Directed by Matt Reeves [Other horror films: Future Shock (1994, segment ‘Mr. Petrified Forrest’), Let Me In (2010)]
I saw Cloverfield many years back, and didn’t remember much about it. It’s pretty clear why, as this film isn’t really that far removed from a multitude of other found footage flicks. It is, however, quite a step above them in some ways.
This is an action-packed film – trucks being thrown around, buildings crashing down, plenty of military firepower being utilized. It was chaotic, which is what this movie did amazingly well – it caught the chaos of this terrifying attack beautifully. Is it a bit annoying that often things aren’t in focus and multiple characters are speaking at once, creating a mostly unintelligible babble of sound? Very much so, but that is realistic. The chaos here was intense, and this movie got it down pat.
Most of the performances here were fine. I personally liked both Michael Stahl-David and Lizzy Caplan. I couldn’t stand T.J. Miller, though. I get that different people react to wild situations in different ways, but Miller’s character drove me up the wall. His flippant commentary at times just felt utterly bewildering given the grim situation they were in. This isn’t to say people wouldn’t want to lighten the mood, but can’t that guy ever shut up?
Somewhat related, the first 18 minutes of the film are pretty much utterly mind-numbing. It does somewhat set up the characters we follow around for the next hour, but it could have been cut down by at least six, seven minutes. As soon as the first earthquake-type event happened, everything picked up nicely, though.
I enjoyed the design of the monster, at least what we saw of it, and though I’d like to have some kind of origin to tie with it, I get entirely why there wasn’t one presented. My one gripe is that the spider/crab creatures (seemingly parasites created by the main creature) seemed way too similar to the spiders in The Mist, which came out just a year earlier. Luckily, they weren’t used that often, but really, this did feel, at times, like a found footage version of The Mist, which sort of hampered the film a bit.
Found footage isn’t a style of horror that’s often done well. Sure, there’s good films out there, such as [Rec] and As Above, So Below, but more often than not, found footage seems to be the cheap go-to style for amateurish film-makers, and they flood the horror genre. Cloverfield manages to catch the chaos, though, that few of these movies seem to do, and so while I don’t love the movie, and I find Miller irksome beyond belief, this is a decent flick to put on to pass the night away.