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Monday, January 28, 2008

Movie Watch: Cloverfield

Cloverfield is hands down one of the most inventive monster movie ever made, if not the most inventive one ever made. Now, granted, it's not a genre with a lot of stiff competition in that field and even Cloverfield is still mostly drawing within the lines, so to speak.

And let's also get out of the way what Cloverfield is not. It's not the best horror movie ever or the scariest movie in ten years or anything like that. What the film has going for it is the unique perspective - and honestly that goes a lot farther than the "Blair Witch" shaky-cam style shooting. There's a depth of digital editing and set design here which we've seen creeping into movies (see Zodiac's blue screens at work for instance) which is genuinely used to create a setting for the viewer.

Unfortunately that setting is scarier than even Cloverfield's much guarded monster, which isn't bad by any Godzilla standard, but the devastation of New York is simply that much more effective. If Cloverfield has any fault, it's that once you've settled into this backdrop, the movie starts to feel even more commonplace. The premise simply runs out of shock value about two third through the plot.

The plot, however, is good enough that you'll be debating for hours after the film whether you would or would not have shared in the character's footsteps. And simply seeing all this action unfold at the street level is done so tightly, that the rather boilerplate plot feels new and fresh.

Cloverfield breaks away from movies like 2000's Godzilla by taking the destruction and dram seriously, unlike that movie's near mon rom com standing (monster romantic comedy for the non zom rom com fans). It also breaks away from Blair Witch as Cloverfield will withstand the hype so much better as its use of scenery actually immerses the viewer into the action, rather than assuming suspension of disbelief from the beginning (Blair Witch is much more frightening when one is tricked into thinking it really was recovered footage first).

Definately recommended.


Pat R said...

cloverfield reminded me of blair witch, only with a lot better sound.

gotta appreciate the originality here.

Josh said...

It definately lifts a bit of the framing (hand camera, found footage, etc) from Blair Witch, but the production and direction really set it apart. Blair's shoestring budget relied on small props to drive certain elements, where Cloverfield really uses an entire city to paint a picture.

I can never tell if I should recommend Blair Witch to anyone - the reception from people I know was always all over the map. Cloverfield I feel pretty safe recommending, as long as people take an antihype pill upon entering.

Tony said...

I never saw BW, but I was definitely taken in by the pre-release hype. I remember the first trailer I saw, thinking I had to see this movie. For whatever reason, I never made it.

Cloverfield, on the other had, had much better hype. After seeing the first teaser during Transformers, I had to see this movie. As soon as I could, I saw it.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but the enigma around Cloverfield was done much better.

Josh said...

My experience w/ BWP was that if you saw it early when the hype was building, and especially if you were in the group that saw the film before it made so much noise that you knew everything about its production, it was fairly intense.

For people who saw it because they had 10 people all tell them it was supposed to be incredibly scary, they thought it was overhyped.

Or regardless it gave you a headache....

Regardless I think BWP was its merits simply because of the creativity involved in the production. I would recommend it to someone interested in indie productions or filmmaking in general, or a horror buff.

Unknown said...

Finally saw this and stopped by to say I enjoyed it. Not sure why folks I know were cool toward it -- seemed solid to me. Shame they didn't have it on Blu-Ray just now. I was tired of waiting...