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Monster Mayhem In Manhattan – CLOVERFIELD

Found footage films can be a pain in the ass: “shaky cam gives me a headache,” or “I get sick” being some common complaints made with regards to these types of films. And while Cloverfield (2008) isn’t exactly innocent of these charges, at a brisk 85 minutes (including credits) it’s a more than bearable experience that manages to outdo some monstrous expectations thanks to some good-old-fashioned storytelling. At movie’s outset an ominous governmental warning prefaces something truly unexpected: sweet n’ tender home video of two lovers – Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth (Odette Annable) – deciding to take a romantic Coney Island (R.I.P.) trip together. But the narrative soon shifts, as the tape garbles and skips to surprise party preparations – turns out Rob is off to Japan and his friends have borrowed the camera, inadvertently recording over Rob’s “special moments” footage. This “tape skip” device – which soon skips back to Rob and Beth on a subway to Coney before taking us back to the party – continues throughout the film, and is one of the clever narrative elements that helps director Matt Reeves transcend other similar movies. Because just when we’re wondering whether we’ve inadvertently stepped into some mumblecore youngsters-with-problems-no-one-gives-a-shit-about involving our P.O.V. counterpart Hud (T.J. Miller, named after Bill Paxton‘s Aliens character) and his crush on Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) or Beth’s dramatic arrival to the party with another guy (OMFinG!), the true hero of the picture makes its appearance. BLAM! An explosion rattles everyone out of their pity-party and onto the streets, where a loud roar followed by the Statue of Liberty‘s head crashing through the city streets signals the beginning of the nightmare we were promised: A giant monster loose in Manhattan, hideous sacs inflating and deflating on its head, limbs too thin for its frame, looking like a Salvador Dalí-meets-H.P. Lovecraft concoction set loose on our planet. While we genre-lovin’ fanboys would love to study its features closely, we’re forced to run to survive, thanks to our first-person vantage point. But we get enough of a glimpse to register some definite horror, in the form of dog-sized parasites dropping to the ground, as dangerous as the hulking leviathan what spawned them suckers. The clever thing about Cloverfield is that the creatures themselves are a force of nature: they could’ve been a storm (like THE Storm – coming 2012), an impending nuclear attack (a’la Miracle Mile) or even zombies! Doesn’t matter – any freak event that puts loved ones in extreme peril and causes everyone to scatter like chickens with heads cut off. That’s what makes it so awesome – it’s essentially all about that target=”_blank”>”RUN!” feeling. I mean, for my money Spain’s [Rec] and [Rec] ² are the cream of the found-footage crop, but like the behemoths that roam its narrative streets, Cloverfield isn’t too far behind.

[Oh yeah – keep watching the credits and you’ll be treated to target=”_blank”>one of the greatest pieces of film score from Michael Giacchino – ‘Roar.’  It’ll make you feel like Monster Island’s throwing a party, after which they’re comin’ to kill us all!]

 

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