Cloverfield wreaks rough results
Creature feature reveals lackluster finish despite record debut, media hype
Despite rough filming and a lackluster ending, the special effects of Cloverfield keeps those dissatisfied with the rather cliché monster plot interested in the movie.
As the lights dim and the previews end, an announcement comes on to the screen. 'The following US military document was recovered at an area formerly known as Central Park'. The film documents the last 7-8 hours of six friends? lives and their quest to leave Manhattan to escape an unnamed monster of various horrors.
Cloverfield opens with a going-away party for Rob, who is leaving Manhattan to start a new life in Japan. While his best friend Hud videotapes going-away messages for him, Rob sulks about his current crush on longtime friend, Beth.
About twenty minutes later, the party is interrupted by a loud explosion on the outskirts of the city. The panicked group rushes outside, worried of terrorist attacks and earthquakes, only to find a massive, lizard-like monster terrorizing the city. Thus begins a valiant attempt at a monster movie that seems more like a teenager's brain child rather than a true Blockbuster.
As the monster continues an unvaried attack on the island, a small group attempting a flight to safety abruptly heads back towards danger to save Beth, who is trapped in her crumbling apartment. Their ultimate goal lies in the need to escape the island before the military unleashes its total wrath on the alien being, which in turn will destroy the island and those left behind.
En route, a close encounter with the monster forces Rob and the others to hide in a subway station. They now must walk through the tunnels to safely reach the apartment for Beth.
However, halfway down the dark subway tunnel, they are attacked by spidery alien creatures. While in the process of fending off the attackers, one of the group is bitten. They retreat into a service room, which leads them eventually into a department store, serving as a makeshift military hospital.
Unfortunately, unbeknownst to the party is that once bitten, humans are infected with a deadly virus. This causes them to bleed from the eyes, nose and mouth, then eventually explode (for lack of a better term). While this took place behind a translucent plastic drop cloth somewhat off screen, the carnage remains as disturbing as it sounds.
While Cloverfield kept a good level of intensity and was well directed, the abrupt ending left a little to be desired. All but one were either smashed by various flying pieces of shrapnel, chomped by the monster, bitten by gigantic alien spiders or blown up in an attempt by the military to destroy the alien. Though most of this violence took place off screen, viewers still get an idea of the nature of each character's doom.
The film style, basically a Blair Witch Project rip-off, was accompanied by jittery shots and awkward camera angles. Instead of using a third-person camera angle to make the movie much easier to watch without dangers of motion sickness, the production team simply used what felt like a cheap video recorder. Cloverfield is often difficult to watch as Hud, who remains behind the camera the entire film, is constantly sprinting away from the monster and falling amidst piles of rubble in the action sequences of the film.
Despite the rough filming and the lackluster ending, the special effects of the film at least keep those dissatisfied with the rather cliché monster plot interested in the movie. In the short hour and twenty minutes, the alien wreaks total devastation on the city, destroying buildings, stores, cars, tanks and even the Statue of Liberty.
Director Mat Reeves and producer J.J. Abrams utilized a secret word-of-mouth tactic of advertisement to help create hype for the Cloverfield release. Backed by the release of Transformers, only the codename and release date for the film appeared immediately before the movie. They referred to their project as "Cloverfield". As word spread across the internet, the name eventually stuck.
This scheme definitely paid off as it succeeded in a record opening for Jan., walking away with $41 million at its debut. However, with a runtime of about 85 minutes, the finished product left me feeling almost cheated after paying $7.50 for a matinee ticket.
Despite its shortcomings, Cloverfield has successfully proven that a decent creature-feature can still be found in the genre now sullied by low-grade Japanese horror flicks and pointless slice-and-dice movies.
Cloverfield is now playing at most local theaters. For show times and tickets, visit Fandango.