Top 100 Films – 79. Cloverfield (2008)

The 2008 found footage film that reinvented viral marketing and took advantage of the found footage craze and as of 2018, kick started an unlikely franchise that each installment has an enigma surrounding them just like the 2008 film. 

  Cloverfield starts with a house party to say goodbye to Rob whose camera it is throughout the film. The video keeps cutting back to previous footage of Rob and Beth and their romantic relationship. In present day they seemed to be seperated. During the party, there is an earthquake that interferes with the proceedings. When the crowd move to the outside to inspect what is going on, they see an oil tanker be destroyed and objects land on the ground, including the Statue of Liberty’s head. Everyone starts to run away from what appears to be a gigantic monster towering over buildings and smaller creatures that start to tackle people. The film follows a group of people that film themselves running from this creature in the streets and underground of New York City.

Cloverfield is one of those films that can fall into the hate or love category. The genre is very polarising. I am a massive of it but I understand people that are put off by the constant shakiness and erratic shooting style the genre presents. I think the genre can be very effective in the tension it can create and it is a huge shame that it has become overused and is put off as a cheap gimmick. Cloverfield is one of the most effective uses of the genre and I put it up there with The Blair Witch Project (1999) Paranormal Activity (2007) and Man Bites Dog (1993) as one of the best in the genre.

The camera is the main character, it forces the viewer in that position of running away from the impending threat. The subway scene that is shrouded in darkness is a very scary scene. The lack of vision with the restricted point of view gives the feeling that something is behind the camera and watching them. To much dismay this proves to be correct and is chased by several of the small creatures. The jerkiness of the camera gives the effect of not knowing what is going on and this heightens the tension. Cloverfield uses this effect throughout with great success. It is a film that hardly takes a break and the fast pace is exhilarating through the whole 85 minute runtime.

This film is also terrifying because of the similarities with 9/11. The destruction of buildings and a swarm of people scurrying away from a cloud of smoke seem to be lifted from the news footage of 9/11. This is made much more impactful due to the found footage genre forcing the viewer into a point of view shot. We as a viewer live the disaster through the eyes of the camera. The character also have some development in the short runtime. The constant cutbacks to Rob and Beth’s romantic relationship before the event provides a side story that is intriguing and a needed change of pace during the film. All the characters have their moments that allowed a connection with the audience so when they were in danger you really felt tense.

Cloverfield is one of those films that was a rare case where everything worked when in theory it shouldn’t of. With the lack of screen time from the monster, the shooting style, the simple plot and just a film of running, Cloverfield turns these flaws into effective pieces of storytelling. The lack of screen time creates the enigma of the monster that we never really get any answers of how and why it came to Earth and three films into the franchise, we are none the wiser. The genre and shooting style compliments the disaster monster genre and heightens the action and the tension. This is a very fun film to watch with people, it is an 85 minute thrill ride.

Cloverfield has a dream team behind it, with JJ Abrams as producer, Matt Reeves directing and Drew Goddard writing. The stars aligned for this film and it created a unique experience that loads of films have tried to replicate and has ended in loads of films failing. A fast paced, shaky ride of emotions, an experience like no other, Cloverfield is one of those cases that sometimes when you think outside the box, you can make one hell of a film.

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