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Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Valentine's Day Date with Cloverfield

Earlier today, I went out for Valentine's Day with the Cloverfield Monster. Why? Because I figured it was the perfect movie to watch on the day of love. Believe it or not, I was not alone. There were six people in theatre (five if you exclude me) and they were all single men. Who would have ever thought?

First of all, let me just say I liked this movie. A lot. Didn't think I would, but I really enjoyed it. I saw the teaser trailers like everyone else and wanted to see if it would live up the hype and it really did. I thought for what J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves were going for, they succeeded greatly. It didn't try to be Godzilla or any other monster movie. And, it didn't try to be any kind of horror movie. It's not even your typical monster movie or horror movie. It's like its own breed. I guess you could call it the next generation monster movie. Maybe? All I know is that it was simply an original idea that really made me jump out of my seat a couple times.

This movie is shot entirely on a handheld camera. The premise is that the main character, Rob, is going to Japan and his brother, Jason, throws him a party. Rob's friend, Hud, tapes the event, so Rob can have it as a memento. Accidentally, the tape they use was from a couple weeks earlier when Rob had a brief fling with a long time friend, Beth. This home video is occasionally intercut throughout the film (very effective, in my opinion). Anyway, Beth shows up with another guy. Rob and her talk, she gets mad and leaves. Now, Rob is upset, talking with Jason and Hud on the roof of his apartment when a huge explosion occurs (almost like a huge earthquake). The movie completely changes tone and we're off.

We're now following around Hud, Rob, Jason, Lily (Jason's girlfriend), and Marlena (girl at the party that Hud likes) as they try to get out of the city alive. One problem. Rob gets a call from Beth that she is trapped and he is determined to get her. The five of them decide to go get her while trying to survive amidst the chaos of New York City from this mysterious monster.

I actually don't want to tell you anything else plot wise because I think that really ruins the fun of the whole film. It's only 85 minutes long, but it's a perfect length for this movie. The camera work makes the film have a very chaotic and tense feeling as you only see what the characters see. If Hud doesn't have the camera on, then you aren't seeing it, so it leaves a lot of mystery to scenes. It also makes the moments when you finally see the monster much more effective. Really, you don't even get a good look at the thing until the very end. And, when you do it's a scary because it's like you're holding the camera looking up at it.

The home video approach for this film was brilliant. Not every film can pull it off, but the filmmakers just had a solid vision. It really didn't bother me at all and I think it was part of the reason why I loved this movie so much. The camera was another character in the film. It was almost like you were the camera. That's how I looked at it. Another interesting aspect of this approach was that I had more of a connection to the group. I cared about them more since the whole film you were with them as they chronicled the attack. And, when something happened to any of them, it was sad. Most horror movies, you're glad when someone gets killed (Who didn't root for Freddy or Jason during their run in the 80s?), this was a different story.

The monster itself is difficult to describe. It's ugly, for sure. Nothing you've ever seen before. It also has smaller parasites or something that run around the streets and attack people. It almost reminded me a little of Starship Troopers, but not really. In that movie you had the large arachnid monsters and the smaller arachnids that were like the soldiers.

I'm sure someone will want to duplicate this success, but I'm also sure they'll fail miserably. There's definitely options for a sequel. I could see them going in a couple different directions, but don't want to discuss them now. I'm trying not to spoil anything. If they do decide to do a sequel, I only hope they take their time and do it right. Why ruin another franchise? I think/hope Abrams is smarter than that.

I also want to write that if you really want to see this movie and experience this movie in all its glory, then see it in the theatre. Some movies are made for the big screen and this is one of them. You get the full effect and it makes the experience worth it. Especially, viewing it for the first time.

If you haven't figured it out already, I'm definitely recommending you go see Cloverfield. It's the first movie I've seen from 2008 and it's the first movie from 2008 that is worth spending your money on.

Rob Hawkins: Still filming?
Hud: Yeah, people are gonna want to know... how it all went down.

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