Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October 1 - Cloverfield [2008]

Cloverfield (2008)
Director: Matt Reeves
Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Odette Yustman, TJ Miller

The 31 Nights of Terror is underway!

Most of the movies I'll be watching over the next month will be movies that I haven't seen before, but I've also thrown in a few that I have seen before, which I own on DVD but haven't watched on DVD in my home theatre.

For example, the first offering of this movie marathon, Cloverfield. I've seen this movie on... let's say, a format I acquired from "alternative means". I enjoyed the movie and so bought it on DVD while I was in the US earlier this year, the day it was released. I just haven't gotten around to watching the DVD.

Until tonight that was. And let's just say seeing this film on my 100-inch screen, in surround sound, was a whole new experience. I liked this movie before, but enjoyed it a whole lot more tonight.

I'm an unashamed fan of 1950s and 1960s sci fi horror, particularly the monster movies. I also enjoy the "handicam" horror movies like Blair Witch Project. Cloverfield combines both of those genres extremely well. All of the footage is, from a storyline point of view, handicam footage shot by an ordinary Joe Citizen as New York City is attacked by... well, something big, ugly and pissed off. Some people don't like the "handicam" aspect, but for me it adds a degree of realism and immediately helps the viewer become "part" of what's happening. 

This past weekend I saw [REC] at the movies, and it uses the same mechanism very well. Cloverfield isn't as downright scary as [REC], but has an overall sense of dread and terror, and throws in a few great fright moments. It also succeeds in keeping the "monster" well hidden for most of the movie, showing only peeks of it until the end. And when we do get a lingering, full-frame shot of it, the effect is downright impressive.

The number one thing that ruins most modern horror movies for me is CGI, or more specifically bad CGI. I'm not completely opposed to computer graphics, in fact I support them when they're done well. Luckily that's the case with Cloverfield. The monster effects are extremely believable. If there's anywhere you want to see good CGI it's in a monster movie. Where bad CGI can immediatedly kill the viewer's suspense of disbelief, in this case I found myself completely caught up in the moment from start to finish.

The first part of the movie does a barely adequate job of building up the characters. I didn't find myself too attached to them, but there was some sympathy for their plight. Male lead Michael Stahl-David is likeable enough, even if he does remind me a lot of Tom Cruise, while the ladies are all attractive and fair actors. TJ Miller's "Hud" provides the comedy and does it well. My favourite line: "I just can't stop thinking how scary it'd be if a flaming homeless dude came running out". 

Let's face it though, this is a monster movie, not a character study. It's all about the monsters and the complete state of chaos they cause. And lucky for us, they cause plenty of it.

Cloverfield is one of my favourite movies of 2008, and will remain a favourite in my DVD collection.

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