Review: Cloverfield

Published 7 years ago by , Updated February 9th, 2012 at 9:54 pm,

By Vic Holtreman

Short version: Yes, it lives up to the hype – Cloverfield is a blast.

cloverfield movie Review: CloverfieldWhere does one start a review of a movie that has been the subject of so much attention and hype for months on end leading up to its release?

Bigger than the speculation about what the monster in the movie would look like, the hunting for clues on viral websites, what “Slusho” has to do with the movie – has been the question: After all the hype, will it be a great movie or a huge letdown?

Well I’m sorry to disappoint all the naysayers, but Cloverfield rocked.

Will it win an Oscar or Golden Globe? Heck no. Was it fun and exciting to sit through? Hell yes. This is what the ridiculously weak American version of Godzilla that came out a few years ago should have been.

The following review will be free of any major spoilers – to the point where I won’t even say whether the images that have been making the rounds lately are accurate portrayals of the monster or not. icon smile Review: Cloverfield

Cloverfield opens with a color bar pattern on the screen (which did elicit some unintentional laughs from the audience), but after a few seconds cuts to a very official and government-looking title stating:

“Multiple sightings of case designate ‘Cloverfield’ camera retrieved at incident site U.S. 447 previously known as “Central Park”

Yes, this was shown in the trailer, but as the movie is just starting it impresses upon you that this is not going to end well.

When it cuts from there to a hand held digital camera’s eye view of the interior of a very nice high rise apartment in New York City, it’s quite surprising (and I thought, did not make sense). Here we meet beauty Beth (Odette Yustman) and the guy behind the camera who we presume to be her boyfriend, Rob. Rob (played by Michael Stahl-David) is the fellow for whom the going away party is being thrown due to a new job as vice-president of some company in Japan.

From there it seems that whoever is in charge of the camcorder likes to pretty much record anything and everything as it follows people walking down the streets of New York City and into Rob’s apartment which is being prepared for a surprise going away party for him. We meet Rob’s brother Jason (Mike Vogel), who has been tasked by his girlfriend Lilly (Jessica Lucas) with recording “testimonials” from all the guests at the party. Jason is not pleased and manages to hand off the job to Rob’s best friend Hud, who at first grudgingly takes up the task. Eventually Hud starts to enjoy it as the night goes on and he gets a bit drunk while faithfully filming everything that’s going on.

We also meet a young woman named Marlena (played by Lizzy Kaplan), who Hud has his eye on but can’t seem to work up the courage (or charm) to talk to properly. By this time the audience is finally getting absorbed into the whole camcorder point of view thing, but it does take a while. The official government opening of the film doesn’t quite jive with all this preliminary material, but eventually it does get to the point where Hud wants to keep recording because “someone should see this.”

As we all know already, it’s during this party that all hell breaks loose and when it happens it’s extremely effective. I found myself thinking of Asian horror films, where up until the stuff hits the fan they can be incredibly mundane and almost boring, which then makes for a much more jarring effect when things veer off into the bizarre.

There’s a lot of humor in the film, mostly provided by cameraman Hud (played by unknown T.J. Miller who is not seen a lot but whose presence is constantly felt). One thing I found funny in particular was moments after the initial attack, when the head from the Statue of Liberty ends up in the middle of a Manhattan street, while some people are screaming and yelling “Oh My God!” a bunch of folks gather around the head in the middle of the chaos to calmly take pictures of it with their cell phones and digital cameras.

I didn’t expect the film to be funny at all, but the humor was sprinkled throughout the film very effectively, at time relieving the tension of what was happening on screen. Cloverfield also has a much larger scale than I expected considering the hand-held premise, showing citywide vistas and long shots of the creature. On the flip side, if you absolutely HATE the “jumpy camera” film style I have to say this film is not for you. Well, maybe if you sit in the very last row.

Now when I say “larger scale,” don’t go in expecting some mega-production… Although the effects are, well, effective, it’s more of an intimate film where we get to know the five friends and experience what happens through their eyes in real time.

Yes, 9/11 did come to mind and yes, it did make me a bit uneasy. But what I liked was that in a way it was almost cathartic (just stay with me here): As the people on the street that day didn’t know exactly what was going on despite the fact they were witnessing it first hand, the characters in the film (and the audience) experience similar confusion in the face of disaster of a different sort here.

Regarding the viral marketing of this film: In the end, it fits the final product perfectly. It really is a small film about a small group of friends with the occasional “big” scene here and there.

The creature is very cool and had kind of an H.P. Lovecraft look about it, and it delivers a few surprises. The characters were believable and well acted for this sort of film and that was extremely important, because if you didn’t care about them you had nothing (cough, AVP-R, cough).

So for all you movie reviewer haters out there that think I don’t cut sci-fi movies (AVP-R) or TV shows (The Sarah Connor Chronicles) enough slack, Cloverfield exemplifies what a Screen Rant review is all about: In the end does the movie entertain the audience without insulting their intelligence?

If the answer is yes, it gets a great review from me.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5

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  1. Haha Geoff, great movie trash talk.

    Wednesday night, Conan O’Brien showed a clip from Cloverfield and explained that some people were getting ill while viewing it.

    He announced that he was going to do part of his monologue “Cloverfield style.” The camera jerked around the stage, Conan ran back and forth in a frenzy lights flashed and smoke bombs exploded in his path.

    Then everything calmed down and the camera focused on one of the band members “throwing up” into a metal pail.

  2. Sorry lads, have to pipe in again. I’m seeing a lot of comments commending the originality of this film.

    For those who actually get out of the house to see movies, or for those who love the horror genre enough to know just how UNoriginal this film is.

    For the whole monster bit, for the documentary-style cimematography, the military, the bugs in the subways, I have three movies to mention. Blair Witch Project, Godzilla, Mimic.

    One of the problems with modern horror cinema, is that is grossly lacks any originality. Moviemakers simply treat you like an ADD ridden simpleton and overload you with CG effects to detract your mind from the fact that there really ISN’T anything original about them.

    A in most cases, anyone under 20 years old is never the wiser.

  3. Good points Geoff,
    Yea I think we all got that Blair Witch and Godzilla inspired Cloverfield.
    Good thing I never saw Blair Witch and hanvt been a fan of Godzilla since I was very young.

  4. LOVED the movie wanting and waiting to see another one.

  5. Whp paid you for the good review you gave this movie? The camera work made the audience sick, the trick was to figure out was this a movie about a monster attacking NY or how a group drunk party goers get killed. I got my money back after seeing this, I hope everybody else can. The sharp drop off after the first week was due to the word of mouth getting around about how bad this movie was.

  6. hahaha omg I just saw this movie last night and it was hilarious!!! especially that one monster thing that sounded like an angry Donald Duck on speed lmao! Predator meets Godzilla or what? if that was supposed to be scary, it sure failed in that department. Couldn’t stop laughing.

    and…why was that guy’s cell phone still working under 20000 pounds of concrete? Mine goes out when I go into a tunnel.


  8. Doom, I have NO problem with people disagreeing as long as they do so in a civil and intelligent manner.

    It’s when folks get rude that I take action.


  9. The film is even better on dvd. The shakey camera didn’t bother me at all on the small screen.

  10. Rented it this weekend and while I had concerns about the filming style, I found that it didn’t bother me. I thought that the way the story was told was a little different, never saw “Blair Witch” so that didn’t bother me either. Like “Godzilla” though, it’s interesting to see it once, I just have no desire to see it again. Something in me say’s see it again it’s fun and then again something else in me say’s nah…

    I guess I’m growing too old.

  11. Did not care for the movie one bit.

    It wa a huge disappointment, and a waist of money.

  12. It’s a shame allot f people cant say what they think about a film without showing so much hate that they have to insult any one who liked it just because they don’t agree with you. Godzilla is a terrible film this is in no way a rip off of that especially since it’s a far better film than Blair witch and Godzilla in my opinion.

    Like someone said further up the page it’s an exciting film that leaves you with unanswered questions but it gets you thinking.

  13. Ok i know im incredibly late to this discussion but i just got around to seeing this movie yesterday and thought it was phenomenal, For those people saying that Rob and co. to go back to rescue Beth (i think that was her name)was ridiculous you might wanna stop and think that just because you may be a selfish self preservational jerk in that scenario not everyone else would, theres also the fact that maybe Rob was thinking realistically and knew damn well that with all this madness going on he was gonna die regardless and what better way to die than in the arms of the one you love or knowing that if they were all gonna die regardless he just wanted to be absolutely sure Beth knew how much he cared before it occured. I didnt have internet for a while up until a month ago so im completely lost on all this Slusho, Myspace, Targuato stuff but the movie was perfectly immersive and unsettling in all the right ways.