FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Mar 8, 2010

Cloverfield

I've been sitting here with this page open all freaking day- ALL DAY- trying to figure out what I want to say about Cloverfield (2008), which I finally saw approximately 7000 years after everyone else did. Why is this so difficult? Maybe because I'm terribly distracted today. Maybe it's because I simply don't feel like writing a review for it because I just kind of thought it was okay.

That's the point in this venture, by the way, where you chime in with "Well, if you don't feel like writing a review then why are you posting? Get bent!" or something similar.

And that's the point where I say, I can do whatever I want to here, and if I want to type up three sentences about Cloverfield, then that's what I'll do. However, typing up three sentences is not what I want to do. Even that seems like too much effort today. I've got a huge case of the ADDs. So...this is how I will do it.

Characters? Holy crap, I hated them all. That party at the the beginning...ugh. I wouldn't want to spend more than 30 seconds with any of them. It really didn't get me excited to spend the next 80 minutes with them. Part of this was due to the...

...acting. I don't know how much of this was improvised and how much was scripted, but for a "found footage" film, it came off as fake. I've seen P.O.V. flicks and mockumentaries done well. This was not.

The CGI, however, was done quite well, I thought. While the decapitated head of the Statue of Liberty seemed way too small to be real, the rest of the rampant destruction was realistic enough.


I love the idea behind Cloverfield, a giant monster movie from the perspective of the man on the street. The echoes of 9/11/01 were, I'd imagine, intentional. The sense of panic, the confusion and flight amidst unanswered questions were perfectly captured. The moments after the initial attack were eerily accurate. But then...

...the whole "going back for the girl" plot was fairly insufferable. I found it so unrealistic that it irreparably knocked the train off the rails. It didn't help that I hated the characters.

It's too bad this:

was touched on only briefly- far too short a segment. I wanted to spend more time with this exploding face development.

Overall it was pretty fun- I mean, sometimes you just want to see big monsters beat the crap out of buildings and stuff. In that regard, Cloverfield was a success. As I said, I thought the "man on the street" angle was a bit ingenious. It's just too bad that the man on the street was such a shallow, smarmy jerk.

Phew! Got that out of the way. Oooh, what's over there?

48 comments:

Jeff Allard said...

It's nice to know I'm not the only one who hated the smug characters in Cloverfield, found the acting to be atrocious, and couldn't stomach the idea of everyone of going back to the heart of Monster Central to find the girl. I love the idea of Cloverfield - of giving the man-on-the-street perspective of a giant monster attack - but hated almost everything about the execution.

Stacie Ponder said...

Yay us!

R.D. Penning said...

I loved Cloverfield, unfortunately I didn't like the shakie cam craze it created. I will agree with you on the characters part, they were all fairly annoying, but was it intentional? They aren't supposed to be actors. They are supposed to be normal people off the street. J.J.A's execution of the film was flawless though. You have to think through the eyes of him. He created Lost, so you know if he is planning on making sequels, he is definitely not going to answer all the questions of the film.

Is everyone telling me that during a catastrophe of this magnitude, no one would go back to search for a loved one? I have a wife and two kids, and there aren't twenty giant monsters that would stop me from going anywhere to make sure they were safe.

The thing I love/hate the most, is the with J.J. you have to watch the movie ten times before you catch all the small unique shout-outs, and forshadowing he has thrown into the film. I understand this movie isn't for everyone, and even I got dizzy the first time, but the small clip at the end had me pumped right away to see Cloverfield two for some answers.

Sorry about your ADD, haha. Keep up the good work though.

TJ Dietsch said...

In the theater, surrounded by people, I really liked the movie, even though the going back for the girl thing seemed kinda dumb. It wasn't until thinking on it later that it really started sinking in how lame the characters are. I've thought about checking it out again on DVD, but will probably just leave myself to those memories and remember the good times. And not the party full of d-bags.

John said...

The exploding girl is pretty much the only redeeming thing I remember about Cloverfield.

I didn't watch it until a few months ago when I got the Rifftrax commentary for it... I don't think I would have ever made it through that never-ending party sequence without Mike Nelson and the gang suffering alongside me.

Stacie Ponder said...

R.D.- I think I see what you're saying, and you're right- they're supposed to be regular people. My point was that the acting was so bad they didn't SEEM like real people. They felt like actors inexperienced with improv and/or unable to make a weak script some across as believable.

Regarding Abram's execution, I disagree. I also wonder what kind of role he played in this. He didn't write this or direct it, but his name was splashed everywhere.

As for going back for the girl/loved ones, yes, that's going to be an impulse. The characters were developed so poorly that I couldn't relate to the need to go get her, or why his friends would go with him. All that aside, in circumstances like this, he probably wouldn't have been ABLE to go back. As for heading into her toppling apartment tower...yeesh. Why was she the only person in there? I thought, again, it was executed quite poorly.

There were so many more interesting ways the story COULD have gone, I thought. Eh, should coulda woulda. We'll see what happens in a sequel.

harsens-rob said...

I was relatively bored, which I feel badly about because it was gifted to me by my boss for X-Mas. I'm glad I didn't buy it.

This would have been cool if it was a Godzilla film, but it wasn't... it was a knockoff of the knockoff of Godzilla (that god awful giant iguana thing). I hate CGI giant monsters - give me men in suits filmed slow or fast or however they add mass to the suitmation.

I hated the characters and the stupid STUPID I have to risk death and go back for the girl, rather than oh, inform the army of where survivors are located. And, why was this idiot woman like the only one in her building who didn't get out of there and why did she call her ex. And, why was dipsh*t walking around obsessively with that stupid video camera even as buildings are blowing up and falling all around him - moron... why wasn't he immediately killed for his idiocy so we could switch POV to a non-shaky cam.

And, I agree we should have spent more time with the bugs from hell making exploding people... but those things were just a "homage" to the giant sea louse from Godzilla, too.

Eventually, I'll have to do my own scene by scene review - but I'll put that one off until I have nothing else to waste time with.

Ryan said...

I really enjoyed Cloverfield the first time I watched it. I was stoned on my couch with my dog, and had fun yelling "Oh shit norman, How are they gonna get outta this one!"

Then I watched it again clean and sober and, like when you tried to write about it, had a temporary case of ADD and stared at album covers around my room/cooked some dinner.

The point is, I think the most annoying part about these found footage movies is how the writter always feels its necessary to point out that the character is stupid for constantly filming everything. I mean I see how it's necessary, and sometimes it even adds to the characters arc (i.e. blair witch project. But other times is falls flat on its face (i.e. diary of the dead) and here it just annoyed me.

p.s. I'm hoping in vain that the sequel will reveal that cloverfield is in fact an Ancient Alien God from the depths of R'lyeh. I can dream...

Holger Haase said...

I have yet to see a single one of those pseudo-real life footage horrors that I like. I have hated them all incl the hopelessly overrated REC. I very rarely turn off movies but anytime I come across that type of film you can time the seconds until I lose interest.
The problem is that those movies are meant to be more real and realistic but always come across as way more fake than the worst Hollywood CGI crap ever imaginable. We simply don't view the world and our experiences from the perspective of a shaky handheld camera 24/7. Those movies remind of the disaster that was Robert Montgomery's LADY IN THE LAKE shot entirely from the view point of the main character who we only once glimpse in the mirror if I remember correctly. Again, in theory a very realistic concept; in practise pure horse manure.
Just one more thing: DIARY OF THE DEAD. 'Nuff said.

Neil Fulwood said...

'Cloverfield' lost it for me the moment annoying camera-boy went wandering through a military facility, happily filming away, without a single instance of some gruff R. Lee Ermey type saying "Son, turn the camera off" then clubbing him to the ground with the butt of a rifle.

Anonymous said...

Stacie, I'm glad I wasn't the only one kind of disenchanted by Cloverfield. Perhaps if I'd been in on the Internet follow-the-advertising craze it caused it would have been more rewarding, but I think a person should be able to watch a movie and fully enjoy it without having particpated in the advertising three months before the movie was released. And the exploding girl was the only character I liked!

Tim Butler said...

The monster was the letdown for me. I realize the intent was to distance it from the traditional notion of a giant monster, but they could have gone any way they wanted and they picked that? All googly eyed and weird legs? Gamera would have stomped a mudhole in that thing's ass.

SikeChick said...

The annoying characters really took me out of the movie. When it became a "I have to find my girl" movie, I was pretty much done. I mean, that girl showed up at his going away party with another dude. Our Hero (it's been a while so I don't remember names) should have told her to call that guy to save her.

The beastie attacks were pretty cool though.

Waxdude said...

I loved "Cloverfield" and agree with R.D.- expect "The Blair Witch Project" started the whole shaky cam thing... let's give credit where credit is due! As for the "acting"- I've seen FAR worse in movies. I never once thought about the acting during the movie. I found it to be an entertaining, old-fashioned monster movie...

Anonymous said...

I'm with you...the characters were annoying and maybe that was intentional so we could "enjoy" watching them die, but I prefer to care about the characters not just watch a movie for the action/effects.

Exploding Girl was a slightly more likable actress, I thought, so of course they had to get rid of her early on.

I found it too unrealistic - the fact that the guy with the camera could hold onto it and keep filming even as they were being attacked up-close-and-personal by those critters that ended up biting Exploding Girl (because she was protecting stupid Camera Guy - so not worth it)... I mean, *how* could he keep filming when he should've been more concerned with saving his ass? It just BUGS (haw!) me.

And yes I can buy going into danger to try to save your loved ones. So the guy going back for his girlfriend ...or ex-girlfriend... or whatever... fine. But his friends (and Exploding Girl, who was barely an acquaintance?!) all tagging along? Not believable. Plus that guy got over his brother's death a tad too easily. All these unrealistic things just take you out of it. I demand REALISM from my monster movies! (Well, from a character perspective, anyway... no matter how fantastical the situation, we have to feel like we can relate to the characters/would respond the same way if it happened to us.)

Also, totally tasteless reference to 9/11, on the filmmakers part. And yes the Statue of Liberty's head was laughably too-small. How could they not notice that?! Bad movie. Stole from so many other movies... and it seems they spent more time on marketing/viral videos/internet hype than the script/characterization/acting. Meh.

Bleaux Leaux said...

Classic example of where concept and execution fail to get together and have a beautiful horror movie love child. I was really looking forward to this one, but after seeing it I can't imagine ever wanting to watch it again.

Andy said...

I sort of dug Cloverfield for the same reasons you did Stacie. Sometimes all you want from a movie is a big-ass monster destroying stuff.

I should probably give it another watch tho. I saw Cloverfield at a drive-in and they started the movie before sunset. I couldn't even see the screen for the first 30 minutes or so. The audio of the party pretty much told me I wasn't missing much in any event.

Carrie said...

Oh thank god I wasn’t the only one who thought he was a complete moron for going back for her! Sure, I have loved ones I’d go back for, but she was just a jerk. I mean she brought some guy to her ex’s going away party even though she knew it would hurt him. Oh, but as soon as she’s in trouble he’s the one she immediately calls. I mean, what guy wouldn’t go back for a gem of a girl like that?!

Jason said...

I loved it despite its many faults because I love giant monsters the way some people like slashers. ;)

The very idea of a giant monster smashing buildings is so far out there that it isn't a huge stretch for me to accept that the only girl left in the building called her boyfriend.

As long as the monsters are smashing, I'm a happy camper.

GypsyBlue said...

I'm glad you watch it, I paid to see it in a theater, and my vertigo took over and I threw up six times during the course of the movie, mostly because my Sister (BFF) didn't want to leave. She wanted to see the monster. So there I sat, NOT being able to even look at the screen because I couldn't even lift my head. Nothing too away the nausea, NOTHING. I also went the same day Heath Ledger died....which was much more interesting to me than the movie.

I still kinda don't even know what the movie looks like, and even when I see pictures of the scenes I get sick.

so I'm glad you could sit through it, I'm glad I missed not much.

Stacie Ponder said...

Wow, well, at least I didn't throw up. That sounds DREADFUL.

Jason, I get what you're saying. It must be tough for a big-monsters fan to find love, as the films are simply so rare.

Carrie, you're forgetting the key component: she was hot!

Neil, THANK YOU. The Army interactions were a huge dealbreaker for me. They wouldn't have simply LET these people wander back out there. They would have shuttled them onto a bus or copter, and that would have been that.

Considering this took place in what, a 6 hour time frame? There were very few people left in Manhattan.

veggiemacabre said...

I kind of liked Cloverfield. The motion sickness was a little nuts at times but I loved the pre-release hype. I fall for the hype a lot.

JA said...

I think I might be the only person on Earth besides the actors' parents that liked the characters in Cloverfield. But I did! I liked all of them, dammit! Even that dumb girl who wore high heels while walking from one end of Manhattan to the other. I will feel no shame.

A Case of You said...

I went to see this when it came out because I love seeing shit get destroyed where I actually live (especially now that I actually live in a place where they do that). (No one ever destroys shit in Saint Louis, man.) And mostly, I just thought, hmm... I don't know if the monster would have that much fun in Columbus Circle. And um... I'm super glad I am so broke and live uptown. Nobody every break shit down uptown.

In other news: I hate captchas.

Kensington said...

Fie on you, Stacie Ponder! Fie, I say!

Seriously, I liked it a lot, but it might be primarily because I had a nerd crush on Lizzy Caplan (moody/gothy exploding girl), but that's hardly surprising as she seems to have been assembled precisely in order to provoke nerd crushes.

I particularly appreciated how grim the film is.

Stacie, did you notice the splashdown that occurs in the background of the final shot (the video on the Ferris Wheel)? That splashdown apparently is meant to be a meteor that stirs up the monster in the first place. I'm not sure how clearly it shows up on a TV screen, though.

I thought that was a nice touch.

Stacie Ponder said...

I didn't notice that- sounds like yes, a nice touch.

So is the idea that this thing is Of This Earth? From under the sea? I was banking on space.

thomwade said...

Why don't I recall exploding girl?

Perching Path said...

American horror films in the found-footage/"normal people" sub-genre all seem to be populated by unsympathetic idiots: Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, and The Blair Witch Project (sort-of: I found the idiots rather more sympathetic that time).
The two non-American films in the sub-genre I've seen ([REC] and Ghostwatch) aren't. Hopefully this will right itself as the sub-genre inevitably grows.

(I haven't seen [REC]'s American remake, so I don't know how it fits into the division I'm seeing.)

Robert H. said...

This is pretty much horror with and for Douchebags, just like the STAR TREK reboot is sci-fi with and for douchebags... and people will be kicking themselves in a year or two too for liking THAT piece of crap.

Check out REC and REC 2 (not the shitty American remakes under the name QUARANTINE) to see how to use the aesthetic right.

thomwade said...

F*** You, Robert. You are welcome to not like or care for Star Trek, but to suggest that the films appeal is to douche bags?

So, should I presume REC is a movie for and a bout snotty pricks?

(sorry, Stacey-but I cannot accept someone writing off the entire audience of a film as douche bags just because THEY didn't like the movie.)

Stacie Ponder said...

Don't apologize!

Wait! DO APOLOGIZE...you spelled my name wrong! Arg! *rage rage*

I thought I'd mentioned it in my review, but it must have been one of the 30 draft 1st paragraphs, but I really dug Star Trek, way more than I expected to. Douchebags unite! :)

Kensington said...

Robert, your blog looks kind of interesting, but why on Earth would I invest any time reading it when you come here and call me a douchebag?

And, yeah, Stacie, the Cloverfield monster is intended to be from Earth.

There were other interesting parts of the backstory, too, such as the idea that it was just a frightened baby trying to find its mother. Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read that.

Robert H. said...

Bit touchy, are we, thomwade? I don't think you're a DB for liking DOUCHE TREK - you ARE one for getting so bent out of shape about it, though.

Looking back at the post,I didn't explain my point very well, so here goes...

J.J. Abram's first major work is the screenplay for TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS, an alleged comedy with Jim Belushi as a douchebag who steals the Filofax of another douchebag played by Charles Grodin, and assumes his identity. Hijinks abound.

His next script is for a Mike Nichols film starring Harrison Ford (!) called REGARDING HENRY. The story of a major douchebag who gets shot in the head and learns not to be a douchebag anymore -- it sucked. Badly.

FOREVER YOUNG - Mel Gibson as a douchebag who participates in an experiment and is frozen until he's unfrozen by a couple of kids; GONE FISHIN', another alleged comedy with Joe Pesci and Danny Glover (hot off the LETHAL WEAPON films) as two douchebag friends from the city who take a fishing trip.
This culminates into being co-writer for ARMAGEDDON, where the entire world is saved by douchebag Bruce Willis and his douchebag crew of roughnecks.

Then Abrams jumps to television. He creates FELICITY, about a female douchebag who gradually learns she's not entitled to anything, with a whole bevy of douchebag friends; and ALIAS, a riff off of the spy craze of the 60's where master spy Jennifer Garner learns that instead of being a U.S. spy, she's a spy for a douchebag agency, and she learns that her family, friends and co-workers are douchebags fighting other douchebags - that fucks with her head! Monster success for both shows, which leads to his touch with LOST, a show full of douchebags attempting to find out... well, who knows what. With LOST, not only are the characters all douchebags, the show itself does douchy things to its audience, who of course, just LOVE it.

Abrams works with master douchebag Tom Cruise on MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 and not even the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman can overcome the douchiness; the new show FRINGE is basically X-FILES with douchebags... and now Abrams brings the douchy touch to STAR TREK, where almost everyone is a douchebag - even Old Spock.

In the midst of all this douchiness, WHY does it work is the question? Why is it so popular?

Because the audience is mainly douchebags. Sad to say.


Like I said earlier - wait a couple of years, then see how well this reboot stands up.

That doesn't preclude most people from liking it, obviously, since someone felt REALLY THREATENED by my dislike of it... and of most things related to Abrams, as I've just spelled out.

Actually, thomwade, REC and it's followup are pretty damn good - but that's just my opinion... maybe a few snotty pricks may or may not agree with me... waiting with bated breath which side you'll fall on...

Stacie Ponder said...

I don't think anyone is threatened by your dislike of Star Trek, Abrams, or what have you. I think people take offense when they're insulted simply for enjoying a film. To disagree is one thing, but to denigrate someone on the basis of what movies they like is...well, kinda douchey. :)

Civility, please!

Robert H. said...

Kensington,

Feel free to shoot me a message... I did not intend to muck up Stacie's blog with this.

That said, you're perfectly free to read or not read whoever you want to. I hope the later posting does help to clarify the remark, but yeah - it's how I honestly feel about the response to things Abrams related -- people identify with what they know.

If that makes me a bad person - fine... I personally didn't feel threatened when called a "snotty prick" over a movie... a BAD movie (in my opinion) at that. That's looking more and more like a badge of honor.

Sorry, Stacie.

David Lee said...

Honestly, going back for the girl, even if she'd dumped me some other guy, is just the sort of thing I would have done in my twenties. So that I understood. That didn't make me like any of the characters any better but it was the sort of irrational impulse I can understand.

Following my friend while he went to go rescue his not-girlfriend? I'm not sure if I would would have done that. Film the entire thing while trying to escape monsters? A bit harder for me to grasp. It made sense to me that the Blair Witch folks kept filming. They were film geeks. Young film geeks. No one is more obsessive than a young geek.

Basically I liked some of the movie and didn't like some of the movie. Don't hate it. Don't love it. Probably won't watch it again but I'd probably go watch a sequel. Because I'm optimist :)

mrgordo said...

It wasn't a classic by any means, but I kinda liked it. I also had the privilege of interviewing some of the cast & crew & I'm happy 2 say they weren't douche-y at all...even J.J. Abrams, Mr. H. (Although that pre-TV resume is scarier than anything in "Cloverfield"!) And Kensington, totally feel yr nerd crush on Lizzy Caplan. Loved her since she brought the snark in "Mean Girls." Finally, Stacie, I might have suggested this already on here or Facebook, but u should so check out a fairly recent Asian creature feature called "The Host". It makes "Cloverfield" look like "Sesame Street"!

thomwade said...

"Bit touchy, are we, thomwade? I don't think you're a DB for liking DOUCHE TREK - you ARE one for getting so bent out of shape about it, though."


You are doing a great job of convincing me my initial reaction was dead on.

I wasn't threatened by anything you said. If you had merely expressed dislike for the movies in your post...I would n't have said anything. You ripped on an entire audience. I know a lot of people who dug the new Star Trek who are anything but douches.

I am fine with agreeing to disagree. I hate High Tension. I don't think less of Stacie for liking it. I don't think people who like it are losers and don't call them names. I explain why I didn't like it. I don't insult the people who do. As a grown up? I understand these things. Thanks for the nice message on my blog though. Yeah, that wasn't the childish act of someone who can't take what he dishes out.

thomwade said...

"Actually, thomwade, REC and it's followup are pretty damn good - but that's just my opinion... maybe a few snotty pricks may or may not agree with me... waiting with bated breath which side you'll fall on..."

By the way... I enjoyed Rec, actually. I look forward to number two. But if one thought the remake was bad? That's weird...it's almost frame for from...the biggest difference is the star is a blond in REC. Otherwise, it is pretty much unchanged.

Kensington said...

Robert, I stopped reading your "clarification" post when you doubled-down on calling people douchebags for objecting to be called douchebags.

Best of luck with that!

Castor said...

I think Cloverfield is a movie that absolutely needs to be seen in theater. I thought it was solid, not great but it had some good moments and was somewhat scary because of the point of view taken.

Going back for the girl is a bit cliche but not unrealistic at all, if a loved one is in distress, many people would do the same.

thomwade said...

I guess with Cloverfield I am just kinda... blah about it. I mean, I didn't hate it. Didn't love it. It struck me as okay, but I haven't revisited it since the first time I saw it.

Robert said...

http://store.hijinksensue.com/product/groverfield-t-shirt

That is all.

Erich Kuersten said...

Thank God for you Stacie, as I'm completely shocked by the accolades this film received in certain circles that I usually respect... the characters/acting is soooo unbearably smarmy and self-righteous, they make Freddie Prinze Jr. seem like um.... John Wayne?

Plus they're sooo California. In the Manhattan I live in, we'd be throwing these MTV Real World-rejects to the monster as treats, and he probably wouldn't even eat them.

thomwade said...

Ack! I just caught that misspelling.

Very sorry Stacey.

Stacie Ponder said...

Which misspelling? You mean my name?

-Stacie

The Mud Puppy said...

Personally, I loved Cloverfield, but that's me.

I should point out though that, apparently, the Statue of Liberty head shown in the movie is actually larger than the real thing. From what I've heard, the filmmakers sized it exactly to scale in the original teaser trailer but after many people complained that it was too small, they sized it up.

Wendell said...

I really liked the movie 'cept for two things.

I got real tired real quick of the dialogue "Rob! Rob! Wait! Rob! What are you... Rob!" (repeat often).

The other thing was the high-heel shoes. They took time to lift cell phones, but walked through a department store without looking sideways at the sneakers.

Well... cell phones vs. sneakers... maybe that says more about me than the movie.

What I really like was the mystery. Things just plain weren't explained, making the deaths feel that much more pointless and horrific.

(But, no, I wouldn't have stayed at that party either. LOL)

:)