tears the city apart.
As the film opens, we are given the gist straight away; middle-class yuppie-types with too much money and nothing to talk about. They have irritating mannerisms and deliver their dialogue in a resemblance of the kooky characters from the long-running TV show “Friends“. In this, I wasn’t sold. In fact, the only reason I persevered was just too see if any of them eventually got their heads ripped off. Thankfully, that wasn’t too far from the truth. After the long and protracted opening, the film suddenly jolts you to attention as panic sets in on the realisation that New York is under attack from some foriegn entity. The allegory to 9/11 is very apparent. As is the comparisons with another monster classic “Godzilla“. It’s at this point that you realise the dull opening was forgivable. Deliberate even. This isn’t a film about character development or even story. This is an unashamed monster/horror film about thrills and it’s a fine one at that. I have often proclaimed my dislike to a lot of found footage film’s and that particular style does become a bit irritating, not to mention disorientating here. However, it also works very highly in delivering the confusion and tension. The special effects are very impressive indeed and allow forgiveness for many of the film’s shortcomings. As mentioned, I had a real problem with the grating and shallow characters but, like most film’s of the found footage variety, you can imagine my delight at the realisation that there are very few, if any, survivors. That’s not say that I didn’t find myself rooting for them on occasion. I did, but that’s down the creativity of the filmmakers. Matt Reeves, (who done “Let Me In” – the American remake of the Swedish vampire movie “Let The Right One In“) does a sterling job in only his second directorial outing. He manages to mount the tension in abundance and he does it all, without the use of music. It was only after it was over and the credits were rolling that I realised my perception of this film had not been manipulated in any way, with an overbearing score.
You can see the clout that producer J.J. Abrams brings to the table here but his backing only allows a talented director to flourish. And that he does. This is a stylistically crafted, adrenaline filled, modern B-movie that commands your attention.