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Look out, there's a monster coming

Vinny Lawrenson Woods watches Cloverfield and finds a commotion over a motion picture going through the motions

Published on February 11th 2008.

Look out, there's a monster coming

Everyone loves a good monster flick. So why doesn’t somebody make one?

With J.J. Abrams, of TV’s Lost fame, at the helm, its use of viral marketing, taster trailers and a sequel planned, a lot of hype has been built up around Cloverfield. Filmed entirely on a hand held camera, the film follows six friends and their attempted escape from Manhattan island after New York is attacked.

At least the film was short. This made at least one member of the audience happy. As soon as the final credits appeared, this very vocal contributor added: ‘That was shit’.

We first meet the characters at a surprise party for Rob Hawkins (played by Michael Stahl-David). The rest of the gang are Rob’s love interest, Beth McIntyre (Odette Justman), best friend Hudson ‘Hud’ Platt (T.J. Miller), brother Jason Hawkins (Mike Vogel), brother's girlfriend Lily Ford (Jessica Lucas) and friend of a friend Marlena Diamond (Lizzy Caplan). This introduction of the characters and the camcorder were as heavy handed and contrived as the film’s protagonist, which set the tempo for the rest of the film.

The action started with what was thought to be an earthquake, but it quickly became obvious that something else was creating the panic. These first scenes were the film's highpoint, as skyscrapers fell, fireballs rained and we had our first glimpses of the mystery assailant.

You may now be wondering what was creating all the commotion. Like all well kept internet secrets, I’m sure it was no surprise to anyone that a ‘monster’ was causing all the mayhem. When the battered head of the Statue of Liberty crashed into one of New York’s streets there was no doubt trouble was afoot, or perhaps that should be a (big) foot. But why New York is such a popular place for misunderstood monsters I’m not sure.

From its first shudder to the film's final scene, our CGI friend was intent on destroying or eating anything it could, but without the emotion of King Kong or even the cheesiness of Godzilla, Cloverfield made no lasting impression at all.

By the time cameraman Hud had asked ‘Do you think the creature was from the sea, outer space or was it a government experiment gone wrong’, I really didn’t care anymore.

At least the film was short, at 85 minutes it was apparently the exact length of a DV Tape. This made at least one other member of the audience happy too. As soon as the final credits appeared, this very vocal contributor added ‘That was shit’.

This was a film just going through the motions. Even though the camerawork and visuals were good, when mixed with a flawed plot, cardboard characters, and one ridiculous premise after another, you’re left with a film without any tension or emotion. Unlike Blair Witch before it, this camcorder yarn failed to create the horror, uncertainty and fear I would have expected.

6/10 Cloverfield is on general release.

Vinny Lawrenson Woods runs Culturepool, the Liverpool based networking/arts group. Next event is on February 21 when Culturepool meet Vasily Petrenko. See here if you want to go.

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5 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

realitycheckFebruary 11th 2008.

does it not annoy anyone else when people say films are unrealistic??? they are fiction... you're thinking of documentaries and reality TV. please explain how you make a monster film realistic! i thought cloverfield was an excellent idea and very well put together to keep the suspense and tension going.

TamarFebruary 11th 2008.

Very predictable. Very unrealistic.A good idea but I'm glad I only had to pay student prices.

LyndaFebruary 11th 2008.

Spot on. Was it just me or did the jerky camera movements make u feel like you'd been on a rollercoaster 20 times in a row. I was ill after. I bet a lot of Americans sue them for that.

Emma,WhitefieldFebruary 11th 2008.

Hmmmm - maybe i saw a different film, or just enjoyed it for what it was?! I thought Cloverfield was actually pretty good, when compared to some of the monster rubbish you get! Im not a big fan of monster films in general, but thought this one pulled it off pretty well because of the point of view from which it was shot - there's none of the dramatic or sad musical effects or the sweeping long shots that you get in the cliche monster movies - this is from a normal persons point of view in the face of a massive disaster - this hasnt really been explored before, and i think adds quite a lot to the film - seeing the carnage from an ant-eye view in this way makes it more personal. Plus in the wake of disasters such as 9/11 and the London bombings, when hand held cameras and camera phones were the main means of on the ground, mid situation documentation, this film seems more relevant to recent historical events - albeit from a fantastical standpoint. I guess it just depends on the kind of thing you like - if you're in to the big block busters where every camera angle is painstakingly planned for maximum effect, then this probably isnt for you, but i personally found the POV angle very interesting, and thought it brought the scale of the disaster to a personal level which makes the film more effective and gripping. Ah well - if we all thought the same the world would be a boring place I guess!

AnonymousFebruary 11th 2008.

I went to see this film with someone I was seeing at the time, I made the mistake of letting him pick the film...and also not actually knowing what Cloverfield was actually about - then having the conversation after he bought the tickets that I dont like films where there is a monster running round killing everyone (ie Jeepers Creepers etc) as I think they are very unrealistic. Cloverfield is basically a pointless film. It doesnt even end properly! Totally unblieveable and absolutely ridiculous! If I could of, I would have exited the cinema before the end (or lack of) the film... I personally dont reccommend it, HOWEVER boys seem to like it!

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