Plot: Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is about to head to Japan to start a new life, but before he goes, his friends throw him a surprise bon voyage affair. All of his friends are there of course, while his best friend Hud (T.J. Miller) mans the camera to film parting messages from the various guests. At least he is supposed to, but he is often distracted by the presence of Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) and keeps the camera trained on her, even if she seems uneasy in front of the lens. Soon the party is hit with a couple disruptions, the first is when Rob’s friend and one time lover Beth (Odette Annable) shows up with a new beau, which crushes Rob, but all that goes the window when mysterious explosions rocks the area. A massive blast hits soon after and panic sets in, as some unknown force is demolishing entire buildings and reducing city blocks to rubble. In all the chaos, Rob learns that Beth is trapped in her building, so he braves the mysterious dangers to try to rescue her, with a couple friends in tow.
Entertainment Value: As frequent readers likely know, I am not a big fan of found footage movies, but sometimes a real gem comes through and for me, Cloverfield is one of the best the genre has to offer. I love how this feels like we are at street level for ground zero of a monster movie, it has a chaotic and in the moment texture, very cool stuff. I also like how faithful to the found footage conventions Cloverfield is, despite being a well funded, big studio production. The added funds ensure the movie is more kinetic and has more impressive monster effects, so it has appeal beyond the normal genre fans as well. The camerawork and general visuals are more polished, but still have the shaky cam and focus issues, so it retains the raw, regular people with a camera feel you want from found footage, but has better lighting, staging, and such, so it has a more refined texture. The cast is good, light years beyond most found footage of course, but that’s a double edged sword. The performances are good, but lose that “generic folks with a camera” feel, since the cast is so skilled. In the end, I think Cloverfield is a landmark found footage movie and one that deserves a place toward the top of the genre, it is just that much fun.
No nakedness. As for violence, there’s some fun monster related bloodshed at times, including attacks from the smaller, parasitic creatures. The bites yield some nice, nasty wounds and later on, an off screen, but still splashy explosion when the full effect of the wounds kick in. A dude is bitten in half, we see blood on dead and survivors, some wounds are gross, but the violence never feels graphic. Even so, it is always fun to have some creature mayhem unleashed like this. The monsters here are very cool as well, the larger beast is an enormous, kaiju level monster, while smaller, parasitic creatures drop from the larger one as well. These smaller beasts are like hideous crab monsters, fast and vicious, while the larger monster is slower and more lumbering, but both designs are cool and well executed. The dialogue is a lot of panic, but there’s also some humor and conspiracy theory lines involved. T.J. Miller is the comic relief, so he has most of the memorable lines. As for craziness, the premise of being right in the thick of a monster movie is pretty wild, but Cloverfield stays well within the monster movie and found footage conventions.
Overall Insanity: 1/10