Cloverfield (Paramount, 2008) D: Matt Reeves, w/ Michael Stahl-David, Lizzy Kaplan. Rating: NNN; DVD package: NNN
It’s YouTube meets Godzilla: a 350-foot monster attacks Manhattan and a quartet of 20-somethings keep the handycam rolling while they try to stay alive and rescue one of their friends. What they “shot” is what we see.
Which means the movie looks like scrambled eggs: out-of-focus shakycam and crap framing. Typical YouTube, and it gets old fast. Director Matt Reeves and company worked hard to get that look and make sure you know it in the funny and informative making-of docs. Reeves also lets us in on why they did it: it’s cheaper. He made his monster movie for about $30 million instead of the $150 million a mainstream approach would cost.
Reeves keeps the action moving fast, and his set pieces give a good sense of disaster, but the faux amateur style and limited budget don’t give you much monster for your money. A pity, because the creature looks great – highly original and effectively nasty. The little horrors that tumble off it aren’t bad either, and the docs give you a good look at both.
The acting is okay. Everyone can run and scream adequately, and T.J. Miller and Lizzy Caplan generate a little humour, but they’re all the same kind of generic victims you find in slasher movies, and the story is vapid. The best monsters (King Kong, Godzilla) carry some metaphoric weight that adds a lot to the fun. Reeves muttering about 9/11 doesn’t cut it. Still, there’s no shortage of mindless fun here.
Stick around for the closing credits to check out Michael Giacchino’s Roar!, the Cloverfield Overture, a glorious, demented callback to Akira Ifukube’s Godzilla theme with a dash of Ennio Morricone thrown in.
EXTRAS Director commentary, three making-of docs, deleted scenes, alternate endings, more. Widescreen. English, French, Spanish audio and subtitles.