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Overall Rating

Awesome: 32.82%
Worth A Look35.88%
Average: 9.16%
Pretty Bad: 7.63%
Total Crap: 14.5%

9 reviews, 77 user ratings

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by Jay Seaver

"What's American for kaiju?"
5 stars

So how many of you saw "The Host" last year? You should have; it was a thoroughly fun giant monster movie out of South Korea with the neat hook of being told from the perspective of the people who normally are seen getting squashed or running away. "Cloverfield" takes that idea and runs with it, literally putting the camera in the hands of its characters.

We start at a going-away party for Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), who is about to start a new job in Tokyo. Which, generally, is where you'd expect a giant monster to show up, rather than Manhattan. Rough luck there. An evacuation of the island is ordered, but Rob gets a call from best friend Beth (Odette Yustman) - she's pinned in her apartment. So Rob, his brother Jason (Mike Vogel), Jason's fiancee Lily (Jessica Lucas), Lily's friend Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), and Rob's friend Hud (T.J. Miller) start trekking across town. Hud was videotaping the party; now he's recording things he can't believe.

Cloverfield is presented as the contents of a camera that the Department of Defense found in the area "formerly designated as Central Park", which may cause some to groan from Blair Witch Project flashbacks. The entire movie is shot with handheld cameras that shake when Hud runs and pan wildly when something outside the frame catches his attention; the viewer might often wonder why he doesn't toss the camera aside or at least turn it off when something could benefit from his full attention. Director Matt Reeves and T.J. Miller make it believable, though - Hud's a guy who would keep shooting in order to feel useful and to impress Marlena, and unlike in Blair Witch, there's not much confessional direct address of the camera.

The found-footage gimmick that Reeves and writer Drew Goddard do use to good effect is the occasional use of what was on the tape before Jason and Hud used it to record the party - recordings from a month earlier, capturing the day after Rob and Beth spent the night together, before everything became awkward. There's a great little metaphor in how what is happening now is destroying Rob's record and memory of when things were better, and it's a great way to add depth to comments on how Rob and Beth have been perfect for each other forever but afraid to act on it without getting into long speeches or momentum-killing flashbacks. In fact, they actually serve to heighten the suspense, because when they show up, it means that something has happened to the camera or cameraman, and the seconds used to build the love story serve as a miniature cliffhanger.

Happily, as much as Cloverfield can be viewed as basically being a love story with the kaiju stuff serving as an obstacle, it doesn't skimp on the monster-movie fun. The Cloverfield monster itself will probably never be as iconic as the likes of Gojira or King Kong, but it is enjoyably alien, in a way that could imply extraterrestrial or undersea origins, and has a nasty surprise or two up its sleeve to go with the landmark-leveling brute force. Reeves stages his action scenes very well, putting the danger back into things that audiences might take for granted by giving us an average-guy's view of them. He and his effects crew do a nice job creating the fantastic parts of the film's world, getting extra mileage from how even though the audience knows what they're getting into, most of us don't really expect to see good creature effects or a devastated New York in homemade digital video; we expect cheap and are surprised by elaborate. The style also lets terrible things happen with no warning, forcing us to process the sudden death of characters we like without the tools we've grown to expect from our action movies.

The young cast is pretty good. None of them fall into action movie clichés, other than perhaps T.J. Miller as Hud, who as the story's biggest geek gets most of the best lines. Michael Stahl-David is pretty solid as Rob; I like the casual familiarity he and Mike Vogel have as brothers, along with the way Vogel and Jessica Lucas don't feel the need to telegraph that they're dating in every scene they share early on, although it comes through later on when headcount is reduced. Odette Yustman is off the screen for much of the movie, but does a nice enough job of hooking the audience in her flashback scenes. Lizzy Caplan's Marlena doesn't do quite so good a job at that; she grew on me a bit, but mostly seemed around to even out the boys and the girls.

That's a pretty small complaint, though, considering all the fun that "Cloverfield" fits into its 75-odd minutes of recovered footage. My biggest complaint may be that there's no way to logically fit Michael Giacchino's "Roar! ('Cloverfield' Overture)" into the film proper - but the upside to that is that even the closing credits are filled with giant-monster goodness.

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originally posted: 02/06/08 12:14:05
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell a good creature feature 4 stars
2/08/17 Louise As soon as that stupid monster showed up, I knew it was a turkey. 1 stars
9/25/13 David Hollingsworth One of the more awesome/scary found footage films since 'Blair Witch". 5 stars
4/15/13 Durwood Cheezy Grade Z ripoff of Blair Witch and War of the Worlds--DON 1 stars
3/16/10 mr.mike If you can deal with shaky cam , it's good. Damn good. 4 stars
9/20/09 Eggy Swingleforte Oh dear! Get out the vomit bags... [plural] Sheer shite from the highest height. 1 stars
8/19/09 Jeff Wilder Great style. Not one iota of substance. 3 stars
6/03/09 carmen torres i really thought it was a piece of junk i got dizzy with the camara moving all the time 1 stars
3/25/09 Eric Pretty good, though I was bummed when delicious Mike Vogel bites it 20 minutes in. 4 stars
1/09/09 Anonymous. such a cool movie, the ending sort of surprised me... 4 stars
12/19/08 Craig D. Best American monster movie since Jaws. 5 stars
11/09/08 daveyt It's ok, I liked the new take on monster, but Blair Witch was much better, yup I liked BW! 3 stars
10/07/08 Matt Hard to empathise with the characters when the picture jumps all over the place. 3 stars
9/18/08 Max A potent and visceral masterpiece 5 stars
9/11/08 Luke Good idea, terribly executed with little effort in the detail 1 stars
8/11/08 Jon G A unrealistic plot that felt disturbingly real 5 stars
7/27/08 Samantha Pruitt delivered, thought it was a lot of fun, great audience participation! 4 stars
7/12/08 AnnieG Not all that scary and it made my family motion-sick. 3 stars
6/26/08 Doug SHort and sweet 4 stars
6/23/08 Andrew Elkhoury Liked the fact that it was taped by a handy cam and still had great fx. 5 stars
6/16/08 Blop Hell I enjoyed this immensly, despite or because of low expectations 4 stars
6/16/08 CD This was entertaining at times but the camera was annoying and Hud more so. 2 stars
6/15/08 Sam Difficult to watch with the camera moving .. brainless.. 1 stars
6/06/08 Jessay I hated the characters, epic fail 1 stars
5/26/08 David Pollastrini Great FX! 5 stars
5/14/08 Joe Awsome movie, But the ending was very unsatisfactory. 4 stars
5/09/08 Misti K Good and scary... loved it! 4 stars
4/27/08 Jayme Isaacs An Excellent Movie 5 stars
4/24/08 action movie fan scares and thrils galore in the exviting godzilla meets blair witch sci fi adventure 4 stars
4/23/08 Jodi I thought this film was ok, but I wanted to throw up most of the movie from shaky camera 3 stars
4/04/08 Jessica Bielzebub Makes THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT look like a best cinematography winner. 2 stars
3/28/08 Piz A great jump since Blair Witch, and awesome for such a low budget. Was bummed when it ended 4 stars
3/24/08 wnm Cool idea, poorly executed. Subplot stuff came off extremely boting, footage unrealistic 3 stars
3/07/08 wertyboy movie masterpiece, suspense horrow violence and even some humour in their, its a MUST see 5 stars
2/17/08 Zoolook the Awesome Mudkip Meh...nothing spectacular, and the monster looked like a giant Swampert. google and compare 2 stars
2/13/08 elisa perkins The shaky camera work was what made this movie crazy scary. 5 stars
2/05/08 M .Alan Aviseral Masterpeice 5 stars
2/05/08 Paul Shortt Besides disinterest, the only emotion it incites is the emotion of wanting to throw up 1 stars
2/05/08 MP Bartley Nothing new as such, but it uses its concept brilliantly. 4 stars
2/04/08 Advantus Good film. Leaves you wanting more. Where is the prequel? 4 stars
2/03/08 Nick really loved it, the best godzilla-monster movie ever! 5 stars
2/02/08 Alex Thorne This film was everything i wanted it to be. finally, something worth all the hype! 5 stars
2/02/08 Quigley An amazingly effective sci-fi adventure. Stays with you for days afterwards 5 stars
1/30/08 john wonderful ... fine ... a blast ... yippeee ... clever 5 stars
1/30/08 Ming I hate the shaky camera...a bad movie..Why you people like this garbage..... 2 stars
1/30/08 gcc Very innovative filmmaking, felt very real & scary unlike typical CGI monster flicks 4 stars
1/28/08 Jeff Smith Awesome, completely gripping if you can stomach the hand-held camera 5 stars
1/27/08 Bill Kept me entertained. It didn't take itself too seriously either. 4 stars
1/26/08 Tan Worst movie ever. All hype. Save your money and time. 1 stars
1/25/08 Emme Ready for the fun "thrill ride"- got boring, unscarey crap 1 stars
1/25/08 Ramzi Abed It truly is Godzilla meets Blair Witch (with better cameras!) 5 stars
1/24/08 John GREAT experience, way more then just a movie 5 stars
1/23/08 danielle really bad! camera shaking for hr and 1/2 1 stars
1/23/08 Stacy Loved it. Don't go see if you need a Hollywood ending, though. 5 stars
1/23/08 Riki Not exactly scarey, not exactly realistic, but definitely entertaining! 5 stars
1/22/08 beau This was very scary! it had frightening sequences, action and was believable! well made! 4 stars
1/22/08 William Goss And I presume that spelling is where "Likes to read" fails. 5 stars
1/22/08 Likes to read, unlike the President. Great for identifying people with no taste. Guess where Willaim Goss falls. 1 stars
1/22/08 John Wasn’t invested in the characters and didn’t believe it for one second… 1 stars
1/22/08 Mr Freeze I watched it online. It was a camcorder recording of a camcorder recording. B+ 4 stars
1/22/08 Ole Man Bourbon Great entertainment. Characters were abominable though. 4 stars
1/22/08 Noexit Should have been longer. There was something crashed in the water at Coney Island 4 stars
1/22/08 Ron20003 WORST PIECE OF CRAPOLA EVER 1 stars
1/21/08 chach Very unrealistic and cheezy no plot or direction! Probably the worst movie Ive ever seen 1 stars
1/20/08 Brian Mckay Yes, it's a gimmick, but it's a fun one. Monster 10 times scarier than any Godzilla flick. 4 stars
1/20/08 Captain Highcrime 9/11 with a monster...New Yorkers will LOVE it!! 4 stars
1/20/08 c5 Cliched spectacle distracts from serious stupidity and lack of real story. Pure gimmick. 1 stars
1/20/08 tmcmistress very original monster design; just wish we'd seen more of it. 4 stars
1/20/08 Darkstar Awesome movie, great monster. Best action pic you're gonna get this time of year. 5 stars
1/20/08 Obi Wan One of the better movies to come about, plenty of scares and JJ does it again!! 5 stars
1/19/08 Michael Best horror/suspense movie I've seen in years! 4 stars
1/19/08 chris banuchi Guys. At the end of the movie, I swear I seen something crashland into the water at coney 5 stars
1/19/08 MN Completely overrated. 1 stars
1/19/08 bullit16 Worth the hype! If you can stand the shaky cameras, it's one hell of a thrill ride 5 stars
1/19/08 Roy Romano This movie Sucked more than a blow job festival! It gave me hava a headache. 1 stars
1/19/08 Paul Kraker Worst movie I've ever seen - save your money!!!! 1 stars
1/18/08 Brant Best Scare I've had in a theater in a loooong time! Great Movie!! 5 stars
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  18-Jan-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 22-Apr-2008



Directed by
  Matt Reeves

Written by
  Drew Goddard

  Michael Stahl-David
  Odette Yustman
  Mike Vogel
  Lizzy Kaplan

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