Review: Cloverfield

After all the hype, after all the teasing and all the talk about it being ‘the’ monster movie to surpass the greatness of ‘Godzilla’, was it a ‘Cloverfield’ of wet-dream monster goodness or a miserable victim of over-cooked marketing exaggeration? The answer is a ‘hell-yeah’ scream of approval. This is a genre-busting effort that is not seen on our cinema-screens ever, not even the likes of ‘Godzilla’ (American and Japanese versions) and ‘Independence Day’ had balls to do what ‘Cloverfield’ just did to us with this film. This film had literally invented a format that combines the point-of-view from ‘The Blair Witch Project’ and the monstrosity that is ‘Godzilla’. And the cool thing is, the combination worked. It worked extraordinarily well, which gave the audience a truly terrifying look into how a catastrophe develops, the emotions that the victims go through, and the decisions and actions that needed to be made for survival. You do not know what you are in for until you sit in that cinema chair and be taken for a ride of sheer-terror and witness realism that is achieved to near perfection.

This film contains an idea that is so simple but yet effective, I wonder why it was not used or done before. Shown from a point-of-view from a single camcorder that recorded the traumas and tabulations of a group of young New Yorkers, particularly a Japan-bound Rob that was celebrating his farewell party with his buddies when the monster attacked, the story pursues their efforts to rescue trapped loved ones and escape from a destroyed New York City. It all sounds simple, but when you see it from the street-level angle of the survivors, the images conveyed are so real it is chilling to the bone. Add that angle with the shaky-cam effect that makes the ‘Bourne’ films look like a sunset shot from ‘Baywatch’, the realism is astounding and the emotional connection with the main characters on screen are bridged to the your senses seamlessly.

But we did not part with our cash for an emotional ride, did we? No siree, nope. We want a monster ride and it did appear for the majority of the film, although only glimpses at first. See, with the unique point-of-view from the camcorder, we see what the characters on the streets see, which are usually only parts of the monster that really puts your imagination into overdrive. Was that a torso smashing the skyscraper? Or a tail? We do not see the full view of the monster until the end quarter of the movie, and believe me, not seeing it fully was the best moments of the film. Not because that the monster was lame, no, in fact it was cool in a unique way as the monster is one freaky amalgamation between a bat and other funky body parts that is indescribable except for the word abomination. With the very effective sound design that lets the cinema’s speakers do their maximum damage, the shrouded glances of the monster effectively keeps the viewer mesmerized with exhilaration until the very end, when the full monster is revealed.

But I think the master-stoke of this film was the director Matt Reeves’ sophistication in filming it with a camcorder. As simple as it may seem, Matt and his cinematographer cleverly fill up the screen with as much information as possible to allow the audience the necessary comprehension needed to understand what was being unveiled on-screen. The merger between actual shots from a camcorder with special effects of the monster and chaos around the city is flawless. Couple that with realistic movements of the camcorder, such as what a person would do when holding a camcorder and at the same time running, screaming and dying, the total effect from this is a surreal visual style that is authentic, frantic and distinctive.

The editing is stupendous, for example inter-cutting scenes of carnage and destruction with clips of Rob and his love-interest during times of togetherness, reminding us why Rob is so determined to go back into the city to save Beth when everyone is going out. The pacing is excellent too, as when the monster do attack, the velocity is relentless and holds up just at the right moments for a breather and it put you right back into the roller-coaster hot seat.

But for all the support for ‘Cloverfield’, it does have its weak points. I for one found it to be too shallow as there was no veiled meaning to all the carnage and provided no reasons for the monster attacks. Unlike ‘War of the Worlds’, it was simply a recorded footage found from a bunch of New Yorkers trying to save a fellow member’s injured girlfriend and their attempts to flee from the city’s destruction. And that’s it. It also felt B-grade, as despite the impressive monster CGI, all the hallmarks of a B-grade sci-fi movie were there to see, from the trigger-happy generals shouting orders to annihilate the entire city to nerdy scientists and to stereotypical good-looking yuppies as the main characters (two screaming damsels, a goof-ball cameraman and the handsome jock that is trying to rescue a pretty chick), the feeling is eerily B-grade from the actors and its clichéd characters.

But let’s all remember what we are there for: thrills, spills and monster carnage in a big city. And you will get that, in a big, loud and cool way. Cool to the point that I noticed audiences had to make multiple trips to the washroom and ease themselves of bladder pressure all tensed up from the thrills and chills of a monster movie. I’ve not seen such washroom-visiting frequency since ‘Jurassic Park’ first opened its jaws to the mass Malaysian public, and this will go down as a movie that will rival it as the monster movie to remember.

(By the way, whatever images of the monster I’ve posted on my blog, or whatever you may have seen on the net, it’s wrong. So wrong. You will not have seen this monster until you have seen the movie).

Verdict: 8 / 10

Reviewed by: Raymond Choy

What do you think? Like it? Hate it? Tell me about it!!!


William said...

I was bugging a friend to tell me what the hell the monster was... "Go watch the movie!" was all I got too!

Raymond said...

haha, i think if you knew what the monster looked like, it will probably spoil it for you. but in my opinion, it kinda sucked. i think Godzilla (US and Jap versions) looked cooler than this. The T-rex from 'Jurassic Park' still rocks top in my book.

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