New actors and monsters with a tilt

Alex Bethke

Alex Bethke

It’s Godzilla meets Blair Witch Project, but better, much better. “I saw it! It’s alive! It’s huge!” I was already so into the movie and anxious with anticipation from the unrevealing trailers and television commercials that I literally leaned left and right in my theater seat to get a better look at the creature. Then, of course, I thought, “It’s a flat screen idiot.” (Don’t act like you’ve never done that before.)

I’m going to come straight out and say that I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I would recommend that you see it, but I have some guidelines. I found from my online research that there isn’t much of a gray area with this film. You either love it, or you hate it. I loved it. However, if you easily suffer from motion sickness, this movie is not for you. This is due to the documentary/handheld-home-video style of filming. Several theaters across the country are actually displaying disclaimers on their movie posters and ticket stubs warning movie goers that Cloverfield may cause motion sickness. This was in response to several people wanting their money back after becoming ill during the film.

Secondly, if you know you will be bothered by not having enough explanation or details to what is happening, this movie is not for you. You simply have to take the movie for what it is: a single point of view of an extraordinary event experienced by normal people living in New York.

Which brings me to my next point: the casting for this movie was perfect. In order to truly believe that, the characters are ordinary people the cast had to seem ordinary. The movie wouldn’t feel as real if we were watching Tom Cruise or some other big star running through the streets of New York. Watch the credits or look the movie up on IMDB and I’ll be surprised if you can recognize a single name. In fact, the movie appears to be made for TV. Writer Drew Goddard had only written TV shows such as Alias and Lost before Cloverfield. Director Matt Reeves had only directed TV shows since his last movie The Pallbearer more than a decade ago.

The actors had mostly done TV in the past as well. Michael Stahl-David, most known for his role on the failed TV show The Black Donnellys, plays Rob Hawkins while giving the most convincing performance of the cast. Hawkins watches his brother die before deciding to lead a small group of his friends deep into the city and hostile territory to save the love of his life, Beth McIntyre (Odette Yustmen, October Road, South Beach). Lizzy Caplan’s (Crashing, Love is the Drug) performance as Marlena Diamond was intriguing. She left me wanting to know more about her character. I was curious about her life story. Unfortunately, this movie does not provide us with all the details. T.J. Miller (Carpoolers) provides just the right amount of comedic relief as Hud Platt, the socially awkward man behind the camera whose biggest concern while walking down a pitch black subway tunnel is the fear of attack by a flaming hobo. You’d think he would have something bigger on his mind.

The special effects in the movie are stunningly realistic, especially considering it had to be done using the home-video-style shooting. Everything looks like it’s actually happening. The monster reeking havoc on the city and its people looks believable. It’s not so over the top that you totally disbelieve in its existence, which is a mistake that could have easily been made. The tarantula-like creepy crawlies that seem to spawn from the beast are also realistic. The creatures terrorize the people on the ground, and a seemingly non-fatal bite eventually leads to extreme internal bleeding to the point that a person’s stomach possibly explodes with a burst of blood, but I can’t be certain about that. Did I mention the movie gets pretty intense?

All in all, it’s an amazingly entertaining and realistic thrill ride that makes 85 minutes feel like 45, but still leaves you about as confused as the characters in the film. Although, that’s how we should feel since we only see exactly what the characters see. If you can accept that, and if you can stand watching a shaky camera, then go see this movie.