Movie Information

The Story: A gigantic antisocial monster destroys New York City. The Lowdown: An overhyped, self-important monster movie with bad acting and annoying camerawork.
Genre: Giant-Monster Disaster Movie
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Mike Vogel, Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan, T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas
Rated: PG-13

It’s the first big-deal movie of 2008—and if we aren’t very careful, we’re all going to drown in the gush of praise from those who seem to be rather easily impressed to the point of losing all sense of perspective. Indeed, I think the ever-booster Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News may need sedating to judge by his slobberingly reverential rant—peppered with a dozen permutations of the f-word to convey his excitement and mastery of the English language—that claims the film is a “complete reinvention of the disaster movie, the giant monster movie and even the love story.” Yes, well, that’s why studios love him.

But let’s back off a little and look at this high-concept giant-monster flick dispassionately. What we really have here is something that could best be described as The Blair Witch Project meets MTV’s The Real World riding on the back of the astonishing unbridled ego of producer J.J. Abrams. Start with Mr. Abrams’ pronouncement, “We live in a time of great fear. Having a movie that is about something as outlandish as a massive creature attacking your city allows people to process and experience that fear in a way that is incredibly entertaining and incredibly safe.” In other words, 9/11 anxieties can be fun if processed through the vision of Mr. Abrams and his friends, Matt Reeves (directing) and Drew Goddard (writing), both veterans of Abrams’ TV empire. Just how this allows one to process that fear remains unexplained, though the assurance that it will be “incredibly entertaining and incredibly safe” is, I suppose, comforting.

Setting aside the whole “excuse us while we cash in on post-9/11 paranoia for your own good” banana oil, the simple fact is that at best I found the results a mite shy of being “incredibly entertaining.” If the film reinvents anything other than the public’s acceptance of a kind of YouTube crudery as viable entertainment, I missed it.

In essence, Cloverfield is a pretty stock rampaging-giant-monster movie focused on a no-name cast of vaguely pretty 20-somethings with zero personality and limitless money who set out to rescue an equally personality-challenged friend from certain death. Apparently, one is supposed to care what happens to these self-absorbed, shallow non-characters. After a few minutes of their loft farewell party for the more-or-less main character, Rob (Michael Stahl-David), I was on the side of the monster—and it hadn’t even shown up yet.

Oh, but it has a gimmick: We’re supposedly watching “found footage” à la Blair Witch. Everything we see was ostensibly found in the aftermath of the destruction of New York City in the area “once known as Central Park.” This is a useful gimmick, since it excuses bad lighting, bad camerawork and flat dialogue, while keeping scenes of both the monster and the wholesale destruction pretty easy on the budget. That’s not the idea, of course, but it’s the reality. The idea is that all this nausea-inducing shaky-cam stuff makes the whole movie more real. Yeah? Then why are all the film’s most effective jolts courtesy of the theater’s subwoofer and 6.1 Dolby sound? That little camcorder being brandished by the movie’s token dim-bulb, Hud (T.J. Miller), can not only record for something like 12 hours on one set of batteries and an apparently defective tape (portions of an old video keep popping up to remind us of the “human element” pre-monster invasion), it also edits itself and does the sound mix!

We’re also supposed to believe that Hud’s going to keep taping everything rather than run like hell—even when our band of the intrepidly trendy is attacked by apparently flatulent large crab spiders that fall off the big fellow. My theory is that Hud’s like one of those borzois that ride bicycles in the circus—so dumb that once it starts doing something it doesn’t know how to stop. In any case, the barf-o-cam is probably the least of this picture’s credibility issues. We’re also expected to buy our heroes climbing 50 stories of a building without getting winded, followed by making someone who’s just been yanked free of a large metal rod that was protruding all the way through her shoulder climb 11 stories and run down those original 50. After that, walking away from a helicopter crash is child’s play. I’d like to believe that dropping a bomb on someone in the midst of their patented Blair Witch snot-cam moment is a joke, but that gives the filmmakers more credit than seems probable on the face of things.

For those still wondering, yes, we do finally get full-frontal crudity in terms of the monster that’s only glimpsed in bits and pieces up until the end of the film. Better it should have been left to glimpses, since it’s an improbably cumbersome drab grey cross between a squid and a spider that would almost certainly collapse under its own unwieldy weight in the real world. On the plus side, the film is modestly exciting (again, largely thanks to the sound). And shorn of its end credits and its sub-Godzilla theme entitled “Roar! (Overture to Cloverfield)” (mindless of the fact that overtures come before not after), the whole thing only runs about 70 minutes. But that’s 70 minutes of eyestrain and nausea-inducing camerawork. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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52 thoughts on “Cloverfield

  1. Dionysis

    I’ve been looking forward to your review of this film since I first saw a trailer for it on television. As a long-time fan of giant monsters-on-the-loose movies, this seemed to have potential. Then I read numerous reviews on IMDB, which seemed to be evently divided between ‘it’s the greatest monster movie since King Kong’ to ‘it sucks beyond imagination’, and little in between.
    This review appears much more objective and balanced than others, and is most helpful. Thanks.

  2. TonyRo

    King Kong isn’t a monster movie. Unless you count the humans as the monsters.

    I thought that the way this flick was shot and it’s approach to a monster attack on the city was pretty original. It could have just been an hour and a half of a poorly rendered CGI (or worse rubber suit) monster destroying a model of NYC, but instead they took us inside the minds of the innocents that are victims to the destruction.

    Yes, it is a bit hard to believe that someone would not only film every moment of it (or rather that a camcorder would last that long), but it’s something we should probably accept in a flick where most of Manhatten is destroyed by a giant monster.

    Also he used a feature on the camera quite frequently that’s called the “power” button that allows the battery to last longer than it usually does.

  3. Dionysis

    “King Kong isn’t a monster movie.”

    Technically correct, but most movie guides classify this film as horror or sci-fi. Regardless, the comments written in the IMDB used such phrases, whether accurately or not.

  4. Ken Hanke

    Considering the fact that the ape in KING KONG is both stylized and much larger than a real ape, I’d say it very much qualifies as a monster movie.

    “they took us inside the minds of the innocents that are victims to the destruction.”

    Considering the shallowness of the characters, it was a trip I’d rather have not made.

  5. TonyRo

    King Kong was an ape that was taken from his native land and abused by humans till he went crazy and started destroying things. Then they destroyed him. Not really a monster. More like a unique animal in a bad circumstance. You care about him, more than you do about the humans. Which isn’t the case in Cloverfield. In Cloverfield eventually you grow to hate the monster and even fear it, at least you would if you invested yourself even slightly into the story.

    I think the characters were just as shallow as anything you’d find in movies these days. Doesn’t mean you can’t feel a bit of remorse when one of losses his brother and then has to tell his mother about it. I think they handled that situation more realistically than when Juno had to tell her parents she was pregnant.

  6. Ken Hanke

    “King Kong was an ape that was taken from his native land and abused by humans till he went crazy and started destroying things.”

    A 30 foot tall ape, even so. Yes, he’s sympathetic (to a degree), but it’s still pretty firmly the granddaddy of all giant monster (or creature) on the rampage movies. That he has a personality is merely a testament to why KING KONG (the original) is a great film and why CLOVERFIELD isn’t/

    “I think they handled that situation more realistically than when Juno had to tell her parents she was pregnant.”

    Difference is I cared about Juno. I did not care about these people. This to me is another failing of CLOVERFIELD.

  7. TonyRo

    I think you’re taking Cloverfield down to a level that it shouldn’t be at. In a time where the best we can do for thrills is watch crap like Hostel and The Reaping, that Cloverfield is a pretty damn thrilling movie.

    Sure, it has unrealistic scenarios and the character development isn’t on par with No Country for Old Men, but then again it’s not claiming to be.

    The duty of a decent movie critic is to review a film without bias. That may be a bit too much to ask, but it certainly isn’t difficult.

    For what it is, Cloverfield is a very good movie.

  8. Justin Souther

    Any person watching a movie is going to bring their biases and tastes and worldview along with them. Those things always enter in. Movies don’t exist in a vacuum.

    Just because someone doesn’t like CLOVERFIELD doesn’t mean they’re “biased,” they just think it’s not a good movie.

  9. TonyRo

    I disagree. I think if you truly love movies enough to review them as a profession, you should probably look at them objectively.

    When my friends drag me to go see Rambo on Friday, I’m not going to it thinking that Stallone has made the new Ikiru. I also won’t going in expecting it to be crap because if you do that, then it’s like closing your mind out from being even remotely interested in it.

  10. Justin Souther

    Knowing Ken, I know he honestly gives everything a fair shake, which is something you’ll just have to take my word on. I can think of any number of movies he’s reviewed — like HAROLD AND KUMAR and EUROTRIP — that he went into dreading, and actually came out liking. I’m sure he could give you a much longer list.

    As far as CLOVERFIELD is concerned, I’m having trouble figuring out where you’ve gotten this idea that he doesn’t. I don’t see it in any of his comments and I certainly don’t see it in his review. Any film review is written by a human being, and, again, it’s impossible for them not to bring in their own outlook. So he didn’t like CLOVERFIELD? OK, fine, but his reasons why are in the review. Whether you agree or disagree is another matter, but it’s not like his reservations aren’t grounded or stated. I’d rather read a review of someone I disagree with — as long as they make intelligent points and give me another way of viewing a film — as opposed to a simple plot synopsis.

    It is criticism, after all, and no one is going to like everything. If a critic goes around piling praise onto everything he or she sees, then really, what’s the point?

  11. Dionysis

    Perhaps I’m off base here, but it seems to me that the purpose of any review is to offer one’s own opinion on a particular piece of work. I frequently write book reviews for a couple of magazines and a few websites, but have no compunction about offering my own take, complete with any bias acknowledged up front.
    As a reader of reviews, I find it very helpful to read differing views on an item. But again, maybe that’s just my own warped view. But, it works for me.

  12. Justin Souther

    There are certainly movies I like more than others (or like more than other people) simply based on my own outlook on the world or the way in which I connect with the character on a personal level which is apart from any of the technical aspect or directorial intent. Until someone creates a magical checklist for determining what’s good and bad, there’s always going to be a human aspect to reviewing anything. And personally, I want that. If I want a plot synopsis or the type of review that looks good quoted on a film poster, then I can easily find that.

    And for the record, Ken’s not the only person to dislike CLOVERFIELD. I’m completely in the same boat, I know a handful of other people who didn’t like it, not to mention a gentleman I saw Friday night asking for his money back after watching it as well as a twenty-something asking a local theater employee how he could justify “charging $8.50 for a movie like CLOVERFIELD.” So it’s certainly not like he’s alone in this.

  13. Ken and I have disagreed on several occasions, BEOWULF most recently. However, I feel that he’s one of the most informed critics around, and we’re lucky to have him.

    My eight year old son wants to see this. He can handle a lot (he’s my boy after all), but I was wondering if this movie is too much for kids.


  14. Justin Souther

    I think I would’ve been fine with it myself when I was 8. Aside from the big monster (which might be too much in and of itself depending on the child), and the requisite explosions and a decent amount of violence, there’s obviously blood (with one scene that lingers on it a bit, but with no real gore),and some tinier monsters that might be a little scary to a youngster.

    I always hate recommending what a child may or may not be ready for, because I think I was pretty good at not letting violent movies bother me by 7 or 8. I still wouldn’t go around horror movies though, since the dogs in GHOSTBUSTERS scared the bejesus out of me when I was about 4 or 5. At the same time, I don’t really watch movies in the context of how it’ll affect a kid unless I’m watching it in that context (like BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, where it’s hard not to notice all the little kids bawling their eyes out as the credit started to roll).

    Maybe someone else knows the film’s age appropriateness? I’d really hate to be responsible for giving some poor kid nightmares.

  15. Chad Nesbitt

    I looked forward to seeing this movie for a long time. WORST movie I have ever seen. So disappointed. The movie left you hanging as to where the monster came from. What were those spider things? And what the hell does the name “Cloverfield” have to do with the movie?

    If JJ Abrams and producers hired the same writer of Cloverfield for the new Star Trek movie,
    I’m going to do something drastic like become a witch, support the liberals, run for office as a Democrat, and tax the hell out of Hollywood.

    Yes I’m a Trekie and they better not screw with Shatner! HA!

    Chad Nesbitt

  16. Ah Chad, you don’t have to turn EVERYTHING you say into a political dig!

    If anything, it has been the most brilliant promotional campaign that I’ve seen since the ID4 clip during the Superbowl 10 years ago. It created an air of mystery.

    My son can handle monsters, vampires and zombies (comical ones), so I’ll take him to it this weekend. I’m sure it beats ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS.


  17. Ken Hanke

    See? It’s actually possible for Mr. Nesbitt and I to agree on something!

    Back to the original complaint…well, Justin pretty much said it all while I was spending an exciting afternoon having medical tests. But for the record, there’s just no such thing as a wholly objective review. To be wholly objective about this would mean I had no opinion on the shallowness of the characters or the fact that I so disliked them that I was rooting for the monster to eat them. Is that subjective? It’s my honest reaction to the characters. Is it non-objective to notice that the movie destroys its purported realism by scoring its biggest jolts by the totally unreal use of state of the art sound? Is it non-objective to notice that the monster is so preposterously proportioned that it couldn’t possibly exist on land? Is it non-objective to note that it’s absurd beyond reason to believe that a person who just got yanked off a steel shaft that went all the through their body is able to climb 11 floors and run down 50 floors? I don’t see how any of this has any relevance to questions of objectivity. What I gave in the review was my honest reaction to the movie and why I had that reaction. I’m not saying you have to agree with it, but I’m not sure what more you can reasonably expect. Sure, I use a sliding scale with movies up to a point. I don’t expect the same thing from a film like CLOVERFIELD that I expect from a THERE WILL BE BLOOD (this, by the way, is why star ratings are close to worthless). However, I do expect a film to achieve its aims, and for me CLOVERFIELD (which, by the bye, claimed to be more than dumb entertainment) didn’t.

    I’ll be more than happy to decry the state of the horror film — with notable exceptions like THE ORPHANAGE and SWEENEY TODD. Yes, the HOSTEL movies are appalling. And THE REAPING was just unintentionally funny. But for me at least, CLOVERFIELD isn’t the answer. It isn’t even that much better. It’s just bad in different ways.

    And I can up Justin’s list of movies I went in expecting to hate by noting that that list includes LOVE ME TONIGHT, TOMMY and MOULIN ROUGE — all of which ended up being in the top five of my personal favorites. I didn’t even go into CLOVERFIELD expecting to hate it. I did go in skeptical, yes, but that was because of all the PR about how it reinvented the genre.

    As for Marc’s question. That’s so tricky. I don’t know his son and I don’t know what he’s seen, so there’s no way of guessing whether CLOVERFIELD would be too much for him. Did he see THE HOST? If so, I think this is safe enough. Thing is I was scarred for life by SLEEPING BEAUTY (at 4) and the trailer for CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (at 7), but, hey, we were a lot more naive back then.

  18. Ken Hanke

    “I’m sure it beats ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS.”

    Almost anything beats ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS.

  19. Dionysis

    ” I was scarred for life by SLEEPING BEAUTY (at 4) and the trailer for CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF (at 7), but, hey, we were a lot more naive back then.”

    It’s fun to recapture those moments. As a kid, I spent virtually every hour of every weekend at the movies (my father managed movie theatres, so I got free movies, popcorn and cokes all day long). I recall being scared silly as a kid by the scene when Barbara Steele was unmasked in BLACK SUNDAY. I also was affected by the creature (the Ymir) from Ray Harryhausen’s TWENTY MILLION MILES TO EARTH. And who could forget the scene in HORROR OF DRACULA when Christopher Lee’s snarling, blood-shot face peered down the steps at Jonathan Harker and the female vampire. Ah, to be so scared like that again.

  20. TonyRo

    there is this movie called The Witches that still scares the piss out of me.

  21. Dionysis

    “there is this movie called The Witches that still scares the piss out of me.”

    There are several films with that title; are you referring to the one from 1990 with Angelica Houston, or perhaps the late 1960s Hammer film with Joan Fontaine? Most of the other films with that title are obscure foreign films.

  22. Ken Hanke

    “Ah, to be so scared like that again.”

    It’s probably not going to happen, alas. It’s been a long time since anything in a movie scared me like that. Things can still make me jump (there are a few moments in THE ORPHANAGE, which is currently in release), but that’s another, simpler matter. (Still, that can be done artfully or not.) About the best that happens these days is for a movie to be genuinely creepy. I blame this less on the movies, though, than on 40-odd years of horror flicks. I think the last movie that can be said to have actually scared me was EXORCIST III, which also boasts the best shock-effect sequence I know of. (I refer to the series of false scares that suckers you into thinking nothing’s going to actually happen — and then it does.)

    Tony, do you mean the Nicolas Roeg film with Anjelica Huston?

  23. Dionysis

    “I blame this less on the movies, though, than on 40-odd years of horror flicks.”

    You’re probably right. It’s hard enough to be scared by a movie when you reach adulthood, and even tougher when jaded by decades of visual scares and gore. The last time I actually had jumped out of my seat with my heart racing was the ending scene of the British film THE WOMAN IN BLACK (mentioned some weeks ago). I also thought the movie of a couple of years ago titled THE DESCENT was suitably creepy and atmospheric.
    I’ll have to check out THE ORPHANAGE.

  24. The first film ever to affect me was FANTASIA with the demon at the end. I was four or five and hiding under the theater seat. It’s still one of my favorite films.

    If TonyRo is in his 20s then its probably Roeg’s THE WITCHES. Great film… maybe we should show that one this year.


  25. Ken Hanke

    “The last time I actually had jumped out of my seat with my heart racing was the ending scene of the British film THE WOMAN IN BLACK (mentioned some weeks ago).”

    Chip dropped me off a copy of that sometime back, but I have yet to have a chance to sit down and watch it.

    “I’ll have to check out THE ORPHANAGE.”

    If you want to catch it on the big screen (I’d advise it), don’t wait too long. I doubt it will be around after next Thursday. By the bye, if you don’t know and if it’s a factor, it is in Spanish with subtitles.

  26. Ken Hanke

    “Great film… maybe we should show that one this year.”

    Well, at least that’d guarantee one movie that won’t have me banging my head against the desk! (THE LAST UNICORN? Merciful heavens.)

  27. TonyRo

    “Tony, do you mean the Nicolas Roeg film with Anjelica Huston?”

    yes, that one. they turn people into rats I believe. they showed it to us in third grade at the Catholic schooln I went to. looking back now, it’s pretty weird choice for them to show.

    scary flick though.

  28. Dionysis

    “If you want to catch it on the big screen (I’d advise it), don’t wait too long. I doubt it will be around after next Thursday. By the bye, if you don’t know and if it’s a factor, it is in Spanish with subtitles.”

    Good advise. I read a few reviews of this film and they all recommended it be seen at the theatre for maximum effect. As for the fact it’s a Spanish language film, no big deal. I enjoy foreign films, have no problem with subtitles, and I speak Spanish anyway.

  29. Ken Hanke

    “looking back now, it’s pretty weird choice for them to show. scary flick though.”

    Haven’t seen it in years. My daughter used to like it (but she’d have been 13 or 14 at the time). It was familiarly known as “Nic Roeg with Mice” around our house. I wouldn’t mind seeing it again, but I have a stack of things two feet high that I need to get through first.

  30. ashevegasjoe

    I would like to say Ken Hanke’s reviews are about the best part of the Xpress. I love when he rips films like “Little Man”, and was happy to see “Sweeney Todd”, get a good review. I don’t like musicals, but read his review, went and saw it, and loved every minute. I don’t want to ever read a sanitized review, I like movies being called a black-hole of suckitude that collapses on itself, when appropriate. As for movies that terrify children, Disney’s “Watcher in the Woods” may be responsible for my agoraphobia to this day

  31. TonyRo

    the trailer for watcher in the wood kept me awake for a few nights when i was 8. i saw it again recently and told myself that for the sake of sleep, i would avoid it.

  32. xvelouria

    Wow, I completely forgot about THE WITCHES. What a scary, scary movie! Purple eyes…. that was Anjelica Huston? I had no idea. It’s been so long since I’ve seen that. It gave me nightmares as a kid, too. Especially the part where they turned that boy into a mouse and he was running around the auditorium or wherever they were, and they were all pointing and cackling… ::shivers::

    On topic… I liked CLOVERFIELD. I turned off my brain before going in, though, and enjoyed stuffing my face with popcorn and soda while watching a giant CGI monster kick New York City’s butt. It was nice escapism.

  33. Ken Hanke

    “I would like to say Ken Hanke’s reviews are about the best part of the Xpress.”

    I would like to say thank you.

  34. Ken Hanke

    “watching a giant CGI monster kick New York City’s butt.”

    I kinda like New York City myself. I do find it interesting that the movie’s made by guys who call L.A. home.

  35. Ken Hanke

    Here’s an interesting take on CLOVERFIELD from an acquaintance of mine —

    “The director was a genius! He had me emotionally torn in two different directions. On the one hand I really wanted the monster to kill the insipid characters as soon as possible. On the other hand I wanted them to survive long enough with the camera so I could get a good look at the monster.”

  36. Tenchia

    I literally just got home from seeing CLOVERFIELD. I liked it in all honesty. Is it a great movie? No. I haven’t seen a movie that could be defined as “great” in a VERY long time. But it is good.

    The shaky-cam is obviously not for everyone. If you got quesy looking at Blair Witch this will make you outright sick. The effect works I think. There are some bizarre leaps of logic. Yes the camera’s battery is remarkable, and you would think they’d have dropped the camera a hell of lot quicker than they did and doubt they would’ve picked it up again. But in all honesty, all horror movies, action movies, and monster flicks, run under a few bizarre actions. It can’t be helped I think, in a novel you can take the time to let the characters actions guide the plot, in a movie you don’t have that kind of time. Sometimes, the plot guides the characters.

    I don’t get the issue people seem to have with unanswered questions. Its always been my believe that one of the main problems with modern entertainment has been the sense of “immediate satisfaction” it forces on you. What’s wrong with having some questions unanswered? And hell if you were one of the civilians caught in the center of all that, would really give a crap what the monster was or where it came from?

    I recommend the movie sparingly becuase I knew it would be a mixed bag even before I read some of these reviews. But hell, its better than a lot of other crap out there. An interesting concept that worked for me. Maybe not for you.

  37. Ken Hanke

    “The shaky-cam is obviously not for everyone. If you got quesy looking at Blair Witch this will make you outright sick.”

    I don’t personally so much object to it making me queasy, though I will say that I have never been completely sold on motion-sickness as a form of entertainment. It’s easily as much an aesthetic consideration for me. I think it’s lazy filmmaking — not in the sense that it’s harder to create something smoother, but in the sense that it almost always (and very much here) strikes me as a cheap and uncreative way to generate phony excitement. It’s part and parcel of the way action sequences are handled far too often in modern movies. There’s a complete disregard for carefully structured staging, shooting and editing. In its place we get a lot of quick-cuts of indecipherable close-up action that’s just jumbled together willy-nilly to create a kind of blur of “damn! that MUST be exciting” nothingness. I’ve nothing against hand-held camerawork. It has a place. I’ve nothing against the camera not being so rock-steady that it never betrays a human agency at work (quite the opposite in fact). But the business of 70+ minutes of a movie that looks like a mildly skilled monkey might have shot it just doesn’t work for me — except as a gimmick.

    “But in all honesty, all horror movies, action movies, and monster flicks, run under a few bizarre actions.”

    Not all, but, yes, many do have moments where disbelief has to be suspended. (By this, I mean disbelief beyond the basic need fot buying into giant monsters, vampires, werewolves, etc.) The problem with this one for me is that it’s not moments, but the entire basis.

    “I don’t get the issue people seem to have with unanswered questions.”

    While I don’t really have a problem with where this thing came from or why it’s doing whatever it is its doing (the problem may be that I don’t much care), I don’t know that I think this type of movie really lends itself to ambiguity. It’s not like you’re left with anything worthwhile to chew on or debate. I suppose you could ponder what it is and where it came from and why a bite from those creatures that fell off it make you go all SCANNERS, but that’s like debating which super hero can kick which super hero’s ass.

    But as you say, the concept worked for you, and that’s fine.

  38. Gordon Smith

    I was ill for hours after seeing this movie. Much of the time I had my eyes closed during the film, trying to fend off the motion sickness I experienced throughout. The director was relentless in his effort to never let your eyes relax.

    If not for the comedy of the documentarian, the dialogue would have been entirely unbearable. The way they slowly revealed the monster was compelling, and I like that we never learn what it is and where it came from.

    However, on the whole, this movie is a nausea-inducing disaster.

  39. Ken Hanke

    “I was ill for hours after seeing this movie. Much of the time I had my eyes closed during the film, trying to fend off the motion sickness I experienced throughout.”

    Much as I didn’t like the approach, I only hit the mal-de-mer level once they were in the apartment buildings near the end — I think it was the combined shaky-cam and flashing light that did it.

    “If not for the comedy of the documentarian, the dialogue would have been entirely unbearable.”

    I wouldn’t say that even his dialogue was likely to have Noel Coward looking to his laurels.

  40. Sundance

    I must say, this review, while eloquent, and clearly produced from a sane, rational, intelligent mind, misses the boat entirely on one key point.

    Cloverfield is a monster movie.


    Cloverfield is a monster movie.

    How much ‘realism’ should one expect? It’s a frikkin monster movie. Suspension of disbelief should be expected, ESPECIALLY from someone w/@ least a modicum of intellect.

    So what the battery didn’t die? So what the girl w/the rebar in her shoulder was able to climb dozens of flights of stairs when she was near death 2 minutes before? Did you question how E.T. made the bike fly? Did we dismiss the ghost traps in Ghostbusters because the movie didn’t explain in full detail how they worked? Where did Sloth come from in the Goonies, anyway?

    See what I mean?

    I dunno….I guess I’m naive. I’m able to enjoy a movie for what it is, pure and simple action.

    And, for what it is, I think Cloverfield is a (future) classic. Highly recommended to anyone able to use their imagination.

    Oh, and to those w/a strong stomach…LOL

    PS: Lilly is my new wife. She just doesn’t know it yet…LOL

  41. Ken Hanke

    I’d concede the points were valid, except for the fact that CLOVERFIELD’s entire premise is grounded in making the experience “real” and from the point of view of the characters and immediate and all the rest of the blather that goes with it. You can’t — for me anyway — mix that with anything as brazenly stupid as the girl who’s been impaled and bleeding to death for hours suddenly turning into a Warner Bros. cartoon character in terms of resilience.

    Theh too, the movies you’re comparing are all fantasies first and foremost, two of which clearly were meant to be taken seriously and are played for comedy. Plus, you cite one instance from each film, while CLOVERFIELD overflows with absurdities.

    A “(future) classic?” Time will tell, but I have doubts.

  42. AvlTao

    …and on top of being a bad movie chock full of over-treaded monster mayhem ideas, CLOVERFIELD made me extremely embarrassed about my own, poorly-edited, focused-downward-on-my-shoes camcorder movies. After I suffered for 88 minutes, I wondered how long I’ve made my own family-n-friends suffer with my own stuff.

    NO ONE has ever watched anyone’s handheld-made film and proclaimed, “Golly, I Felt Like I Was Really There Experiencing It!” where “it” is whatever was filmed, kid’s t-ball game, beach vacation, parties, etc, NO ONE ever responds that way. CLOVERFIELD’s ad-boosters were just blowing smoke on that selling point.

    It’s telling that the weekend gross collapsed 68% and another 62% the last two weekends. Anything over 50% is considered evidence that massive marketing rather than a quality film created a big 1st weekend gross.

  43. AvlTao

    ..and apart from the handheld filmmaking gimmick under-cutting any foundation for “feeling real” (see my earlier post), CLOVERFIELD also was less fun than most of the old and new Godzilla/Ghidrah/Rodan/Mothra films, thanks in part to one incredibly irritating moronic character, Hud, who was as irksome as the English-dubbed kiddies in the worst Godzilla films.
    So CLOVERFIELD’s neither real nor very fun.
    But Hud did exemplify how 20-something morons account for most of the less-than-beta-males running pitter-patter behind their buds…so there was one sociological benefit in watching.

  44. Sundance

    I think you people are taking this too seriously…

    This is not a documentary.

    It’s a monster movie.

    A movie about a giant 500 foot tall monster that spawns doberman sized spiderlike creatures w/poisonous bites.

    Not meant to be taken seriously…@ least I thought so!

    I went in fully prepared to turn my brain off and just enjoy the visuals. As a purely visceral experience (sonically, visually), I feel that Cloverfield delivers in spades.

    It’s purely popcorn, people! Not every movie needs to be intellectually stimulating. Sometimes, I want fast food instead of a home cooked meal, knowhatimsayin’?

    And Hud was quite funny, thankyouverymuch…

  45. Ken Hanke

    Yes, it’s a monster movie. It’s also a bad monster movie in my book. No one’s asking that it be intellectually stimulating or that every movie needs to be CITIZEN KANE. That said, the folks who made it clearly intended it to be something more than a monster movie.

    But beyond this, being a monster movie allows you the freedom to establish a central unbelievable premise that has to be accepted — vampires, werewolves, giant monsters — but it doesn’t give you the freedom to throw every vestige of believability out the window, which is what happens here. If you want to accept the myriad absurdities of the film’s actual action, that’s fine, but don’t expect others to do so.

  46. Sundance

    Fair enough…

    That’s what makes this country so great, yes?

    I love your site, by the way…

  47. Ken Hanke

    Thank you, but I don’t know that you could call it my site. My only contribution lies in writing the reviews — along with Justin Souther — and picking the photos. Well, and commenting on things. Everything else is pretty much the work of our genial — and resourceful — webmaster, Mr. Teeple.

  48. Steve Millard

    I enjoy these comment/conversations as much as the original reviews! I rarely do comments but here goes: I love monster movies!!! My son Sage (27) and I (dad going on 61) went to see Cloverfield with much expectations. We liked it ok… but were indeed disappointed. The shaky cam really was irritating… but I didn’t mind the mindless characters. A forgettable movie a couple hours later, for sure.

    I took Sage to see Aliens at the theatre when he was 9 (please don’t call the child protection team ;-)… he loved it but had nightmares for weeks.

    I saw Invaders From Mars at the theatre in 1957 (or so) and had nightmares for months! (that little blond girl with the neck ‘infection’ still gives me the willies!) THAT was a great movie… I own it. So is I Married a Monster from Outer Space, The (original)Blob and Forbidden Planet (to name a few).

    My real comment is: when will ‘they’ make another compelling classic monster movie that works? Peter Jackson’s King Kong was boring for me… CGI is a mixed blessing in todays Sci/Fi, monster movies… the just don’t ‘work’.

    They try too hard and seem ‘over the top’ these days.

    OK… enough of my rant. Keep up the good work Ken and Justin!

    btw: my wife and another ’60’s couple friends watched Across the Universe last night with down-played expectations. WOW! What a great movie!


  49. Ken Hanke

    Thanks, Steve!

    INVADERS FROM MARS (1953) was a TV staple when I was a kid, and cheesy though some of it is (it’s kind of hard not noticing the multiple use of some shots and the zippers up the Martian’s backs!), it’s still incredibly creepy. (Lisi Russell rates it as about the scariest movie she ever saw.) When I first saw it, it was even creepier because I lived in Florida at the time and the image of people being sucked down into the sand seemed all too local. I suspect, though I didn’t know it at the time, that director Wm. Cameron Menzies’ use of simple sets and forced perspective — giving the whole thing a child’s eye view of everything — added immeasurably to the sense of disquiet.

    I liked Jackson’s KING KONG for what it was, but freely admit I have never had a desire to see it a second time. And it definitely didn’t need 3 hours. The original runs about 100 minutes and works much better.

    “Another compelling classic monster movie” (assuming you mean giant monster) is not something I’m anticipating happening any time soon. Maybe someone will surprise us.

  50. Justin Souther

    “Keep up the good work Ken and Justin!”

    Thanks, we’ll certainly try.

    ““Another compelling classic monster movie” (assuming you mean giant monster) is not something I’m anticipating happening any time soon. Maybe someone will surprise us.”

    As soon as that happens, just prepare for the glut of knock-offs and retreads.

  51. Ken Hanke

    Just for being so gloomy, guess who’s reviewing STEP UP 2 THE STREETS?

  52. Edwin Arnaudin

    Caught up with this today in preparation for its “blood relative” 10 Cloverfield Lane on March 11. My hesitation to see it these past 8 years was warranted.

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