| The Red Right Hand
The release of The Blair Witch Project completely divided audiences between those who appreciated the low-budget, 'concept treatment' of the traditional ghost story and those who were annoyed by the lack of any visual beastie. Told from the perspective of those Japanese citizens running around screaming, "Gojira!", Cloverfield is an exceptionally original take on the classic monster movie. The plot itself is incredibly simplistic; the film opens with layers of Government Property stamps and a small introduction to Rob [Stahl-David] and Beth [Yustman] before we're treated to our first proper scene. Through conversation we discover that Rob has been awarded a Vice Presidency of some company in Japan and his brother, Jason and his girlfriend Lilly [Lucas] have decided to document the surprise going-away party. At this point it becomes obvious that Rob's best friend Hud [Miller] is recording over a tape of his day out with Beth one month prior - seen in the opening shots. Shortly after a spat between Rob and Beth erupts (a good twenty five minutes into the film) a city-wide power-cut hits and a cluster of skyscrapers explode in the distance. From this point on the characters scurry from street-to-street, desperate to figure out what's going on and get to safety. In typical fashion, Rob is deeply (and somewhat blindly) concerned about his sort-of-girlfriend's safety and makes his way to the centre of the destruction.
The inability to see everything clearly only heightens the reality and exhilarates audiences; of course, this may just annoy others and draw complaints of motion sickness but I must confess, I attended a packed screening and not one person threw up or even complained about feeling queasy. The only complaint I did have, which is the reason I knocked this film down, was the character development. Sure, I understood their motives and reasoning but everyone felt a little hollow and 2D; they were just a bunch of yuppies that I couldn't care less about. I certainly didn't give a halfpenny-jizz about bloody Beth but that's not to say that the acting wasn't commendable because I really appreciated the fresh-faced talent.
*The following paragraph contains blatant spoilers, feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you have not seen the film*
Nothing is explained because it doesn't have to be... but here's an explanation if you want to know: The monster is an alien. I know there is suggestion that it came from the depths of our oceans but that's highly unlikely as an underwater creature of that size and mass wouldn't be able to move on land. Secondly, the penultimate shot, just before the camera runs out of tape and the credits roll, cuts back to Beth and Rob's day at Coney Island. As Rob films the sea, you can clearly see a large object fall from the sky and hit the water - blatant implication that the monster is otherworldly. As for what the monster is, it's new; that's all I can say. It's not Godzilla, it's not Cthulhu, it's a completely new creature. The best description I could think of would be a cross between an inside-out horse and a salamander... that's been turned inside out. In the end, it doesn't really matter what it is or where it came from, simply that it gate-crashed Rob's leaving do and that just won't do.
One thing that everyone seems to be overlooking with this film is that it's primarily a 'concept flick'. We already have thousands of crappy monster movies, so why bother with the same thing all over again? What JJ Abrams has done is taken the classic workings of a fantasy tale and woven them into a credible contemporary plot - dragon attacks the Kingdom. Why? Because it's a dragon, that's what they do. A group of brave individuals are assembled to journey into the heart of the fray and rescue a maiden from a tower. It's classic chivalry... they just leave the fighting of the beast down to the military, which is fine.
What's confusing me is the fact that a large portion of the complaints about this film are "I didn't like the shaky-cam stuff", "I didn't see enough of the monster", "No one explained where it came from", "The humour wasn't funny", waa waa, bitch bitch. Punters will complain about a lack of these elements but when laid out clearly for them, as in Emmerich's Godzilla, they complain it's stupid and filled with unnecessary CGI and exposition. Undoubtedly, people are going to either love or hate this film. The Blair Witch arguments are going to resurface and the debate will no doubt rage on for a handful of months as people argue the extremes of 'this is killing cinema' and 'this is the future of cinema'. Cloverfield is nothing more than a new take on the monster movie and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. What else can I say?
1st February 2008
The Scene To Look Out For:
Many of the scenes are long, drawn-out shots that probably required a great deal of setup and planning so isolating one particular moment is a little difficult. The first image that springs to mind is the image of a giant dust cloud sweeping the streets as a skyscraper collapses. The whole thing naturally invokes memories of 9/11 and a certain sense of immediacy and urgency presents itself in a way uncommon to monster movies. Also, bar the opening party, the film contains almost no musical score. The only piece plays over the closing credits and is an exceptional homage to classic monster movies from the 30's and 40's.
The camera-wielding Hud (HUD is a military term for Heads Up Display and generally refers to the point of view perspective in video games) was funny, I don't care what people say! I thought he was entertaining and ultimately human. That's all I have to say about that.
"Beth lives in Midtown. Midtown is that way. You know what else is that way? Some horrific shit!"
In A Few Words:
"Extraordinary reinvention of the classic monster movie formula"