Film Review: Cloverfield

I can still remember vividly the first time I watched Cloverfield. I’d been given it by my brother as a present and, not being a large horror fan had put off watching it for one reason or another for a long, long time, until one sleepless night, I ended up lying in bed watching it on my laptop PC.

I also remember, coming away from that initial viewing wondering why I’d been so stupid to put it off for so long. In Cloverfield I found a movie that simply blew me away, it was implausible yet profound, scary yet entertaining and I fell asleep afterwards having expected a cheap and tacky movie about alien invasions and instead, come away having found what I thought was a potential little gem. A tale that really shook me by the rawness of it all.

Found Footage - Cloverfield

Fast forward a few years and once again, Cloverfield has sat unloved in my collection for longer than it deserved and so it felt right to dust it off and give it another chance. This time though, rather than being on a small laptop screen through bleary eyes, it was full widescreen glory and the focus of clear vision. Sadly though, it has completely failed to live up to those previous memories, and certainly hasn’t had anything like the original impact.

I think in part that is down to the setting in which I watched it. Cloverfield is a “found footage” film and so, I think the small scale of a laptop screen really heightened the flavour. Really added something to the clumsy, amateurness that is meant to narrate the film. Watching it a second time on a much large screen seemed to remove a lot of the cleverness, the shaky camera work that so defines the found footage style simply ending up a distraction. Even at times becoming physically annoying.

TV News Report - Cloverfield

Annoyingly, I felt that the film lacked any real emotion this time. Whether it’s because I knew what happened and how the story ends I don’t know, but I remember getting really caught up in the events as they unfolded, emotionally on edge as the story expands. But this time there was none of that. It almost felt archival. Rather than having that initial shock, that moment of terror, I was almost remembering past events. It’s like watching any war footage, as soon as you know who lives and dies it looses it grip on you and becomes just another part of history to recount. True or Hollywood fiction.

I remember it being far more implied and suggested than it obviously is. I had a memory that we never actually got to see the monster until right at the very end, that the power of the film was in the suggested. The glimpses. But this was proved instantly wrong when the arrival of the creature is met with a full frontal shot, repeated happily throughout the film.

Cast - Cloverfield

I hated hated the main characters this time as well. “Documenter” Hud (T.J. Miller) takes the majority of my hatred, I just found him completely annoying and incessantly torturous. Honestly, the number of times he really started to get under my skin, to really wind me to the point like the itch that never stops, was untrue. And this combines with a complete, blunt selfishness of Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and together that just destroyed any connection that formed between me and any of the characters. I never sided with them, and I never truly cared if they lived or died. This meant that when my pulse rate was increased by on screen action, when I’d get the tinge of anxiety in the back of my throat, or the moment of panic in my stomach it was caused by that flicker shown in the peripheral, caught fleetingly, and the emotion would, therefore, pass as quickly as the source.

I didn’t expect to have such a bad and opposite reaction to Cloverfield. I had great memories of it but sadly, it really didn’t live up to them. Everything about it fell flat but I think it was all down to context. I think you need to see this film small. I think it’s home is on a laptop, or a tablet and not a TV. I think you need to heighten it’s strengths, to really play up on that sense of amateur footage. I also think that sadly, it really is a film you can only watch once; it’s emotion in the secret, the story untold, and the lack of foresight.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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