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02 February 2008 @ 12:18 am
The feel-bad hit of the winter  
I went to see Cloverfield after work today. The verdict: it's way more effective than a giant monster movie has any right to be. Holy shit.

I went in expecting a big dumb monster movie. I didn't expect it to actually be, you know, scary. I was in for a big surprise. That movie is intense! It's sort of like how all those kids were dropped off to see a matinee of Night of the Living Dead by their parents, thinking it was just a harmless spooky movie, only to come home shellshocked and shaken*. The premise is basically "Godzilla from the POV of the poor bastards getting stepped on", but Manhattan has never felt more like the Nostromo from Alien. As I walked home from the BART station, I still felt claustrophobic, despite being out in the open. When the huge creature is rampaging through town, tossing rubble and crushing everything in its path, being able to run is no protection—you're just as trapped as if you're hiding in a cardboard box.

Speaking of which, it really hits on all of the big fears: claustrophobia, acrophobia, arachnophobia, agoraphobia (big time! it's practically the whole movie), fear of the dark, and a touch of body horror. Large things crushing you. Small, fast things clawing and biting you. Even gephyrophobia and aviophobia get in there. If you suffer from any of these fears, you will probably end the movie in the fetal position.

A lot of critics have pointed out that the movie has a shaky camera for pretty much the entire running time. It's true, and if you find that shaky cameras in movies make you motion sick you should probably sit this one out. I found it irritating in the beginning, when it's mostly just people talking, but when the main action starts (just when the shakily filmed conversations have really worn out their welcome), you don't even notice the shakiness, and the "verité" approach just works. You feel like you're there, looking at what the cameraman is looking at, seeing only what he can see (and, more importantly, not seeing what he can't).

The dialogue was a bit whedonesque at times ("Another something. Also terrible."), but it didn't detract.

What the critics haven't pointed out is that this is one feel-bad movie. It's not some "cozy catastrophe" romp where the main characters get to play hero while the extras are dying off around them and Heroic Impulse + Willpower = Victory. If there's a point to the movie, it's that just because something is the morally right, heroic thing to do, that doesn't mean it isn't also a really stupid thing to do**. It may even be the wrong thing to do***. This is not the usual Hollywood party line!

I thought it was great.

*The original Night of the Living Dead was astonishingly scary, considering the effects consisted of Bosco and greasepaint, and, like Cloverfield, had a really disturbingly cynical worldview.

** And not just in the "so crazy it just might work!" way, where decisions that defy self-preservation end up working just by virtue of their heroic purpose.

*** Think about the decision to go back for Beth and the condition she was in, and tell me more of them wouldn't have survived and the ones that didn't wouldn't have died in such horrible ways.

P.S. Did anybody else who watched the movie also notice that the ending theme was a total homage to the classic Godzilla score?
Amelia: Bat Signalpadparadscha on February 2nd, 2008 09:09 am (UTC)
Here's what I have to say about Cloverfield in a nutshell. It was DAMN intense. I spent a few nights keeping the light on because everyone knows that giant space* fleas can't get you when your lamp is on.

and the ones that didn't wouldn't have died in such horrible ways.

Hud's got a Myspace page. Apparently after the movie was released, someone changed his height on his profile to 2'6".

Did anybody else who watched the movie also notice that the ending theme was a total homage to the classic Godzilla score?

Are you referring to "ROAR!"--the Monstar Opera in the credits before their evilly obscure end-credit cookie? That's in high demand!

*They are not from space. I do not care.
My innocent face is quite deceiving.freakyfilmgirl on February 3rd, 2008 12:39 am (UTC)
I have to disagree with you on this one Garth. I thought this was a rip off of The Blair Witch Project concept, except with a monster. I was not impressed by the acting and the guy holding the camera the whole time (Marmaduke) was annoyingly unrealistic with his attachment to the camera. As per usual, the woman has to be saved and the "in love" couple stays together until the end. I am all about handheld camera action (check out http://paranormalactivity-movie.com/patrailer.html) but this just wasn't that great. I appreciate the special effects and the attempt to bring unknown actors towards notoriety but this movie just didn't scare me. EXCEPT for the space spiders....ewwwwwwwwww! But that's only because I have an extreme case of arachnophobia. I think Nosferatu was scarier than Cloverfield and that was made 100 years ago, you think the filmmakers would be better.
gwalla: halloweengwalla on February 3rd, 2008 03:46 am (UTC)
Well, I never actually saw Blair Witch. But from what I've heard about it, the only thing it has in common with this is the pseudo-verité handheld camera and the general horror genre. Blair Witch doesn't show the "monster" until the end (if at all, I'm not clear on this), while Cloverfield only hides it very early on.

I thought Hub's explanation of why he kept filming made sense.

Comparing it to Nosferatu is unfair (BTW, have you seen the Kino Video DVD with the soundtrack by Art Zoyd? It's awesome!); they're going for completely different effects.