Reviewed on 2008 February 26
I was lucky enough to catch this with Mr. Shukti in an otherwise empty theater with a huge screen, and it only added to the slightly surreal feeling this thing tries to establish from the beginning. The opening shot jumps right in, making the viewer feel like they’re seeing something they’re not supposed to see, and then the writer and director seem to pull a bait-and-switch on us. Be patient, it sets things up and then delivers its payload.
Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) is a twenty-something slated to leave for Japan soon, and his brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and buddies throw a surprise party for him. One of their buddies, Hud (T. J. Miller) is asked to tape the party and have all Rob’s friends say goodbye to him on film so he has a video Hallmark card to take with him. The party is suddenly interrupted by what seems to be a blackout, but it isn’t a simple power outage. Something has apparently started attacking Manhattan. It’s huge, it’s angry, and while we don’t know too much about the thing because writer Drew Goddard keeps his cards close to his vest, it seems to think we puny mortals taste like chicken. Hud somehow manages keep the camera, and enough of his sanity enough to document what’s happening around the group as they try to get out of the path of destruction.
That’s how the movie is presented — we see what Hud filmed on the camcorder that night. It’s not smooth, and that’s a complaint from many viewers. What makes Cloverfield different is that even though it’s jerky at times, you can still see what’s going on, plainly enough to be very tense at times. Unlike The Blair Witch Project, something tangible is after you, even if you don’t know its history. We see glimpses of the monster, never too much at one time but enough clear shots to make those of us in flyover states happy we’re here and not there. I would have liked a little more info on the critter but Goddard and director Matt Reeves convey the most important thing: it wants to get medieval on us.
Two chocolate morsels and one of those chic new faux-tinis. It’s not for everyone, but if you like monster movies I don’t think the shortcomings will bother you.