Fright Fest 2019: Cloverfield (2008)
Cloverfield is a title that seems to be quite divisive among film lovers. You either love it or you join up with the masses that have elected to turn it into an object of scorn and mockery. Despite the success of films like this and the Blair Witch Project, found footage films has become a genre that I’ve seen frequently falling into the crosshairs of critics. Either for the vomit-inducing lack of a good steady shot or for the absurdity in the logic of the premise, that a person fleeing for their life would none-the-less do so while carrying a camera and dropping one-liners the entire time.
I really do get it. I can see how people could see found footage as little more than a gimmick to publicize the film. That the credibility you think you’re gaining with a low budget film such as this can sometimes be seen as an excuse for not investing time in the writing and production quality of the product.
That’s all fine and I can’t say that I have any logical grounds to counter the argument. Although I do suspect that making a movie appear so casual and haphazard takes more effort than the average person would be willing to admit. Still, I get it. It doesn’t make sense that anyone would be clutching to a camera, filming every horrid thing they’re going through. Anyone with an ounce of sense in their head would toss the camera to the side and buy themselves that much more speed to maybe get away with their life.
The thing is, these movies, even more than the rest, aren’t about capturing the height of realism and credibility. Movies are all about the illusion of the storytelling. It’s a lesson we should have learned long ago in the earliest days of our childhood, going to the theater to see jedis clashing lightsabers or to see talking cars or pirates in outer space. Enjoying movies is about enjoying that magic.
Now I’m not saying that at the crusty old age I’ve gotten to, I’m still sitting in the theater, glowing in the magic of the cinema. But I think I’m still capable of leaving a certain amount of my disbelief at the door and allowing myself to sit back, relax and just enjoy a story, even though it might not be realistic. Not for nothing, but if you’re looking for realism in a movie about a skyscraper-sized monster rising from the depths of the ocean, you might be in the wrong store.
Cloverfield is a fun movie. And while that may make the more refined of us turn their nose up at the notion, for me, finding that thrill of excitement while watching a movie is all about chasing down those childhood experiences.
I’ve loved monster movies for a long time and what I love about this film is that it shows us what the story might look like if it was from the perspective of one of those countless screaming victims, running through the streets, looking for safety. There isn’t a booming narrative voice in this and there was only one recognizable face in the cast, although you had to be paying attention to catch him.
What the camera serves in this movie is to put us into the story as a character, sprinting in this insane race to try and survive in the face of total destruction. It was a nicely conceived and executed notion. And while very little is explained, I felt that for the kind of movie it was, this worked perfectly. We knew no more than the characters being hunted down and for me it made the experience all the more frightening and fast-paced.
I also liked the device of the occasional interludes inserted in the movie, (ostensibly bits of recordings on the tape) of two of the main characters sharing an afternoon together.
The way this is introduced is as follows. At a party, one of the characters is handed a camera and asked to film people at the event. Assuming he is supposed to use the tape already in the machine, he does so, not realizing that he is taping over the old content. So after long stretches of death and destruction, the film will cut back to what was on it originally, an afternoon at Coney Island with two people in love. And again, it makes no sense that the footage would be there. It should all be erased and gone. But for the purposes of the film, it provides some moments of levity between the characters and highlights the tragedy of events unfolding.
Cloverfield was a stunning movie experience. It was loud and fast and took no prisoners. The experiences of these characters is terrifying and the frantic nature of this chain of events is expertly laid out for you. If you can turn down the volume on your adult side and just sit back, you could really enjoy this. Let the visuals wash over you and buckle up for a bumpy ride.
If you want to watch a movie where the army guy and the scientist brilliantly save the day and vanquish the monster, you should give this one a pass. But if you might enjoy seeing a group of characters dumped into a situation where they are suddenly fighting for their lives with little chance of seeing the dawn, this movie might just be the one for you.
Chad A. Clark is an author of dark-leaning fiction, born and raised in the middle of the United States. His road began in Illinois, along the banks of the Mississippi and from there he moved to Iowa, where he has lived ever since. From an early age, he was brined in the glory that is science fiction and horror, from the fantastical of George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry and Steven Spielberg to the dark and gritty tales of Stephen King and George Romero. The way from there to here has been littered with no shortage of books and movies, all of which have and continue to inform his narrative style to this day. Chad has written horror, science fiction and non-fiction. He has been published by Crystal Lake Publishing, Dark Minds Press, Shadow Work Publishing, Sirens Call Publications and EyeCue Productions and his books have received critical praise from the Ginger Nuts of Horror, Ink Heist, Confessions of a Reviewer, Horror DNA and This is Horror. For more information on his literary universe, check out his official website or take a peek at his Amazon author page