Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Drew Goddard
Produced by: J. J. Abrams
Runtime: 80 minutes (aprox.)
Somebody really ought to warn movie characters. If your movie is filmed with the shaky camera technique, you’re all going to die. Every single one of you. Dead. Dead. Dead. That said, the camera in this film seems to hold a mystical protection to those who hold it which is why, when Jason, the brother of Rob (the protagonist) gives Hud, Rob’s best friend, the camera early on, I find myself wondering: If Jason kept the camera would he have lasted longer? Would it have been Hud who had been killed?
The cause and effect in this movie is strange. When one of the characters dies from a poisonous bite from a hostile critter, I have to wonder does she die from the bite or because the characters run into a military staging area before the symptoms show up? The idea that floats around in my head is that the girl would have been safe even if bitten as long as they didn’t run into an area where somebody could recognize her symptoms and scream “We’ve got a bite!” after which the girl is carried off kicking and screaming with little explanation until she explodes horribly from her now boiling blood.
But why bother to watch the movie at all? The opening tells us that all the characters are going to die. “Tape found at site blah blah formerly known as Central Park” tells us all that we really need to know. As long as the characters hold onto the camera they are doomed. Maybe doomed later, but still doomed. The camera acts almost as an avatar for Hud, and despite that he is rather dumb (incredibly so at sometimes) we do feel a connection with him and we feel that as long as he has the camera, he at least, is safe. So when the characters finally do arrive in Central Park and he does get killed, the first reaction is shock. Not that he’s dead, but that the camera continues to see and view the world. What could have been considered Hud’s eyes up until this point mercilessly grinds forward ignoring whatever terrible things are happening around it. When the camera is picked up by Rob, the entire theater seems to know that if he doesn’t drop that camera before leaving the park, he is dead too. But the camera isn’t dropped and, of course, Rob dies.
The plot is a rescue mission. Rob is going away to Japan for a business position in the company he works for. His brother Jason and Jason’s girlfriend arrange a going away party with Hud documenting using a camera Jason gives him (unknowing recording over a tape Rob made of him and Beth, a good friend of his). Hud, now recording tries to flirt with Marlena, one of the party guests, but she doesn’t want to give him the time of day. Beth shows up at the party and it soon becomes apparent that Rob and Beth have slept together complicating their relationship just before he leaves. Rob and Beth have a small fight and Beth leaves. While Hud, Jason, and Robert talk about it all hell breaks loose. After much chaos, Beth calls Rob on his cellphone. She is trapped and needs help. Rob, Hud, Jason’s girlfriend (Jason being dead already), Rob, and Marlena head into the heart of the city to save her…
This movie delights in not explaining things. The monster isn’t explained at all. Why people explode when bitten by the little creatures that fall off of it like dandruff isn’t explained. What “Cloverfield” is, isn’t explained (it is the United States’s designation for the beast, though in the movie this isn’t so clear). What Cloverfield is, is not so much of a monster movie as the story of a small group of people trying to cope with an immense tragedy. In this way it can almost be seen as an analysis of the way people react to events beyond their control. That it takes place in New York may invite comparisons to September 11th when seen through this view, but I think the film would have worked just as well set in Chicago or even, say, London.
The movie is entertaining, even if logic sometimes leaves by the way side for the plot’s convenience. You won’t like this film if The Blair Witch Project made you nauseous, but it is a good horror flick that creates characters you care about. It's scary too, and you can’t beat that.