Directed by: Matt Reeves.
Written by: Drew Goddard.
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Jessica Lucas and Lizzy Caplan. 84 min. PG-13.
Review top sheet: Cloverfield is Blair Witch Project meets King Kong and Aliens. The first twenty minutes were interesting and would have made a great short. But the concept of portraying an entire film via one camcorder can’t be stretched for more than twenty minutes no matter how many monsters and crazy stuff you have going on.
Will you like this film?
- Yes, if one point of view and endless swinging view changes does it for you.
- No, if you are inclined to epilepsy. (I’m serious: don’t go.)
- Maybe, if you are bulimic and having a hard time chucking up.
General comments: different substances were clearly behind the thinking of the film’s first act on the one hand, and everything which follows on the other. The writer began with cannabis: a slow-moving, reflective mood. When that ran out, he changed to PCP: everything goes insane, with bigger and bigger doses of stupidity the closer we lollop to the end.
There’s no way to do this without going into the story itself (which I usually avoid). The constant in the film is the video recorder, from whose point of view everything is related. We pretty much open on a party scene where we are privy to the politicking, schmoozing and scandalising gossip of the participants of a surprise farewell party. The constant camera view highlights people’s prevarications and hypocrisy, demonstrating as we go how disappointing it is to catch someone we know in a lie. We may not have all the facts, but we don’t need them. We know something is not right. And let’s face it: it’s embarrassing to witness a lie – especially when the person telling it doesn’t realise you suspect them. In life, we can’t prove anything because we do not have omnipotence, only intuition. The camera does not provide omnipotence. It does give us a sort of roving subjectivity, however. One able to connect the dots of our suspicions. So in that sense, the film is only a bit like life.
But we then crash into a new mode. Manhattan is attacked by massive monster – suddenly, and without any set-up, warning or explanation. From there onwards, I lost any sympathy with the film I may have had. Watching MTV generation kids wandering around a near apocalyptic wasteland saying, “Yeah, like, you know, right… It’s really, you know, like…” as death stares them in the face makes me root for the monster. They deserve to be crushed into the pavement on the grounds of poor English, if nothing else. Their response to impending doom was interesting: they wanted to catch it on their mobile phones, presumably to upload to YouTube once the end of the world was safely over.
Out-of-five star ratings:
- Story: **
- Acting: ***
- Substance: ***
- Film craft: *
Story comments: this is a very silly film which would have made a fine short if the writer had just stuck to the right kind of drugs.
Acting comments: in the sense that everyone in the film appeared to be as idiotic and insipid as people generally are when a camcorder is pointed at them, I suppose the film did well.
Substance comments: as New York is being laid waste, the military jumps into action, setting up hospitals to care for the sick and the injured – now you know you are in the realm of fantasy. The reality would have been much more like New Orleans: FEMA thugs disarming the population, beating them up and driving them back into dangerous areas to die. But still, this is Hollywood.
Film craft comments: take shakycam and multiply by ten. I didn’t like it. An interesting idea for a drunken conversation in a bar, but not one you want to see made into reality. However, the contrast of the cheap-looking production technique contrasted well with the upscale computer effects (which must have cost a fortune).
A taste of the story: a surprise party turns out to be more surprising than everyone expected when it is interrupted by a three-thousand tonne monster from Planet X.
Published by The Moscow News.