Cloverfield was book ended by two events for me. The first was while waiting on-line to get in. A woman coming out of another showing and shouted “you’re all wasting your money!”
Cloverfield as a film owes as much as a film to The Blair Witch Project as it does Godzilla. Thankfully it’s more the latter than the former. And I’m very glad I thought ahead and took some motion sickness pills. I feel for anyone entering the theater that didn’t. Still, when it was over I was unsteady on my feet, and had to stand for a few minutes before attempting the stairs.
One the surface, Cloverfield is what it appears to be in trailer form, a kick ass monster movie; all head of the Statue of Liberty rolling down the street and building smashing you can take. On the other, much like the original Godzilla, it’s a parable. Where Godzilla played on nuclear fears, Cloverfield plays the terrorism card in such a way that it will go right over most people’s heads.
The movie is shot by camcorder, as a going away party suddenly becomes a quest to escape a horrible event in lower Manhattan. As the head of Lady Liberty rolls, so too does the dust of a building crumbling to the ground. As the human throng runs from falling debris, you can’t help but recall the memory of people fleeing the attack on the World Trade Center, as the Twin Towers crashed to the ground. There is no condemnation of anyone here, there is little time for reflection; these are people on the run for their lives. With so little time to look back, the monster is seen in camcorder flashes, as is the horror left in its wake. There is such a visceral response to the terror these people feel and empathy for their plight that I found I had to remind myself that this was a movie. And that is part of the genius of how it was filmed. This is not some slick Hollywood version of a monster movie, but a post 9/11 look at terror. Not to say the effects aren’t top notch. The destruction of New York is so realistic I’m still not sure how they pulled it off. Is it model work, CGI or a mix of both? There is one scene towards the end that stretches disbelief a bit, but it’s so pee-down-the-leg intense that I can forgive it.
This is a film that no matter the box office should never have a sequel. It is what it is, and should stand that way. You could easily show the story from another camcorders perspective, but it would dilute what was done here. This is masterful storytelling that should stand on its own.
The second event of the evening was a woman who stood up at the end of the film and said “I want my money back!” Both women left me shaking my head…some people just don’t get it.
4 1/2 Dead Clowns