Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Field Of Screams

Well, this past weekend I finally went to see Cloverfield. I was reluctant at first. After all, reviews were all over the place, and history has shown us that anything with this much of an internet buzz usually fails to live up to the hype. Remember Snakes on a Plane? Exactly, no one does. Then there were all the gripes about the shaky cam, really? If you are bothered by the shaky cam, then you do not spend enough time on the internet. We are exposed to far grainier poorly shot video than this on a daily basis, and we love it so much, we send it to everyone we know. If anything I was amazed at how well thought out each shot had to be. The shakiness of the camera was a character in itself. In a movie lacking a soundtrack it was the camera work that told us when we should be tense and when to take a breather. I’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Blair Witch, but I think Cloverfield is a more intimate claustrophobic film. No easy feat in the middle of a normally bustling city like New York. Where Blair Witch relied on perception to deliver scares, Cloverfield shows you everything.

Being a New York native, I’m glad I didn’t see this movie back home. I’ve read about some angry New Yorkers walking out of the theater and I can see why.
See, New Yorkers have always felt a degree of invulnerability. Back home nothing can hurt me. I can fall asleep on the subway, yell at a random stranger for bumping me in the street, run across midtown traffic without fear, because in some way New York protects its own. That was until 9/11.
9/11 affected the sense of security of every New Yorker who was in the city at the time. It left a lot of us bruised and reeling. Cloverfield brought me back to that time. At one point the main characters are separated, just across the street from each other by a wave of soldiers and vehicles rushing by firing guns and missiles. The noise is frightening, the bursts of light from the guns is frightening. Our heroes are separated by less than 20” and it may as well have been a mile.
My wife and I both thought of the armed National Guard that stood along 14th Street and in the subways during the days following 9/11.
Films that have tried to deliver the emotional impact of that horrible time in New York have not even come close to the desperation and helplessness as Cloverfield has.
I’ve read a bunch of reviews of Cloverfield that have blasted the film for the same reasons I liked it. I wonder where those reviewers were during 9/11? Did they walk home across the Williamsburg Bridge among people covered in ash unable to take their eyes off the column of smoke a couple of miles away feeling very small?

Another gripe I’ve read is that the characters are not entirely likable. It’s true, they were average 20 somethings. There wasn’t anything to really like or dislike about them. That was the frikkin’ point. They weren’t heroes, they weren’t special they were just..themselves. If anything the actors deserve credit for being so believable in their normality. When was the last time you watched a war documentary and thought hey, there’s a soldier I want to hang out with? The film lets you know right at the beginning. This is found footage – no spoilers there. At that point you know enough to not to get too emotionally vested in these people. The real star in the film is the camera. The people are just a support system.

Cloverfield was one of the scarier movies I’ve seen in a long time. The film is fairly light on gore but heavy on special effects that pay off. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but neither was The Exorcist when it came out. I think time will prove Cloverfield a true classic and it will be hailed alongside films like The Exorcist, Jaws and The Shining as a true innovation in horror. Cloverfield may be the definitive horror of this decade. Tailor made for a culture reliant on YouTube, 24 hour news channels, and reality programming.

I only wish this movie had not hit before George Romeros Diary of the Dead coming on Feb 15th as Romero is using a similar camera technique, and there is no doubt that unfair comparisons will be made. I’m a huge Romero fan and it would be a shame if his film suffered from negative reactions to Cloverfield.

If you’re a geek and haven’t seen Cloverfield, chances are you’re going to wish you had, and if you’re like me and prefer walking through the subway tunnels at night rather than wait for that local that runs every half hour to go 2 lousy stops,…..you will...never…do…that…again.

Cloverfield was directed by Matt Reeves and written by Drew Goddard.
It was produced by J.J. Abrams.
It stars Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogal, Odette Yustman and New York City.

Plus one big ass monster……..

2 comments:

foobella said...

my friend and I had to leave 20 minutes in because I was going to hurl. Otherwise, I was enjoying the movie and I guess I'll have to try again when it comes on dvd.

Found your blog through skulladay.

fun stuff. =)

Charlie said...

Foobella,
I should have clarified. I understand there are people out there who can be affected by the shaky cam. My problem is with the "critics" griping about the camera work. I'm sorry to hear of your reaction. I hear dramamine has helped some folks get through the film, but I don't know if I'd like to get medicated to see a movie. I read the DVD is coming in April. I hope you get a chance to see it then. Especially if you're a fan of horror.
thanks for reading