Cloverfield (2008)    3 Stars

“Some Thing Has Found Us”

Cloverfield (2008)

Cloverfield (2008)


Director: Matt Reeves

Cast: Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan

Synopsis: A group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.

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Matt Reeves’ found-footage horror Cloverfield doffs it hat to the Japanese monster movies by which the film was inspired with a touch of irony that sees young yuppie (or whatever the 21st Century equivalent of that sub-species might be) Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) landing himself a peach of a job as President of the Slusho corporation.    Unfortunately, his step up the corporate ladder necessitates a move to the land of fanged turtles, flying dragons and giant moths (at least if the likes of Toho are to be believed), and away from his yummy girlfriend, Beth (Odette Yustman).   Mind you, as yummy as she might be, tact clearly isn’t Beth’s strong point, judging by the way she shows up with her new boyfriend (Ben Feldman) at a surprise leaving party for Rob thrown by his brother, Jason (Mike Vogel – The Help).

But Rob’s domestic woes are forgotten when the revelry at his party is abruptly disrupted by a power cut which serves to highlight what look like bombs exploding in downtown Manhattan.   Racing to the roof of Rob’s apartment block, the former revellers, who are now sobering up in double-quick time, catch glimpses of some mammoth, shadowy figure causing wholesale destruction as it blunders between the City’s skyscrapers.    Everyone heads for the street, figuring that they will be safer at ground level, to be greeted by scenes of carnage and panic.   Whatever it is that’s marauding around the city is doing so in a blind panic, indiscriminately destroying any building with which it comes into contact, crushing the unlucky residents who have spilled into the streets, and raising huge clouds of dust uncomfortably reminiscent of those seen on 9/11.  The streets might be safer than the top of a skyscraper, but not by much, and Rob’s brother and friends make for the nearest bridge.   But Rob decides he’s not leaving the city until he has found Beth, who had left the party shortly before the attack began and returned to her father’s plush apartment, which is right in the midst of the carnage.   So, with a handful of friends, he heads back into Manhattan.

Although its larger budget (approximately $25,000,000) allows Cloverfield to show effects that are far more spectacular than its more modestly-produced found-footage brethren, it still subjects us to the same seesaw-shaky-cam whenever anything we really want to see is going on, accompanied by the requisite shrieks of “OHMYGOD!OHMYGOD!OHMYGOD!”   And although this technique can grow increasingly irritating over the course of a movie, it also lends it an air of immediacy and authenticity that is usually missing from conventional movies.   We’re there in the thick of it, sprinting along with some bozo too terrified to drop his camera.   Those old Japanese monster movies were big on showing the destruction wreaked on buildings by Godzilla or one of his mates, but paid relatively scant attention to the human cost of one of its rampages.   What Cloverfield does is place us inside that old monster movie concept to give us an staggeringly realistic taste of the all-consuming terror that envelopes its characters.   So, instead of seeing a pair of miniature legs mechanically kicking back and forth from a monster’s mouth, we get the victim’s POV shot as the inconceivably huge monster has a semi-curious sniff before biting off a couple of his limbs and throwing him back to the ground.  And instead of repeated shots of a bunch of military types frowning at a screen as they try to defeat the creature, we’re on the streets with a bunch of young adults simply trying to get away from it.

But although Cloverfield’s giant creature is undeniably impressive, it’s the dog-sized, spider-like parasites that really chill the bones.   These little buggers move fast and can walk on ceilings, and they provide a far more intimate horror than that of a panicked giant that’s barely conscious of your existence and will more often than not crush you beneath its size 10,000 in a painless instant.   These skittering, scurrying horrors target you, and get up close and personal in order to tear chunks from your flesh, and leave a horrifying time-limited memento of their visit if you’re (un)lucky enough to survive their attack.

Cloverfield clearly has no intention of adding anything new to the horror genre, but it succeeds admirably in its intention to present an invigorating new perspective on one of the horror’s most familiar scenarios.

(Reviewed  28th March 2016)

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Cloverfield (2008) – Official Trailer | HD



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