Starring: Michael Stahl-David, T.J. Miller, Lizzy Caplan
Director: Matt Reeves
Running Time: 85 mins
Cloverfield is an American film about the chaotic events that unfold on the night when a giant monster unleashes a catastrophic attack on New York City.
This is a film that gets found footage right. Even by early 2008, it was a trope that had been overdone and kicked into the ground, but Cloverfield uses it perfectly, and, in conjunction with a thrilling story and stunning visuals, makes for one of the most enthralling horror movies of the century.
The use of the found footage was what I was most impressed by here. Nowadays, it’s become a simple way to make a horror film of a low budget, without any necessity, but in Cloverfield, the found footage perfectly captures the desperate sense of chaos that is so integral to this film.
As soon as the catastrophe begins, you’re hooked on the adrenaline-filled rush from the amazingly real sense of mayhem here, and, rather than taking away from the film, the found footage really cements that atmosphere, and makes this film really stand out amongst the crowd.
But it’s not just that that makes this such a thrilling watch. Another impressive part of Cloverfield was its emotional depth and character development. Another issue with modern horrors is that they’re not focussed on characters, just jump scares, however here, you get a group of friends who are thrown into this chaos that you can really sympathise with, care for, and (although they do make a few idiotic decisions) will on to survive, which is massively important to making the film consistently engaging and tense.
On top of that, the visuals are stunning. If you watch this now, you’ll notice the odd glaring bit of CGI, but such special effects as the monster, the fallen skyscrapers, and the explosions, are really spectacular.
What’s more, Cloverfield isn’t just an entertaining thriller, but instead an allegory of the 9/11 attacks in New York City. That’s immediately recognisable here from some of the scenes of city-wide destruction, which, even now, feel very close to the nerve, but it is impressive to see how this film, in a similar way to Japan’s 1954 Godzilla, a commentary on nuclear weapons, deals with such a complex issue in a well-judged, subtle, and intelligent way, but still never overpowering the actual thrills and emotion that you feel as a viewer to this particular chaos.
Overall, I was hugely impressed with Cloverfield. With fantastic direction, visual effects and use of the found footage technique, this was an unbelievably thrilling film that I couldn’t take my eyes away from for one second, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.2.