Review: Cloverfield

Published 6 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
(Must-See)

TAGS: 4 star movies, cloverfield

189 Comments

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  1. Thank you week you just made my day.

  2. ^^ Sorry, I mean Vic instead of week lol my hands are trembling with excitment.

  3. Great review Vic, as usual….. . .
    ^
    I knew this one was a hit!
    Can’t wait til Friday when I can sneek out of work and go see this for 8 bucks before the lines. Heehee

  4. Sounds really good – could it be this decade’s Jaws?

  5. Another site gave an extremely good review of the movie. Don’t know if I can give the website URL here.

  6. John, sure… feel free.

    Vic

  7. Glad to see it’s true. Read similar reviews on other sites, but when Vic says it is the real McCoy, I’m sold! Will have to see this one this weekend. Thanks Vic!

  8. I can’t wait to see this! Is there a chance it will still bring back the giant monster movie genre (I hope!!)?

    Is the WHOOOOOOOOOOOOLE film in shakey cam? Everything? Are there no clear shots of anything at all?

    I hope the monster is right up there with King Kong,Godzilla,and Gorgo,guys.

    I also hope I like this as much as you did,Vic!

  9. While it’s all filmed handheld there are plenty of spans of time where it is relatively steady.

    Vic

  10. Endri, I didn’t see any spoliers in Vics review. Can you clarify?
    ^
    Everything there has been exposed in the trailers. Except maybe the scene where the citizens are taking pictures of the Liberty head.
    And that certanly did NOT ruin the plot for me. If anything now I can plan my friday knowing I have to see this… . . .
    ^
    I hope Paramount gives Vic MORE advanced screenings!!
    ^
    Also if you hear something about a film and it sounds great your still not going to see it becasue the surprise is over??

    Wow dude, don’t read any books on the afterlife then huh?
    ^
    I’m not kissing ars here but Vics reviews are WAY better than ANY tv critic review.. IMO

  11. Thanks, Steve.

    Endri, what the heck did I spoil regarding the movie. There are multiple spoilerfic details that I went out of my way to leave out (and made the review harder to write).

    I know some other reviews revealed spoiler details but I can assure you that my review does not.

    Vic

  12. Hey vic whon’t these put you in truble with Paramount pictures. I mean if they had in mind of showing you other movies before theyre relase, and now they whont because they are afraid that you will spoil it for everyone. Because for me is that once I know what happens in the movie 90% is that I whon’t see it.

  13. bloody-disgusting.com said “it was a life changing experience the way Jurassic Park changed the way we see dinosaurs”.

    Vic,
    I’ve read somewhere that there is something after the credits; is this true?

  14. I waited around and on the print I saw there was only a sound effect at the very end and I couldn’t quite make it out due to the talking around me.

    Vic

  15. Reading what Vic said to Enri, I must caution some of you that bloody-discusting.com may have given one small spoiler concerning the monster. Vic, could you go there and find out if this is a spoiler or not?

  16. Yeah John, impressive is the way the effects look on a supposed handheld digi-cam.
    That’s what blew alot of people away from the trailer.
    ^
    Great another film I have to sit thru the credits for a cookie.
    I guess we have to realise almost every film is doing this now.

  17. Yes, it does give a bit of info regarding something about the monster.

    Just hold off and go see the movie this weekend before you read too much more about it. :-)

    Vic

  18. Yea that’s totally what I’m doing.

    Going first thing tomarrow morn.
    (No lines).
    ^
    Hopfully I have good news about the trek trailer as well. :)

  19. Drat! Sorry about that guys. Hopefully no one else read that review.

  20. Thanks Vic. I might give it a chance afterall…

  21. Hey Endri my comments were a response to this quote in your post:
    ^
    “Because for me is that once I know what happens in the movie 90% is that I whont see it”.
    ^
    What am I missing?

  22. Also, yeah Endri I get defensive at times….

    Next….

  23. Let’s all relax, fellas. I know we all get along here. :-)

    No offense taken on my part.

    Glad to have you all here!

    Vic

  24. Yo calm down stop being so defensive. I onle read some parts of the review I didn’t read the whole thing because I thought it was going to be full of spoilers. But I will see the movie when it comes out.
    “I’m not kissing ars here but Vics reviews are WAY better than ANY tv critic review..”

    STEVE when the hell did I ever say that!!!
    If the reviews war not good I wouldn’t even bother visiting these site every day!

  25. Oh my bad I meant to say “When did I say that they weren’t.”

  26. I totally agree. This movie rocked! I love the realistic feel that the jumpy cameras gave me. I felt like I was running from that hideous monster with the characters. It was an appropriate length (any longer and I may have puked either from motion sickness or the realism). I highly recommend this movie to anyone who loves a good monster flick!

    SPOILER!!!!!!

    Did anyone else notice the sphere that fell into the water in the background of the last scene when Rob and Beth are on the ferris wheel? It’s very quick and I actually doubt that I saw it because the people I was with didn’t see it. It appears when the camera is facing the water just before we see Rob and Beth. I guess that’s Matt Reeves giving us a hint to where this freaky thing came from.

  27. • A Great Concept Wasted!!!… A great idea to tell the story from the perspective of citizens… Not Scientists….. Not News Reporters…. And Not Some Military General….. If even some of the film was shot in conventional format, if just to give you a steady view of the creature or even the parasites, it would have satisfied me, and most monster movie die-hards… The monster was original; I must give the design team their kudos for their job. It was good to see that the monster didn’t breathe fire, or have laser eyes, and so forth… Also, as to where the creature came from???… In the final scene when the two love-birds / best-friends, are at Coney Island in the Ferris wheel car, as Rob turns on the camera, if you look in the background, from the top right hand side of the screen what appears to be a meteor or object falls from the sky and splashes into the water in the distance. You can clearly see it… I asked the guy sitting next to me in the theater if he saw it but he missed it… Look for it and you won’t…. Maybe I’m old fashioned, and traditional, but I’ve got a Love / Hate thing going on with this film right now…. Great Concept, great perspective… Just not steady enough for me!!!… The hand-held camera action in its entirety hurts the film in my opinion…..

  28. I didn’t get a chance to catch the 12am showing of “Cloverfield” last night, but am anticipating to see it tonight. I’ve been looking up perhaps anything and everything on the film since I’ve heard of it .. I definitely cannot wait.

    Found an interesting article/clip montage on Maxim on “Cloverfield” and other movies that use the symbolic Statue of Liberty as a symbol of destruction of America.. and if you think about it, it really is pretty interesting.
    http://www.maxim.com/Entertainment/MoviesThatMangletheStatueofLiberty/slideshow/673.aspx?src=dx18:mtd

  29. This was not a movie, it was an experience. If you allowed the movie to suck you in…to become Hud, to be the person behind the camera, it will leave you shaken. From the opening start (of complete quiet and darkness) the movie sets the stage, and keeps you slightly off kilter. Go see it. If you let it, and only if you let it, it will take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

    By the way, so glad someone else saw something enter the water. I saw the same thing! The monster must have come to earth off the shore of Coney Island on 27 Apr. What a great plot closer! Scott

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