31 Days of Halloween 2016 – #29 Cloverfield (2008) can learn
Cloverfield (2008) takes what everybody did previously and twists it for the cellphone generation, throwing in some exploding rich people, social drama and nervous laughter. Good times. So this isn’t Godzilla. And we know it’s not. This isn’t an allegory monster or a monster birthed from man’s mistakes. This is a first-person, shake-your-camera, “hey what was that” monster, which was influenced by The Blair Witch Project, Lost, and 50’s monster movies.
The film’s characters are annoying and rich, with privileged lives and annoying boyfriend/girlfriend drama. At least that’s only about fifteen minutes of the movie. Then everything explodes and the camera shakes a lot. The first person perspective is from Hud’s point of view, the friend of our handsome hero, Rob. Rob’s on a quest to save his lost love Beth, like he’s a Knight of the Round table or something. So everybody follows him. Naturally. As everybody evacuates Manhattan, these guys decide to go back in to find Beth, played by the very attractive Odette Yustman.
There’s a lot of winkwink and nudgenudge from the dialogue, especially from Hud, who has to comment on everything like he’s Jerry Seinfeld or something. His humor is dry and sarcastic, like most of the cellphone generation. The tone of the movie fits the cellphone generation too, because it really isn’t about anything and the plot is so simple, you could print it on the back of a candy bar.
Despite being simple, this is a smart monster movie. It knows the audience and the perspective makes it feel fresh, even though the plot is repetitious and reused. Them! (1954) is probably closest in tone to Cloverfield, because both movies have an air of mystery as people rush around trying to find out what is happening. Them! just has a slower pace and more exposition. Both movies have a military desperate to win out and they deliver brutal endings to many characters. I like both movies.
Just like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield uses first person perspective. It’s a good choice for the tone of the movie, but it sure is annoying. The camera shakes and makes you squint, and Hud is really annoying with his unnatural comments. Since the movie is from the people being victimized, there is no ending. Jerry Seinfeld would love this movie. The tone and the presentation has also created a love/hate legacy for Cloverfield. Most people remember how the camera shakes all the damn time, while others give it more credit it than that. The critics are also divided on Cloverfield, as The New Yorker seems to begrudgingly accept it as an entertaining way to present the same old thing, while Movies.com calls it mindblowingly great.
Overall, I like this movie and I think it’s learned a lot from past monster movies. The best scene(s) are underground, when the characters are trapped in the subway. There’s a bit of human drama when Rob has to tell his Mom that his brother was killed, and I’m not sure why the movie seems to distance itself from this great moment. It constantly cuts from the human drama and pulls back, when it should linger and develop. Anyway, this scene avoids disappointment with some dark and surprising subway tunnels, where all the characters are attacked by Them! style crabs. Still, the movie reminds me of 28 Weeks Later and I hate that friggin movie. Fortunately, there’s a balance in Cloverfield, and you can fast-forward over the camera shakes and the girlfriend melodrama. Don’t do that too much though, or you’ll need another movie for your movie night.
31 Days of Halloween 2016
31. Young Frankenstein (1974)
30. Jason X (2001)
29. Cloverfield (2008) – This post
28. The Monster Squad (1987)
27. Bad Moon (1996)
26. The Haunting (1963)
25. Splinter (2008)
24. Frenzy (1972)
23. Aggression Scale (2012)
22. The Exorcist III
21. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1963)
20. Silver Bullet (1985)
19. Joy Ride (2001)
18. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
17. The Funhouse (1981) by Tobe Hooper
16. Videodrome (1983)
15. Re-Animator (1985)
14. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
13. Cube (1997)
12. Evil Dead
11. Day of the Dead (1985)
10. Tales of Halloween (2015)
9. They Live (1988)
8. The Innocents (1961)
7. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
6. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
5. I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)
4. Hatchet (2006)
3. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
2. Halloween II
1. Silence of the Lambs