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Cloverfield
UKScreen Rating:

Cloverfield – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Rob (Stahl-David) is thrown a surprise leaving party before he heads off to Japan for a new job.
Rob’s brother Jason (Vogel) is given a cheap video camera to film the party and record good-luck greetings for Rob from all their friends. But he just wants to party, so he hands the camera to party boy Hud (Miller).
Rob’s a bit thrown when the love of his life Beth (Yustman) turns up with her new boyfriend. She leaves again soon after a row with Rob.
Just when the party’s getting going, there’s a huge crashing sound outside and the power goes off – across Manhattan.
TV news reports suggest it could be an earthquake, but a quick look out of the window reveals the flailing tentacles of a huge beast, knocking down buildings and killing anyone it can reach tells the party-goers what’s really going on.
They all flee for their lives – desperate to leave the island, as buildings crumble around them.
But when Beth calls Rob to say she’s trapped, he knows he can’t leave the island without trying to rescue her.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

The whole disaster movie is seen through the lens of Hud’s camera…putting the audience in the heart of the action…but rather too much…we don’t get to see anything else…which reduces the context we would normally have as film viewers.
It’s one of those rare Hollywood cash-cows – cheap to make but with lots of box-office potential for the 18-30 post-pub crowd.
There are no familiar names or faces involved, it’s deliberately shot in a cheap and amateurish way, there are therefore very few expensive wide angles and shots of the monster are kept to a minimum, which while helping to ratched up the tension, also keeps the costs down.
Given the fact that it’s all told from the point of view of a drunk kid with a shaky hand holding a tiny video camera, it’s very difficult to watch – at times unnerving, but more often emetic.
The first five minutes of the film seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the story until you realise it’s actually a neat and clever way of building a back-story for two of the key characters, but this aside, there’s very little to make us care about any of these characters.
It takes a while to get going – but when it does, it’s just a relentless pounding of noise and claustrophobic visuals that will have you panting for breath at the end of the mercifully short running time.
But while it’s stimulating for your eyes and ears, there’s little for the brain to latch on to.
People act out of character, in order to keep the plot moving – one guy who keeps telling his friend to stop filming later picks up the camera himself, because if he left it where it fell, the film would stop early – and of course the characters we were introduced to first just happen to be the characters who last the longest.
It’s also hard to believe that our group of characters are the only ones in the whole of Manhattan who decide to return to rescue their friends – and it’s rather lucky that even though pretty much everyone else in the building is dead, their friend isn’t.
In this sense, it’s corny and predictable, which is a shame, given its potential to be exciting and original.
But if you throw your expectations and knowledge of modern culture out of the window, it’s an interesting (and cheap) way of telling the age-old story of an unknown beast destroying a city.
And maybe it’s just me…but I’d have like to have found out what this beast was and where it came from…but I guess if the film-makers had – War of the Worlds-style – had their heroes fight off and defeat the creature, I’d have been the first to criticise that…

Opens nationwide 1 Feb 2008

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