In an era of internet attention spans and trailers that reveal all of the plot so you don’t need to see the movie, Cloverfield was one of the exceptionally few movies that genuinely sprung a surprise. By releasing in a media bubble of secrecy and keeping things mysterious, it garnered more intrigue than almost any other film for years either side. Thankfully its high production found-footage monster movie was able to live up to the hype and spectacle.
The disasters faced
The cloverfield monster, all its delightful offspring and all the exploding carnage it causes. Shakey cam might be your biggest disaster though as if you don’t enjoy wobbly camerawork – this movie is probably not for you!
Rob is leaving Manhatten for Japan for a new job. His brother Jason, Jason’s girlfriend Lilly and mutual bestie Hud are all helping throw a goodbye party. At said party Rob’s very recent ex that is blatantly not really over yet Beth arrives just long enough to stir some feathers and then leave. We see all of this through a handheld camera as Hud documents the party, taking little speeches from people wishing Rob well. Hud is far more interested in flirting with Marlena though, whose passing through as one of Lilly’s friends.
Then a large boom rocks the apartment building.
Rob, Jason, Lilly, Marlena and Hud are all swept up into a living nightmare when something starts attacking Manhatten. You see glimpses but not the full object and as buildings smash, bridges fall and the army smash their way through the city – our five try to look for a way off the island. That is until Rob receives a voice mail from Beth. Having stripped off home, she is trapped high up in her own apartment block and in a very bad way. With options to escape the city shutting down, Rob decides he wants to save Beth as no one else knows she is there and carnage is unfolding around them.
I shall purposely leave out the details but what follows is a near-real time escape disaster movie as our gang of 20-somethings try to avoid the kaiju-like monster and all the perils it brings. Who will survive and what on earth is this monster?
Why is it worth watching?
This film is like a big budget Blair Witch Project in terms of its execution. While everything is done in that wobbly handheld amatuer way, its used to fantastic effect. When Cloverfield released, found-footage films were much rarer back then and it was unheard of to make one that was actually a big budget film. They key to all of this is way the camera and effects are used.
As you have the same view as the characters, you half see the explosions and monster so they both seem more terrifying. The sheer dwarfing of the moster over everything else is more apparent and horror of their situation is thrust at you every single second of the film. Amateur camera genre films completely divide people. I can see why some would say they would like the film better if it was just shot normally, however for Cloverfield I disagree. By placing you into the frenzy directly, the situation dwarves you and the film feels immediate and reactionary.
The pacing of the film is also what keeps you enthrawled. The first fifteen minutes of meeting the characters feels like a really bad college drama and I must admit, half the characters I didn’t initially take to. Then when it all kicks off, you start to strangely bond with them because they – and you – are reacting to all of the things going on around you. It is a clever piece of cinema in that way. I wanted to scream at Hud initially for being such a doofus and then I felt quite sorry for him by the end.
Although you see Cloverfield all through the handheld camera, the cameraman manages to capture a hell of a lot of special effects. The famous Statue of Liberty’s head being thrown about was the big shocker for all the teasers of the film is now permanently seered in my brain as a WOAH moment in cinema. Outside of that, seeing the monster and its little offspring in action is cool and the amount of explosions and army personnel everywhere is impressive too. It may be shot on handheld but the frames are very well used.
Whenever I watch this movie I always spend most of the first ten minutes hating everyone except Lilly, who seems a little uptight but normal. Hud is horrific as a friend, Jason seems like a big head, Rob needs to grow a pair, Marlena is too cool for school and Beth seems just a little too bitchy. There is a couple that seem to vanish after the bridge sequence called Jenn and Antonio and they seemed infinitely nicer than the main group! Thankfully everyone fearing for their lives makes them sort their shit out and become normal humans with emotions again. I still cannot decide if its bad scripting or just American party people being American party people. I like everyone again by the end though.
Beth ‘What is that?!’
Hud ‘Its a terrible thing!’
Beth ‘Oh My god! What is that?!’
Hud ‘I don’t know! Something Else! Also terrible!’
Beth when she is rescued and see’s the monster and parasites for the first time.
Three memorable moments
- Statue of Liberty’s head crashing down
- Having the camera be eaten by the monster briefly
- Crossing over the collapsed apartment block buildings
The obligatory weird moment
While being inside the monsters mouth was weird, my strangest thing is that at the start of the film it says the video camera uses an SD Card, but then you get these blips of previous video tape footage where the tape stops/pauses and runs on. It is a great story telling vehicle and I thought for ages I’d found a loophole but alas this has since been debunked. The tapes are transferred over to an SD card.
Other than that, how on earth does Beth run around so much after being impaled for hours?! The metal bar looks like it has impaled her through her heart nearly and yet five minutes later this is absolutely legging in. Talk about getting a second wind!
The drinking game
“We’ve got to get out of here!” … and then no one proceeds to do so!
Whilst you do have to suspend reality at times, Cloverfield is a fantastic monster/disaster movie that warrants everyones attention at least once. The amatuer video footage may put some off but those are missing the whole energy and point of the movie which is to place you in the heart of the action at all times. If Cloverfield does anything, it will give you a unique action packed ride!
Rating: 5 / 5 – My Personal Favourites
If you liked Cloverfield then you may like…
- 10 Cloverfield Lane – The next film in the Cloverfield set makes a human monster
- Godzilla – The 2014 reboot follows a lot of Cloverfeilds tricks but isn’t as effective
- No Escape – This family trapped in a militant coup has the same visercal feel
This review was updated on 18/05/2020 to reflect the new review format for the site.