Hollywood’s hottest producer and director of the moment is “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams, and after month’s of immense secrecy, his newest film, “Cloverfield,” has been released. The film, directed by Matt Reeves (who cocreated the acclaimed series “Felicity” with Abrams), isn’t perfect, but is a sufficiently refreshing horror/sci-fi/thriller piece that is just guaranteed entertainment. American audiences haven’t seen a really good monster movie in a while, and “Cloverfield” is surprisingly rejuvenating.
Like most films in its genre, “Cloverfield” has a very simple plot. During a going-away party for Rob (Michael Stahl-David), the island of Manhattan is attacked by a huge aquatic creature. During the party, Rob has some issues with his best friend/love interest Beth (Odette Yustman), and this fight leads to guilt after the attack. The party ends, and the guests hurry to the streets – only to see Lady Liberty’s head hurling past them and the legs of a creature in the distance. While the entire population tries to leave the island, Rob stubbornly forces his friends Lily (Jessica Lucas), Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) and Hud (T.J. Miller) to come with him to save Beth, who seems to be stuck in her apartment.
It isn’t Shakespeare, but it sets up a very good thriller/monster movie storyline. The movie is truly terrifying – especially how infrequentley the monster is featured. Clocking in at about six minutes of real visual contact with the monster itself was an ingenious tool to create more fear in the film’s audience.
The movie is filmed on a handy-cam by Rob’s friend Hud, a technique that adds a lot of realism, but also a lot of nausea. A similar complaint was made about “The Blair Witch Project.” The use of the camera can very distracting at times, but the action and horror elements of the film are what should be more memorable.
Hud serves as an oddly comical narrator to the tale of these ill-fated people. He’s very personable, and his reactions to the gigantic monster are quite authentic. This adds a calming quality to a very scary movie.
Another strange element in the film is the amount of interest invested in the human characters. At the very beginning of the film, the characters don’t seem exactly interesting, but they truly redeem themselves as very humanistic people. The previously mentioned party that starts out the film really draws you in, and then when the attack occurs, it is completely unexpected.
However, the characters are remarkably likeable at this point, and one legitimately cares about what happens to them. The reuniting of Rob and Beth is a bit anti-climactic, but the sequences on the streets – especially in the subway – are exceptionally engrossing and quite satisfactory.
The monster itself is never named or described as any specific species, but it is quite scary. The design of the creature isn’t revolutionary, but is very well detailed and exhibits terrific creativity from the film’s visual effects department. The scariest part about this particular interloper is its babies. Yes, it has babies! They are as unforgiving as their mother. These creepy little spider-like spawn inexplicably fall from the larger monster and serve as an additional threat to the group of twentysomethings.
The filmmakers were very good at making sure that terror was around every corner, especially with the addition of the little bite-happy critters.
“Cloverfield” could have just been another over-hyped disaster film, but really comes out on top as a piece of cleverly created and pure entertainment. The movie has its problems, such as its appallingly fakesounding dialogue, predictability and the lack of raw talent from its stars. It isn’t going to be remembered as a masterpiece, but it is a timely genre film from two promising talents – Abrams and Reeves. Reeves isn’t a very famous director at this point, but “Cloverfield” should open all sorts of doors for him, and hopefully, we will see many different films from him in the future. Abrams is currently directing the extremely promising “Star Trek” reboot, due in December.
A “Cloverfield” sequel is inevitable after the immediate box office success, and hopefully, an equally fun and engaging movie can be made for audiences who rarely get to see a well-thought out Hollywood monster movie.