VOD film review: Cloverfield
Ivan Radford | On 03, Jul 2016
Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Michael Stahl-David, Lizzy Caplan, T.J. Miller, Odette Yustman
Watch Cloverfield online in the UK: Sky Cinema / NOW / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Cloverfield is available on MUBI UK as part of a week-long season of curated picks from Nicolas Winding Refn. For more, click here.
What puts the “Clover” in Cloverfield? In short, it’s a giant monster. Where is it from? No idea. What’s its motivation? Not a clue. All we know for sure is it’s big, it’s mean, and it can decapitate the Statue of Liberty from 50 paces. Which is rather intimidating.
What we do get told about in Matt Reeves’ movie are the monster’s potential victims: there’s Rob (Stahl-David), a close friend of Beth (Yustman). He’s leaving for Japan tomorrow, so everyone’s at his place to say farewell, with Hud (Miller) filming the festivities. But Beth storms out after a fight. While he’s calming down, the room starts to shake. Then the lights go out. And Miss Liberty’s head lands outside. Cue bedlam.
Seen entirely through one handheld camera, Cloverfield’s found footage format may seem tired now, but it adds a new angle to the old-school monster movie genre: Reeves uses our narrow field of vision to cleverly keep the creature out of sight (echoing the same approach used by the film’s now-infamous viral marketing campaign). Instead, the director forces us to confront the carnage, offering a uniquely visceral experience – a far cry from ineffective swear-fests the medium has become associated with. Our guide to this frenzied, first person fright-fest is Hud. Providing a humorous and sincere commentary, he anchors the audience as Rob strives to get back to Beth, who’s stuck on the other side of the town formerly recognisable as Manhattan.
Scene-stealing supporter Lizzy Caplan has gone on to star in Masters of Sex and True Blood, but at the time of making, the whole of the cast were largely unknown, a fact that still brings an extra sheen of immediacy to the terror. They frantically skirt the edges of the rubble-strewn streets, heading for Central Park via teetering skyscrapers, collapsing bridges and shadowy metro tunnels. Constantly in the shadow of a nameless threat, they only pause to catch their breath or turn on the camcorder’s night vision. When the latter happens during one nail-biting underground set piece, you’ll wish it didn’t. In fact, you may never need laxatives again: available on-demand whenever you need it, Cloverfield repeatedly scares the crap out of you.
If the shock-and-awe tone of the recent Godzilla reboot, with its less engaging human cast, didn’t do it for you, this innovative 2008 gem is well worth a watch. One big shot of adrenaline to your eyeballs, with an underlying hint of all-too-recognisable 9/11 chaos, this is exhilarating and petrifying stuff.
Cloverfield is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW, as part of a £11.99 NOW Cinema Membership subscription.