Sunday, January 20, 2008



If you haven't seen this movie yet and you intend to, stop reading right now. Major spoilers lie ahead. You have been warned.

People have described Cloverfield as Blair Witch meets Godzilla, though that description doesn't really do it justice. Imagine a monster attack told through the eyes of one of the panicking people in the street, who happens to have a camcorder with him. The movie is made to look like amateur camcorder footage, complete with shaky movements, obvious autofocus glitches, jump cuts and old footage accidentally taped over. For the most part, this storytelling technique works very well. We get to feel the characters' panic, we strain to get a glimpse of the monster, and we don't know anything the characters don't. The shaky camera movements did get a bit distracting sometimes, but most of the time it helps the narrative (Michael Bay take note, use shaky camera effect only when it is appropriate to do so).

The monster itself is a giant dinosaur-arthropod-godzilla-cthulu-thing from the deep, which also carries with it parasitic man-sized bugs which are nasty and vicious. We don't really get any explanation of what it is, where it came from or if it was even stopped in the end, and that was probably the best storytelling choice the producers made. It doesn't matter where it came from, or what it was. The audience has seen this kind of thing before a million times in a bunch of different bad movies, and thus can fill in the details using the tropes they've already seen. The monster in this one behaves exactly like a good movie monster is expected to behave. It levels buildings, eats people, and is impervious to whatever the military throws at it. The parasites are reminiscent of the facehuggers from Alien, or perhaps the bugs from Starship Troopers. The focus of the movie isn't the monster, but how the characters deal with the emergency and panic.

I have few gripes about this movie. The only gripe I have about this movie is that while the storytelling technique is very novel for this kind of movie, it lacks the punch that it should have had due to the fact that Blair Witch hit pop culture first, and the deliberately amateur-looking camcorder style has been endlessly imitated in parodies. Nevertheless, it is very refreshing that a monster movie was made with a different take on things, rather than the boring CGI-fests with cartoon creatures that take the center stage and eclipse everything else.

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