Cloverfield is a 2008 found footage horror film. In Manhattan, a going away party is being thrown for Rob, a man moving to Japan for work. Hud, Rob’s best friend, has to film the entire thing. Unfortunately, a mysterious creature emerges, and Rob’s lover Beth is stuck in her apartment, forcing Rob and several others to try to save her, all while trying to survive this creature’s rampage.
After The Blair Witch Project in 1999, plenty of found footage films have come out: some good, some bad. Cloverfield is one of those movies, coming in an era where these types of films were really popular. But, Cloverfield stands out, and is one of the more interesting movies within this subgenre for a good reason. Why? Let’s find out.
One of the most interesting aspects of this movie is the scale. Usually, directors utilize the cheapness that comes inherent in found footage films, as the idea is that they’re home videos resurrected, made to look like they were directed by amateurs and filmed of real people doing basic things. The Blair Witch Project, for example, was made using 60,000 dollars, and included simple scares, like bundles of sticks. Cloverfield was made with 25 million dollars, and you can tell. The film looks like it had a huge budget, with scenes of massive destruction, including of many New York landmarks.
The introductions to found footage films usually make the audience feel like this is actual found footage, with unimportant dialogue, bad camera angles, etc. So, when the movie picks up pace, you’re still in the mindset that it’s real. This movie does it perfectly with natural humor from all the characters and out of frame shots, so you can almost believe that you’re watching any form of home video, until the creature comes, of course.
The movie does a good job of keeping the audience invested. There are a number of places the characters visit, each of them adding to the terror in their own ways. There’s a scene in a subway, for example, and this is a mild spoiler so if you don’t want spoilers, skip to the next paragraph, where Hud has to turn on the camera’s night vision, as it’s pitch black, in order to illuminate the area. All we’ve been seeing is the dark for the past few minutes, save for a light in the distance. When the night vision gets turned on, we see that these creatures are crawling along the walls, towards you, which is terrifying as they’ve always been there. The fear inherent in darkness is utilized here, as you’re seeing literal darkness, which you don’t often see in media as it’s not visually interesting. But, you see the creatures that lie within the darkness, which is scary enough to make you want to keep the lights turned on when sleeping, as darkness is shown as causing legitimate harm.
This next paragraph is a spoiler, so if you don’t like spoilers, skip to the next paragraph. The monster never gets fully explained, you only get basic information on it’s characteristics throughout the movie. This works to its benefit, as the unknown is the scariest thing, and this beast is the unknown. You see it rip apart Manhattan, causing immense damage, yet no one knows what it is, and no one knows how to stop it. You see the government utilize a number of tactics, yet nothing works.
This movie is not perfect. The film is recorded over a tape of Rob and Beth together, so you get scenes intercut with the main story where they’re going to Coney Island, having a good time. While it does provide an interesting contrast with the main narrative, it’s oftentimes distracting and unnecessary. While I felt it was beneficial at certain points, it was overused and irritating at many others. It didn’t move the plot along whatsoever.
There are issues with found footage films in general; Cloverfield was no different. Sometimes it’s irritating to feel like there’s a large part of the picture that you’re missing as the camera angles are awkward in order to make the film seem real, and it’s constantly shaking, which is bothersome to the eyes. The characters were pretty basic. Like in The Blair Witch Project, they don’t develop all that much. Instead, the film is mainly focused on the threat. You don’t end up caring too much about the characters in the end.
There are also countless plot holes. For example, why does no one else think to use the subway? There are countless people in Manhattan, yet our main characters are the only people to think of going underground, where the beast won’t see them. Also, they take the camera everywhere, even when they’re being attacked. Why would they keep going back for the camera. Wouldn’t they think that after a while it’s not worth it? While these didn’t completely diminish the experience, they did take me out of it for a second.
If you like found footage movies, check this out!
Cloverfield: Found Footage at its Finest
- Writing - 8.5/108.5/10
- Storyline - 8.8/108.8/10
- Acting - 8.3/108.3/10
- Music - 9.5/109.5/10
- Production - 10/1010/10
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