My favorite monster movie. So Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is leaving New York for a vice president position in Japan, and all of his friends are throwing him a going away party. Thing is, he has awful timing, as this is the same night that a giant unidentified creature has decided to crawl out of the ocean to wreak havoc upon the city. Out of all of my favorite films, this is one of the ones that I get the most replay value out of. It’s super-quick, effective, and I experience the same exact range of emotions that I felt when I watched this in a theater in 2008 every time I pop this Blu-ray in.
You get to know every one of these characters very quickly. The whole entire reason why there is a found footage element is so they could document the party and get testimonials (like you would at a wedding), so you get a lot of information about where all of these characters stand with each other in a very brief amount of time. I don’t know how much of this script is improvised, but everybody shares very naturally flowing dialogue with each other, and not in a mumblecore kind of way; you understand every single line that they have. This leads to likability as well as a lot of good comedic relief lines. There is a lot of tension, which shouldn’t be surprising; there is an expectedly large amount of mayhem being caused by this creature, which directly leads to death, and you quickly learn that no one is safe. This makes it all the more important that you can break it up with the occasional good laugh, if only to make this cataclysmic event easier to process. T.J. Miller, the man behind the camera, turns in some excellent work, which makes it all the more well deserved that he has gone on to successful subsequent projects.
This movie was also a game changer in the marketing department. They did so many unique things virally, so much so that they didn’t immediately release the title of this to raise additional intrigue. They only hinted at the monster, and to be fair, the monster itself is only onscreen for maybe 5 minutes (if that). But much like Jaws, it’s what’s implied that really gets into your head, and Cloverfield does a fantastic job at giving you the scope of this thing. I also feel that the special effects look flawless on the handheld camera, and while I have heard of people complain about this giving them motion sickness, it has never bothered me, and I’ve watched this at least a dozen times by now. The one argument you may be able to make against this movie is the same one that can be made in all found footage films: why don’t they just put down the camera. They address this as much as needed, having our man behind the camera have a line: “people are going to want to know”, and that’s really the only thing that needs to be said. The reason why I love this movie as much as I do is because every time I watch this, I get filled with an almost overwhelming sense of dread, and I’m know I’m a bit of an odd duck, but I love experiencing that. I watch this 1 – 2 times a year, so obviously, this gets an emphatic recommendation from me.
Cloverfield (2008) *****
– Critic for Hire