For the sake of completion, I had to write a review about the only movie within the improperly called “Cloverfield universe” that I hadn’t talked about in my blog. Besides, apart from 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) and The Cloverfield Paradox (2018), Overlord, the fourth official instalment in this franchise, will be released later this year… so I kind of had to review the film that started it all!
Cloverfield came out 10 years (and something…) ago, on January 18, 2008, benefitting from a great marketing campaign based on obscure trailers and loads of minimalistic teasers, thrown out in theatres to have people excited and curious. Unlike Paranormal Activity (2007) and other similar examples, Cloverfield had substance as opposed to being an awful film with marketing as the only redeeming quality.
As you know, the movie sees a few friends meeting up for Rob (Michael Stahl-David)’s party, since the young New Yorker is due to move to Japan. The party is filmed by Hud (a young and unrecognisable T.J. Miller), Rob’s best friend, and everything seems to flow perfectly – besides a teenage-like drama situation between Rob and Beth (the beautiful but not very good actress Odette Annable). Soon enough though, the party is interrupted by what seems to be an earthquake (at first), then a terrorist attack (soon after) and finally turns out to be a fucking Godzilla-like creature that seemingly came out of nowhere.
Rob, his brother James with his girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas who, like Annable, is more gorgeous than capable of acting), Marlena (Lizzy Caplan… the perfect combination between eye-candy and good acting, finally!) and Hud are now venturing deep into the streets of New York to save themselves and go rescue Beth.
Although I might have sounded a bit sarcastic and negative in these few paragraphs, I do more or less love Cloverfield. In fact, it’s my favourite found-footage flick of the first decade of the 2000s and one of my favourites in general within this subgenre.
My fondness of the film comes from multiple factors: first of all, I’m a sucker for (good) Sci-Fi filmmaking as much as I am for horror movies. Add to that a good dose of big-ass monster movie scenario and I’m totally down. Secondly, Cloverfield builds actual tension from the moment when the action kicks in until the film ends: this is an 84-minute-long ride that feels way longer and way shorter than that simultaneously. It feels longer because it leaves you fatigued; it feels shorter because it’s non-stop action and thrills, with the movie having no dull moments whatsoever.
Yet, the found-footage here is very well executed and filmed. Although T.J. Miller’s character can get a little annoying (he’s not just the eyes of the viewer, he’s also their voice) with his constant exposition, the footage looks incredibly realistic and true, thanks to Matt Reeves’ direction that’s great as usual. There’s shaky-cam only where needed and, besides the party scenes, Cloverfield doesn’t show unnecessary moments on camera, which give the movie a rather honest undertone.
Also, Reeves is able to combine the rawness of the footage with an artistic touch. For instance, the single take where our characters are running towards an underground station, while the monster is bringing devastation upon NY and the army are fighting against it, shows incredible cinematography and camera-work for a found-footage movie. Honestly, I can’t recall any other horror flick filmed in found-footage fashion that’s such a delight to experience on the screen!
Another aspect I should praise Cloverfield for is the amazing CGI. Sure, the movie was made on an estimated $25,000,000 budget, which obviously gives the filmmakers enough opportunity to create believable computer generated images. However, 10 years down the line, Cloverfield holds up incredibly well because the CG blends together with the actual set and the monster is shown from afar in order to make it look more real and give it consistency and apparent bodyweight.
Ultimately, aside from weak female characters and the annoying voice of T.J. Miller with his lame statements, Cloverfield pulls it off beautifully. The movie is extremely well directed, mysterious, exciting, rewatchable (I have seen it 7 times now, the last one right before writing this little review), nerve-wracking, fast paced and so forth. Highly recommended if you’re one of the 2-3 people on the planet who didn’t watch it yet!
Cloverfield (2008) 8.5/10
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My review is also available on IMDb – Cloverfield (2008)