Cloverfield review – monster invasion POV style
Cloverfield is an inspired, creative invasion flick
Cloverfield may just be my all-time favorite monster movie. It’s smart, scary and features a creative twist on the genre thanks to its unique found-film perspective.
The filmmakers, including producer J.J. Abrams, were cutting edge and quickly embraced the possibilities of viral marketing by creating MySpace pages for the characters and random video postings leading to the film’s release.
A brief warning kicks off the film that the following video is the property of the U.S. government that details incidents in the area formerly known as Central Park clearly foreshadowing that things have not exactly gone well.
We flash back to April 27 where friends Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Annable) have taken their relationship beyond the platonic stage. After a night together they plan a trip to Coney Island.
The video jarringly skips to May 22 and now Rob’s brother, Jason (Mike Vogel) is using the camera to film a surprise party that he and his girlfriend, Lily (Jessica Lucas, That Awkward Moment), are throwing for Rob, who is leaving for a new job in Japan the next morning.
Jason quickly tires of being the cameraman and pawns it off on their friend, Hud (T.J. Miller, She’s Out of My League), who serves as our narrator through the remainder of the film.
Since the initial video clip, Rob and Beth have fallen out. At the party, they get into an argument that sends Beth fuming back to her apartment. Jason and Hud try to console Rob, but he’s angry at himself for lashing out at the woman he loves.
But before he can do anything about it, an earthquake hits, followed by a power outage and the frightened populace soon discover that a towering monster has invaded the city.
Rob gets a message that Beth is trapped in her apartment and he pleads with his friends and Hud’s crush, Marlena (Lizzy Caplan, Bachelorette), to help him save her even as the city crumbles in the monster’s path of destruction.
Screenwriter Drew Goddard (Lost) writes the characters just like you could envision yourself in the same setting. They’re not action heroes and what they see terrifies them, but for Beth’s sake they keep moving forward. Hud’s running commentary is also entertaining and Miller steals the film despite rarely being in front of the camera. Caplan remains consistently solid and Lucas gets a welcome significant role.
And without any big name stars there’s a welcome air of unpredictability so no character is ever truly safe. At any moment the unexpected can happen. Interspersed through the film are random clips of Rob and Beth’s date at Coney Island, providing an ironic glimpse of normal life as the characters fight for their lives.
Director Matt Reeves stages one of the best found footage films you’ll see. Moreso than any other film in the genre, Reeves makes the audience feel like they’re taking part in the action not passively observing characters through the lens of a distracting camcorder. You feel like you’re there as the characters frantically make their way to Beth and you’ll want to duck whenever some new terror comes out of nowhere.
Reeves doesn’t bother setting up fake thrills. With a brisk 85 min. — the exact length of the camcorder’s videotape — he goes straight for the action and there’s some craziness lurking behind every potential threat, which also helps to keep you on edge.
The actual monster rarely appears on screen, but Reeves doesn’t set up the film for a massive monster payoff scene, this is all about survival and is the closest to a survival horror style video game that’s come out of Hollywood yet. Be on the lookout for quick shot-outs to other monster movies as well.
Cloverfield isn’t the typical monster movie and it’s all the more exceptional for approaching the genre from a different perspective.
9 thoughts on “Cloverfield review – monster invasion POV style”
it was a good movie and im not even into scary strange movies, but at the time they marketed so good I had to see. I waited till it came out on dvd and it was still a great experience. Even the name cloverfield sounds like to cover or to cloak. I dont know about you but the monsters face was creepy enough for me. I wouldnt be shocked if the new Godzilla movie falls flat compared to this. And what happened to the cutie on the left on the picture above. Nice…
It was a neat way to spin the “found-footage” genre around in a way that was thrilling and at least a bit inventive. Also helped that T.J. Miller was pretty hilarious, although he couldn’t carry the camera for shit. Good review Jeff.
LOL. Hud’s shoddy camerawork was part of the fun for me Dan.
Gotta check out your review of “Godzilla!”
Thanks as always for reading!
A work of genius, really.
One of only a few movies that doesn’t degenerate into some grand spectacle for spectacle’s sake.
I am sure you are not alone in enjoying this one. I love it too, and i am sure many others also love it.
I love the craziness of those bugs that fall off it and if they bite you, you explode. It’s bananas.
Ah Barry, I’m thinking by the end of the day I’ll be appreciating your comments even more. Godzilla’s fan base seems like they’ll be just as much fun as Pacific Rim fans.
Anyway, I’m glad to see Cloverfield is held in good esteem from folks after I posted this. Kinda surprised it’s just in the 70s on Rotten Tomatoes.
As scary as those spiders were, the wave of rats may have been even more terrifying to me!
It was honestly legit scary and funny. They hit on all of the human emotions. This the blair witch project( that kind of started it all and is a one time thrill ride), and chronicle are highlights of this. I never watched any of the paranormal movies so thats probably the biggest earner. As far as using real footage or real looking, borat, collateral damage also used this in a nice way. Collateral had a feeling all too well watching someone pull a gun out a club and start capping. The rats and spiders freak me out. I think my wife will slap me if ask to rewatch it with her.
I saw Blair Witch with my sister and we were seriously underwhelmed by it, but Cloverfield was nuts and even though he was just a producer on this, it marked the stamp of I’ll trust JJ Abrams on every project he does from here on out.
I could understand your wife going at you on this one! ;-)
Absolutely love this movie. One of my favourite found footage films. I just remember being at the cinema, on the edge of my seat, the whole way through. The trailer was one of the best teasers ever too…
Definitely. It’s such a well made film and easily one of the genre’s best.