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. simple 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. I just couldn’t believe anyone would be so stupid to go into the heart of the destruction. and then his friends are dumb enough to go with him. give me a break. sweet but stupid. and the movie was only like an hour and 10 – 15 minutes long. glad i wasn’t hyped up about it.

  2. This movie is ‘I Am Legend’ meets the 9/11 terrorist attacks, filmed in the style of Blair Witch. I was physically nauseous from the horrible filming. I understand that this is supposed to make it more real and interesting, but I wanted to puke 30 minutes into the movie. Would’ve been much better filmed in a more traditional style with occasional shots from the camcorder. It’s unoriginal, there’s virtually no plot, and it doesn’t answer any questions. There are some things that happen that don’t even make sense…there’s no logical explanation for them. Not to mention the statue of liberty’s head looked half the size of its actual 17+ feet. F-. Worst movie ever.

  3. Well, you are intitled to your opinion, Kim. Lol! Glad you found your worst movie ever.

    And I don’t think he wad going to be VIP of Tag, but of Slusho! Read HUDS myspace comment to Rob. And just because Ganu dreamnt of fishes turning into whales doesn’t mean this is how Clover came to be. I’ve dremnt of being superman, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. We don’t even know how Clover came to be. Specualtions is all we have. And I personlly don’t think it’s Rob. I think he’s dead with Beth.

    Not trying to bring ya down Smith. Just letting ya know.

  4. Thanks for all the info Smith Alana.

    I can’t believe all the backstory info there is on this film. Its amazing.

  5. The Statue of Liberty is actually smaller than it ever looks on sceen.

  6. Zach, I agree that the ARG sites have clues, but they’re not clear.

    I never heard of the ARG campaign until after the movie. I checked out Marketing Campaign Vic recommended, which sent me to the Slusho! site and to the Jamie & Teddy videos.

    * I think the Noriko “small fish, large whale” story is important. It may allude to a transformative or growing effect of the deep sea nectar.

    * Teddy wanted the deep sea nectar (we presume) studied by someone. And Teddy claims that Tagruato Corp. thought he knew too much, and kidnapped him.

    * We see an immediate mood change in Jamie after she ignores Ted’s warning and tastes the (?) deep sea nectar.

    Smith Alana,
    * “My stomach explodes with happy” may be a fan-submitted slogan, presumably in response to the Slusho! website’s request for happy e-mails. My impression is that this slogan was sent by a fan AFTER seeing the movie. Some other happy slogans on the site have veiled references to the movie. (I submitted one myself. I don’t know if it was added to the rotation.)

  7. Abrams happens to be following a biblical principle that symbolic stories (parables) and thought-provoking questions engage the audience.

    Not saying it’s intentional, but Abrams is dispensing nuggets of compelling fiction, which has fans digging for more. Jesus did this with spiritual truths.

  8. Saw the movie yesterday and loved it. I can understand why people would be upset because of the camera shaking; it didn’t bother me. I did see the object drop into the water. For me, this movie didn’t need a plot because I believe JJ Abrams was giving us a movie as if it is actually happening, just like Blair Witch and the show that came out a number of years ago that made it look like aliens had landed (War of the Worlds anniversary). Just think what you would do if faced with the same scenario.

    Someone mentioned people not confusing this with 27 dresses; strangely enough, after watching Cloverfield, I had to wait for my daughter in 27 (Snoozzzzzzze!!) Dresses.

    The Trek trailer only showed Federation workers constructing the Enterprise, but I liked it because I’ve always had the vision of Federation workers still being clean and using advanced energy tools instead of welding bulkheads together but the trailer showed traditional welding with protection goggles. Very refreshing.

  9. If anyone is interested. and are back online. Could this possibly mean, the ARG is back in the game? I think so! (Atleast I would like to think so!)

  10. SPOILER!!!
    Jim, when I think about it, I do believe the monster is wiggling when the parasites are falling off him. He was probably rubbing himself against the building that is obscuring most of his body, so perhaps these creepy crawlers have nothing to do with the monster and are only parasites hitching a ride to prey.

    Also, at the end when the military is initiating its “final shot” with the stealth bomber, the monster is visibly scared of what’s happening and is running from his pursuers. When he collapses from the impact of the bombs his arm goes flying up the building next to him and hits around the 50th floor or so. That thing is just so huge, but still afraid… INSANE! My friend keeps saying how it had to be a being of intelligence, and I totally agree. Clovey is one smart, but ugly, cookie. lol

  11. Morgan, I did find it interesting that the directors referred to them as “parasites.” If it came from outer space, it brought parasites along…If it was originally smaller, then the parasites would have been proportionately smaller as well.

    Afraid of the planes? Something else I missed? Crap, did I sleep through this movie or what?

    On another note, in the ARG news footage (all languages) of the “oil” rig collapsing, the businessman in the helicopter has a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. How common is that?

  12. This movie was awful. First of all if Rob is supposed to be going to Japan to be a VP of a company, meaning he is supposed to have gone to college and be somewhat intelligent, why oh GOD why would he make the stupidest decision to go back into an area that has just been devastated by an monstrous, unknown creature. Was it for love, get the eff outta here!!! And who are these retarded friends who follow him back into the danger zone. They cannot sense the urgency or eminent destruction being wrought by the monster. These are the type of people who during natural disasters do not heed the evacuation notices of the emergency services in their area. They get burnt up or drown with the rest of the people who happen to have an extra chromosome in their genetics. If I were his future boss, I would fire him for poor decision making skills, he would probably run the company into the ground just to make a meth addicted prostitute fall in love with again after a one night stand. Secondly, if I wanted to watch a motion simulator, then I would’ve bought a ticket to Disneyland’s STAR TOURS and been more entertained than seeing this waste of film and time. Third, it’s not a monster movie if you only get to see the monster for 3 minutes combined throughout the movie and 2 of those minutes the image is out of FOCUS…(I am glad HUD died for this reason alone). Anyone who see this moronic display of stupidity and likes it or enjoys it must think the Flintstones or Tom and Jerry is thought provoking and intelligent programming on television!!!

  13. Now that you mention it, I’m a HUGE fan of “The Flintstones.”

    Thanks for stopping by.


  14. Tom and Jerry were the inspiration for Itchy and Scratchy.

    So your saying The Simpsons suck?

    I doe know about that.

  15. Vic, I suppose you’re going to keep this up for the same reason talk radio hosts entertain the most outrageous of callers (entertainment value, and morbid curiosity) but this line–

    >>people who happen to have an extra chromosome in their genetics.<

    –is EXTREMELY offensive.

  16. Again with the shaky camera. Everyone knew this film was almost entirely documented by hand held cameras. If you knew that already and you knew you wouldn’t like it, then don’t go see it. Also, if you’re saying you’d leave someone you love in danger then THAT is effed up.

    I agree with you, Jim, Dall-what’s-his-face said some really offensive stuff. I loved the Flintstones!

  17. Is it weird that I am watching Tom and Jerry right now? Swear to god!

    Cartoon Network at 1pm EST Lol!

  18. LOL! It’s OK,man! I still watch cartoons all the time.

  19. THIS movie was one of the best ive ever I MEAN EVER
    seen ima go see it untill its outta theaters
    its the s*** if you have seen it i recomend u do
    it feels so real and oh man it was so INTENSE

    I LOVED IT…And so did every one else ive talked to about this movie it was COOL!!!

    Much Love Angela

  20. Growing up in the 1950s was a great time for lovers of horror movies. We had The Blob, It Came From Outerspace, and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. There was a beginning, a middle, and an end. Cloverfield left me bewildered. There wasn’t enough of a hint of where the creature came from. Was it from outer space? Was it from a government experiment? Or was it just enough to hype commercials to draw the public in to see it. I can’t say it was good. I can’t say it was bad. I can’t even say that it had a story line. My only recommendation is to just say, wait till it gets to the cheap seats. If you like it that’s great, and if you don’t then at least you’re not out the full price of a movie which these days is approaching the equivalkent of a monthly car payment.

  21. HAP, I grew up in the 60’s so I got to watch all those cheesy movies on weekend TV.

    I remember the superimposed crowds running from giant ants, spiders, or gila monsters. I never really cared what those people might have felt–unless the camera showed them looking up in terror as the shadow of the foot came over them, or the tail swiped toward their train car–but you didn’t know those people.

    I wanted more answers, too. But I’m glad I got to “run a mile (or 10) in their shoes.” I’m kinda glad it was different from the Giant Reptile of the Week flick.

  22. Combine Godzilla with another maddening blair witch rip off and you get this dissapointment. I guess the target demo wont know its a rip off since it seems targeted for the myspace crowd.

  23. I’m wondering how DVD sales will be. Many who’ve seen the movie will want to watch the “juicy” moments.

    Will the jittercam be more or less annoying on a TV set?

  24. I’m deffinitly buying this dvd. I’m hoping there’s alot of bonus footage and documentaries!

  25. gotta appreciate the originality of this film, took some guts to film it that way

  26. love this movie awesome review.

  27. you know i agree with something said near the top of this thread…..its nice to have a movie that lets me draw my own conclusions. a movie that made me go home and search out the viral campaign. mabye thats the problem. mabye some people are too simple minded for cloverfield. they are the type of people that need to be reminded all the way through the movie why it is entertaining. so they dont understand why they didnt like cloverfield and blamed it on a shaky camera view. personally i would have done the same thing rob did for my own wife and children. rob was scared but he loved his woman.
    this was a tremendous movie. i hope there is a sequel. thank you for takin the time to read this sorry for the rant


  28. This movie was a HUGE disappointment. Strap a camcorder to a paintshaker and run it around New York describes the first hour of the movie.

    And the monster? Easily something out of a dated Playstation game, and one can barely make out the quality because the camera is shaking so badly.

    It was horribly over-marketed and underdeveloped.

    If you found this movie “killer” and “kickass”, you might similarly be entertained by spinning plates in the kitchen or watching the room jitter with your head firmly planted on the dryer in spin cycle.

    Cheap entertainment for a crowd that doesn’t mind cheating itself out of $10 bucks so they don’t have to spend the night in front of 7-11 looking for a grownup to buy them beer.