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Film Review only Cloverfield (2008)
Film:  Very Good    
DVD Transfer:  Excellent  
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1 (NTSC)

April 22, 2008



Genre: Science-fiction  
A monster from outer space slams into Manhattan Island, and demolishes everything in sight.  



Directed by:

Matt Reeves
Screenplay by: Drew Goddard
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Produced by: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk

Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, and Odette Yustman.

Film Length: 85 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.85:1
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:  English Dolby Digital 5.1
Special Features :  


Comments :

Teasing audiences with a superb trailer that showed a goodbye-party on Manhattan Island ruined by sudden loud explosions, and the Statue of Liberty's severed head crashing into the streets, Cloverdale ended up being more of a mini- Godzilla riff with unsubtle post-9/11 subtext (American soil brutalized by a primal, invading force) and low-budget filmmaking sweetened by some wonderful visual effects.

The funny thing is, had Cloverdale been shot on film with more traditional shakycam footage instead of nauseacam HD footage, it would've been less scary, but a lot easier on the eyes and tummy.

Like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverdale (respectively produced and written by Losts J.J. Abrams and Drew Goddard) is told through found footage; this time it's one man's ongoing start/stop handycamming of what's supposed to be a tribute video for best buddy Rob. It isn't as visually spastic as some of the film's critics claim (the occasionally cinematic compositions counter-balance the quasi-consumer-grade video gear), but the crude motion and blur factors are completely wrong for big theatre exhibition.

On a conventional TV or home theatre system, the video stock gives the movie a kind of intimacy that's harder to achieve in theatres; the edits are too polished and conveniently dramatic for what's supposed to be one videotape shot by a goofball named Hud, but the format and loose dramatic tone (basically evocations of candid and unguarded human behaviour) make Cloverdale pretty effective.

The creature reveals and subsequent details of the crab-like things it sends into the streets to devour humans adds some chilling drama (particularly a short subway tunnel attack that riffs a moment from Dreamcatcher), and director Matt Reeves (The Pallbearer, TV's Felicity) has obvious fun creating small tributes to Godzilla (tanks launching fiery salvos at the groaning monster) as well as 70s disaster flicks (Hud and Lily follow Rob as he heads up a condo, and then climb onto the roof of a bent-over building where love Beth may lie dying).

There's little doubt the filmmakers had fun playing with canted apartment sets, mimicking the red and orange emergency lighting that saturated scenes from genre classics like The Towering Inferno, as well as incorporating the sharp strobe lighting from Ripley's flight from the Nostromo in Alien, enhancing the tension as the group rushes to rescue Beth before her condo collapses.

Aside from party source music, Cloverdale has no score, but Lost composer Michael Giacchino wrote about 9 mins. of end credit music to close the film with what's the best unofficial Godzilla music ever written, nailing the militarism and weird melodic swoops of the early big lizard films.

Because the film is essentially footage shot by an amateur roughly over one day, deep character development isn't really possible; we get vignettes, home movie clichés, and trekking footage that's goosed by chilling monster attacks. The mostly unknown cast is fine in the pre-and post-attack scenes, but to get into the film's groove, one has to accept the pivotal decision of Rob's friends to follow him into the most dangerous parts of the city when it's clear their chances of surviving are low.

It just depends how selfish you are in dire circumstances, or whether you like watching stupid people dooming themselves.


© 2008 Mark R. Hasan

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