Cloverfield is a horror film with a classic monster movie twist, and it was one of the first films to push the “found footage” sub-genre into the mainstream. The movie is presented to us as evidence; a tape found among the wreckage in New York’s Central Park, following an unknown incident.
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The Movie Review
In Cloverfield the tape recounts the night of a group of successful middle-class friends, celebrating a going away party for their mutual friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David). Over the course of the night, the tape reveals a disaster that decimates New York City, leaving little bit horror and mystery in its wake.
The story of Cloverfield is decidedly personal and straightforward. Although it takes place in the midst of a New York City disaster (one of the most cliché action set pieces in cinema), it places the focus on a small group of characters rather than the overall destruction.
Shot from the perspective of a handheld camera, the movie follows the story of a group of friends whose party night turns into an unimaginable horror. As Rob gears up to leave to Japan on a business trip, his friends plan to celebrate with a surprise party.
Rob’s brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and his partner Lily (Jessica Lucas) plan the festivities, while the dopey friend Hudson (T.J. Miller) is put on camera duty. As Hudson walks around documenting the night, an unknown disturbance sends New York into a panic.
For the most part, the story very much focuses on Rob and his small group of friends attempting to evacuate New York City. Apart from an initial explosion and civilian panic, the group is unsure of what is causing the chaos.
Before the group can leave New York, Rob decides he must travel across the city to retrieve Beth (Odette Annabelle), an old girlfriend of his who is stuck in her apartment. As the group descends onto the streets of New York and into the subway, the actual scope of the chaos becomes much more apparent.
The movie does a smart job hiding the culprit of the destruction, offering the audience brief glimpses and small teases. There’s a consistent air of mystery and suspense during most of the movie, as we’re not sure exactly what is lurking in the shadows.
Cloverfield has its share of issues, but for the most part, executes everything quite well. The biggest issue is the camera perspective, as it falls prey to the “shaky cam” trope of early found footage movies. It’s a true representation of home video; poorly shot, out of focus, and far too shaky during the action.
This is both a positive and a negative, as the realism of the camerawork can make scenes similarly intense or annoying. In terms of character performances, the cast acts admirably. The script is pretty light, and few of the characters get any real development. Emotional scenes feel sincere, and although you don’t sympathize with the characters, you can definitely relate to them.
Overall, Cloverfield is a quick and exciting horror flick that focuses more on the mystery and intrigue and less on the scares and gore. It smartly blends the classic monster movie trope into the found footage genre, presenting a unique concept.
The story itself is a bit thin, but things move along quickly and new set-piece moments keep things interesting. Some viewers will absolutely despise the shaky nature of the camera perspective, but most should be alright with it. If you’re looking for a fun found footage movie with a cool idea, Cloverfield is a decent bet.
- There's a good chunk of mystery surrounding the cause of the destruction
- Characters feel honest and relatable
- The concept and scenario is interesting and fun
- Fast camera movements can make many scenes shaky and hard to watch
- For a horror movie, it's simply not that scary
- Some performances fall flat, and dialogue is occasionally weak