Movies are all about the hype and anticipation before the release dates. The teaser trailers, websites and photos are all strategically put together to draw an audience on opening weekend. Unfortunately, not all live up to their teaser trailers and websites—many end up being a letdown. There are, though, those select few movies that give the viewer just what he or she was expecting.
The new Cloverfield is one of those films.
Directed by Matt Reeves, Cloverfield is a brutal story of survival under some of the most horrifying conditions imaginable.
A monster descends upon Manhattan, and nobody knows where it came from or how it happened upon that particular city; all they know is that their homes are no longer safe.
The story is told from the point of view of a small group of friends who begin their night throwing a going away party for their friend Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), set to depart for Japan on the following morning. Amidst their celebration, the city suddenly experiences a violent shake. From that point on nobody is safe, and the story quickly becomes one of survival.
Most of the movie consists of the group of friends trying to get out of New York City. There’s no shortage of action as the monster terrorizes the city, leaving masses of smaller, dog-sized parasites in its wake and prompting the government to step in with military force.
The main cast consists of StahlDavid, Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Mike Vogel and Odette Yustman. The actors all embody their roles well, and from the perspective of a member of the audience, the terror they experience is entirely believable.
Although neither the writing nor the plot is anything out of the ordinary, the film is still considered to be extremely experimental. Why? The directing and camera work are carried out in a way that we do not often see.
This modern day Godzilla is stylistically very similar to The Blair Witch Project in that all of the camera work is from the point of view of the characters. T.J. Miller, who plays Hud Platt, documents the entire night on Rob’s video camera.
There is a constant sense of panic that is conveyed well through the extensive camera use. When Hud is running, the camera is running in his hands, capturing every terrifying moment that he and his friends experience.
This aspect of the film is what makes it so good, but at the same time I thought it to be one of the weaker points.
Only five minutes into the movie my head was already spinning and dizzy from the unsteady camera work. I found myself having to close my eyes every once in a while to escape the headache that was sure to follow the chaotic scenes.
At the end of the movie, I was so dizzy I thought that I might hurl, and I got so used to the motion, I was surprised when the end credits rolled by smoothly.
Even though I felt a bit sick after leaving the theater, I would have surely not enjoyed Cloverfield as much as I did if the camera work had indeed been steady.
If not for the direction and camera use, it would have been like every mediocre film I have seen. What did it for me was create a sense of urgency the entire time I was in the theater (and I assure you that the urgency was not just the nausea).
One of the few scenes where the camera was actually steady was when the characters Rob, Marlena, Hud and Lily were sitting in an abandoned underground subway station waiting for the terror to pass on the city streets above them. It’s almost as though the director knew the audience might need a bit of a break.
Hopefully I haven’t given away too much of the film’s plot, but have also convinced you to go and see it. Don’t let my sensitivity to motion fool you; Cloverfield is a fantastic movie and very well made. It has its weak points, but so does everything else.
By now you had better be running, Technique in hand, to the nearest movie theater. Just remember to be prepared for Cloverfield. You might want to swing by a convenience store and buy a seasickness patch to help prepare you for one of the most intense films you will likely see all year.