A brutal, bludgeoning apocalyptic thriller groundbreakingly found-footage shot through a street-level perspective, despite shaky-cam headaches, a brilliant reinvention of what’s possible in monster/kaiju films. 8.7/10.
May_23rd in Area 34 (formerly known as Manhattan): A group of friends attend a going-away party, little to know they will soon face down the most terrifying night of their lives. A creature the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Using a handheld video camera, the friends record their struggle to survive as New York crumbles around them.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Matt Reeves’ new apocalyptic/kaju monster found-footage thriller mash-up packs a punch and is one of the freshest and most innovative things to come out of the genre in a while. A brutal, bludgeoning apocalyptic thriller groundbreakingly found-footage shot through a street-level perspective, despite shaky-cam headaches, a brilliant reinvention of what’s possible in monster/kaiju films. Starting out (and told within the casing) of a seemingly-normal day in New York City with friends planning and attending a going-away party for a bachelor-not-so-bachelor, the night soon turns nightmarish as something starts attacking downtown.
As the plot is brilliant laid out and we learn seemingly in real time what is happening as the characters do, it becomes clear the monumental scope of an alien invasion is upon us, with one of the most strongly designed extraterrestrial creatures (and tricks up its sleeve like the smaller side buggers) I can remember since Alien/s. Brutal and bludgeoning in its fast-paced apocalyptic thrills groundbreakingly shot all through found-footage showing what happens during an apocalypse from a street-level perspective, the film is a brilliant reinvention of what’s possible in monster/kaiju films uber-imaginative in idea and execution.
Beyond the monster thrills (and there are plentyyyy to be had to keep your heart steadily racing – Statue of Liberty head flying and final helicopter bite being amongst my favorites), there is also a human dimension and level to the film as well, showing the full gamut of human emotions from loss to empathy to bravery to fear experienced during times as apocalyptic as these, centered by overall-good, believable performances by its up-and-coming cast from TJ Miller to Michael Stahl-David to Jessica Lucas. The problem, albeit a pretty *huge* one seeing as how it affects the very core of how the film is delivered, is the shaky cam.. so much shaky cam.
It can get unbearably seasick-feeling and headache-inducing in parts – I get trying to go for pure authenticity in shooting style like it really was all on camcorder but I’m sure audiences would give a little leeway (we know it’s a motion picture after all) in return for a less woozy viewing experience (wish they’d explained at least a little of the monster’s backstory/origins as well but maybe leaving for the sequel?). Sum total, Cloverfield is a game-changing work for the kaiju/monster genre that will likely start a franchise as behemoth as its brilliantly-designed monster, doubles as a humanity/character study during survival times of chaos, and innovative found-footage action thriller showing a street-level view of the apocalypse with clever twinges of horror, sci-fi, and a way-ahead-of-its-time genre deconstruction that marks a filmmaker to watch in Matt Reeves.
Official CLC Score: 8.7/10