By: Tyler BakerA shroud of secrecy by producer J.J. Abrams (Lost) and crew has kept spoiler leaks and plot points out of the filmic pre-release formula of creature feature Cloverfield. Now in its second week of distribution, Cloverfield has been hailed for takes of originality in a dying genre and impressive hybridization between computer-generated imagery and live-action footage. With a meager budget and a script that was finished after the film’s first teaser trailer was released, Cloverfield has renewed faith not only in the monster genre, but in cinematic buzz payoff as well.
The entire film is shot through the lens of a home camcorder that belongs to the main character, Rob (Michael Stahl-David). Meant to document his farewell party, the camera becomes a vessel of acuteness through the camerawork of Rob’s best friend, Hud (Carpoolers’ T.J. Miller). Although Hud is only seen for about one minute, he becomes the voice behind the footage, an informal narrator. The scenes are clipped together according to when Hud flips the recording switch; when the scenes abruptly change it is assumed that time has elapsed. This explains how 85 minutes covers so many of the events within the footage and when the tape ends, so does the film.
Infused within every rewind or sporadic break are taped over clips from Rob’s day at Coney Island three months prior with love-interest Beth (Odette Yustman). This specific directorial technique brings about an emotional link, explains Rob’s actions and even shows a bizarre parallel between carefree and creature-torn New York. The creativity drawn by the camcorder filming allows for the illusion that what the audience sees is real, or at the very least could be real. Quick movements, poor centering, shaking and limitation of perception may cause illness, but only builds to the false authenticity the film aims at.
The creature is conceivable but a bit of an ornery oaf. Abrams claims it is only a “baby,” which explains how it plays hard and at times seems consciously curious of the camera. The film has that towering Godzilla taste, but more of a 28 Days Later sense of exhausted despondency to drive it. From the point that the cast walks out onto the building rooftop, the film enters a survival mentality, or a sort of monster marshal-law affixation. Particularly when the cast finds itself wedged between monster and military forces, the damning authenticity sinks in and audiences will find themselves on edge.
However empty the film is to explain the birth of the monster or even to provide information outside quick shots of news reports (all explanations can be found online), the film acts out of genre character for that homey horrific warmth. Cloverfield is captivating when watched, and haunting the days following, making it an industry success without the expenses for devices and painted emotions.