Reducing the Godzilla-style monster film to the point of view of one of the screaming little people on the street, the JJ Abrams produced Cloverfield proved a masterpiece in subtlety and marketing genius. Trailing only the briefest glimpses of the devastation, with websites dedicated to the unknown Cloverfield Project, the production team managed to generate huge amounts of coverage from very little by creating a whodunit mystery that would never really be solved.
A group of young, good-looking friends in New York City are attending a birthday party for Rob (Michael Stahl-David) in a Tribeca loft. The festivities are filmed for posterity, when a sudden and catastrophic attack by a huge monster of unknown origin sends them all fleeing into the streets. Suddenly in a race to escape the monster, the group find themselves doing whatever is necessary to avoid the destructive rampage.
The great adage in film-making, especially for horror films is ˜less is more’ and this is something that producer JJ Abrams and director Matt Reeves used to startling effect in Cloverfield. As the audience follows the screaming pretty people through the Big Apple, we rarely see more than the briefest glimpse, a shadow in debris or a fast-moving appendage between buildings. This withholding of a reveal builds suitable tension and while the characters are decent enough, it’s the promise of something enormous and mysterious that holds our attention.
There are some nice flashback moments scattered throughout and Cloverfield more than any film sticks to the purist ideal of ˜found footage,’ by which I mean the wraparound narrative actually exists as if someone had found the footage on the video camera in question. The cast too are engaging and likable on the most part and it’s easy to find yourself wrapped up in their desperate flee from the monster. Everything in the film is clearly geared at making it as believable as possible and on the whole it works fantastically.
It’s a shame that the marketing campaign for Cloverfield was so impressive because it created an almost unbeatable level of hype for the film and inevitably there was a backlash against it. However as time has passed and the hype has died, what’s left is one of the most impressive and unique monster films of modern cinema. There are problems with filming everything in camcorder, but on the whole Reeves and Abrams are able to deftly sidestep them and have created a memorable city-destroying monster who sits alongside Godzilla and friends.