Sunday, 24 February 2008

Cloverfield: The Starstore review

The ingenious viral marketing campaign for Cloverfield, great as it was, really doesn’t prepare you for the assault on the senses you get when watching the movie. The film itself is a superb reimagining of the monster movie genre, and while its detractors may describe it as little more than ‘The Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla’, but it is so much more. It is an excellent piece of modern film terror, and more than aptly fits the ‘Godzilla for the Youtube generation’ moniker its producer, JJ Abrams, gave it.

The basic premise, that of a monster invading Manhattan, told from the viewpoint of a handheld digital camcorder, is a great way of keeping the story at a very human level, as opposed to the usual predictable spectacle of the monster movie genre. Cloverfield is a film that takes hold of the standard elements of the genre and rips them to pieces. The monster, when you see it, is absolutely horrific, and is thankfully far from the usual ‘Giant Dinosaur’ design these kind of films tend to lean towards. I won’t describe it here, you really should see it for yourself.

I loved the fact that the main characters don’t just get the odd cut and bruise- these people really do suffer in their fight for survival, and what a fight it is. The military are terrified, the public even more so. What the monster does to the city is chilling and has you on the edge of your seat for its duration. The set up may feel like it goes on too long, but there is a reason, and the inclusion of what was originally on the tape between the attack footage is a stroke of genius and plays out a plot point to a perfect conclusion. Watch it and see what I mean. The editing, while intended to look like it hasn’t been edited at all, is also incredibly effective.

The fact that you don’t actually see the monster that much adds so much by way of drama and intensity. The glimpses are tantalizing, and its trail of destruction is insane.

There are some shots that echo the 9/11 footage in tone and content, but that was to be expected really. One scene in particular, once the monster attacks, is a frame for frame recreation of a certain piece of 9/11 footage. It may sound a little crass, but it fits with the film. The tension is through the roof.

While there is the odd ‘Hollywood’ moment in there, it comes across as gritty, frightening and utterly compelling. It isn’t a film for the faint of heart, and the shaky camera work may make your eyes ache a little, but I implore you to see this on the big screen. The sound design is inspired, the script mostly comes across as natural, and the use of editing and background to fill in the plot is a great thing to see. Far from being another dumb big monster movie, this is an incredibly intelligent and, scarily, believable film.


Incidentally, there is a large scale action figure of the monster on the way, and it looks incredible. The promo photos looks superb, and give you a great look at the monster that you never really see all of in the movie itself.

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