, 85 min, 2008
Director: Matt Reeves
Writer: Drew Goddard (written by)
Stars: Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan
Cloverfield is a monster movie for the Digital Generation, ostensibly Godzilla crossed with The Blair Witch Project and transplanted to the city.
The plot is relatively simple: Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is taking an important new job in Japan, and his friends have gathered to send him off in style – cramming into his tiny Manhattan apartment. The whole affair is to be “documented” on mini-DV by Hud (T.J. Miller). Hud is intrigued by the less-than-interested Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), while Rob is urged by his brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and friend Lily (Jessica Lucas) toward a romance with Beth (Odette Yustman), a friend who might regret attempting to be something more. The film has a pretty long setup at the bon voyage party, with Hud’s omnipresent handheld camera interviewing and eavesdropping on seemingly everyone (certainly on every other major cast member; the cast is a who’s who of twentysomething no-names).
Then, something begins to occur: what feels like an earthquake, panicking city dwellers running for their lives, the head of the Statue of Liberty goes rolling down the street, and it becomes clear some sort of giant dinosaur-like lizard (or something) is tearing apart Manhattan!
The plot starts to resemble the Get Outta Town Before You Get Eaten formula of monster movies, but takes a sharp turn when Rob gets it in his head that he must venture to the 49th Level of Beth’s apartment building to rescue her before they can escape their fate.
The film was directed by Matt Reeves (The Pallbearer) and written by Drew Goddard (formerly of TV’s Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Alias, currently of Lost), however, it’s the brainchild of producer J.J. Abrams (TV’s Lost and Alias), and has that same quality of facing fairly bland people with dire circustmances and watching what happens.
The cast is adequate for what’s required of them, but I particularly took to Lizzy Caplan as Marlena, the most likable and all-too-briefly-appearing of the characters. The special effects are surprisingly effective in between Hud’s queasy camerawork (this film is done entirely on mini-DV digital cameras). The results are decidedly mixed, but if you’re looking for a fairly scary and enjoyable monster movie, here’s a good one.