January 30, 2008


OUT: February 1st 

The title gives nothing away. Neither did the unique marketing campaign that truly re-defined the term ‘teaser trailer’. What exactly is Cloverfield and why is this film so curiously familiar yet genuinely pioneering? If you don’t want to find out yet, be wary of the following…

The film catches a group of friends/lovers/whatever in the path of a Gozilla Mk II, terrorising Manhattan by bewildering and eating its inhabitants. Anyone could be next as main man Rob struggles to rescue the love of his life in the wake of the attack, and the military move closer to a devastating final solution. The innovation here is in the style, the whole furore seen through the lens of the video camera weilded by endearing loser Hud.

It’s unfair to call it Blair Witch-esque, because the method is used to much greater effect here and is far better thought-out than simply waving the camera around.

This produces some stunning and lasting images, with Hud never quite sure where to point the thing and offering tantalising and disturbing glimpses of the impending doom. In fact, the restraint excercised by the cinematography is so disciplined that we don’t see a full shot of the big beastie for at least an hour. There’s also the intriguing notion that the tape being used once contained footage of Rob and his secret sweetheart Beth together, and although the well-timed interruptions from such images are rarely enlightening, it’s a neat little trick designed to offer breathing space.    

For the first twenty minutes it’s a bland account of a well-organised surprise leaving party for Rob, the agonizing wait for anything even approaching a thrill left to slowly eat away at us. This also serves to establish the emphasis on ‘real’ they’re so keen to impress upon us, and with unknown acting talent and a messy, improvised dialogue style it fulfils its purpose. When the main event finally does start to unfold, the timing and sense of dread created are nigh on perfect.

However shocking things get from this point, you can never be sure you’ve seen the worst of it.

And once the ball is rolling, it won’t give you a second’s peace. The quiet waiting moments are just as chilling as the full-on carnage, and the necessary abscence of a score underpins the action with eerie silence. It’s also nice and short- everything is done and dusted in less than 90 minutes, cramming in some of the most intense visuals seen in recent years. Despite the lean running-time, a superb ending does appear to arrive ten minutes before the actual end, but an extra slice of cheese-ridden narrative satisfaction weakens the impact of the final act. Bad move.

The push for realism at the forefront of every idea does have its negatives, particularly in making flaws in the plot and concept more obvious and irritating than we’d usually pick up on (the battery lasts HOW long!?). And, in fact, the brand of realism producer JJ Abrams (whose credits include Lost, Alias and Armageddon) creates is still washed over with that Hollywood sheen. At times it tries too hard to be a cult indie flick, when in fact the lack of true grit and a reluctance to give the middle finger to the masses hampers the overall effect. The lack of swearing is oddly noticable in a supposedly warts ‘n’ all documenting of events, betraying the mainstream commercial heart at the centre of the project.

This is a shame, because on the surface this is an incredibly entertaining and often rather scary chunk of monster-fare, but the feeling fails to linger long after the initial viewing. But short of seeing Danny Boyle take on similar material this side of the atlantic, Cloverfield is an eye-popping, hand-rubbing drama laced with uncomfortable humour and some brutally unceremonious bump-offs. And it makes Godzilla look like that man off the tax adverts.


4 / 5  bed-bug-bites     




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