reviewed by Misael Soto
I did not follow much of the back story online and approached the monster movie with moderate excitement and very little hype. Surprisingly Matt Reeves' first film in over a decade is far more deliberate than one would expect. Post-9/11 concerns run rampant as do certain issues regarding modern identity which are complemented by the various websites and Myspace pages that are essentially a part of the film. Of course the location is a given, as are the many scenes of crumbling skyscrapers. Manhattan is shown filled with people running away from clouds of smoke while coughing out their lungs, some scenes seemingly shot-by-shot remakes of the videos we all saw over and over again during the weeks following September 11th. The film's headache-inducing (“Thank God it’s only 84 minutes long!”) cinéma vérité style is also certainly noteworthy. What better way to film a modern day sci-fi horror film, in New York no less, then with Youtube filming techniques and Myspace characters? Today our webpages and blogs are as much a part of our personas as our modes of dress or conversation. Perhaps I’m giving JJ Abrams & Co. too much credit, but so much of this film reeks of “now” it’s impossible to ignore.
Cloverfield kept reminding me throughout of last year's South Korean hit monster movie The Host. Of course that movie was better but both were effective using a monster invasion as the overall umbrella over more personal events. They also both had several moments of clever banter mixed in with the suspense (as well as similar looking CG monsters), both proving memorable in similar yet distinct ways.
Of course, along with its intriguing concept and many intelligent bits Cloverfield has its fare share of problems. As expected the acting is sub par. Character development is (understandably) laughable (I'm not sure how else they could make it feel as if we simply jumped in on a video from a couple of unknowns) and while clever, the film is not necessarily saying very much of anything. Playing on post-9/11 fears is one thing but having a reason for it, that takes a tad more effort, probably dispensed on the impressive camera work and CGI. Also while frightening and suspenseful at times, the scares are often forgettable proving pointless, at times even boring and banal.
That said I enjoyed this film immensely. Interestingly enough it was refreshing to have a film leave so much unanswered. While a turn-off for some, Cloverfield left me yearning for more as I scoured message boards for hours looking for answers afterwards. The whole thing truly felt genuine; no small feat for what many might consider a mainstream film. And like a good piece of pop, similar to that Britney Spears song you know you like but would never dare tell a soul, I had lots of fun with JJ Abrams latest project and look forward to the inevitable sequel. In the mean time there's so much online to sift through regarding the monster and where it came from as well as its and the character's whereabouts, etc., I should be kept busy till then.
As a side note, stay until the very end of the closing credits. I was the only one who remained seated at the screening I attended. Besides Michael Giacchino's amazing "ROAR! (Cloverfield Overture)" that plays during most of the credits there's a little treat at the very end. Something that should give fanboys and sci-fi geeks plenty of hours of fun.
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