I remember being very young, waking up early, and before starting the day, I’d quickly look out the window just to make sure Godzilla wasn’t walking up from the horizon. You see, I was a huge Japanese monster movie fan… all the monsters, Godzilla, Rodan, Monster X, and on and on and on. They weren’t very good. Always a man in a rubber suit crushing really intricate models of downtown Tokyo with the same soundtrack, but as a kid I loved em.
One common element in the movies was the lack of a central character. Most times you’d follow along one or two people but the story was always about the monster. The character would get eaten and then you’d follow along with some other people.
Here’s where Cloverfield is different. If you haven’t guessed by now, Cloverfield is kind of a cross between Blair Witch and Godzilla. Rob Hawkins and friends are having a party, complete with annoying friend, asleep on the couch drunk girl and awkward post breakup friends at the same party. Then something goes terribly wrong. Rather than following the monster (which army files designate as “Cloverfield”) we instead follow four friends trying to accomplish a goal. The “third person watching a story unfold” is gone. Instead, you’re seeing the action as Hud, the videographer is seeing it, essentially putting you in the movie. Being part of the group, you feel the shock when someone get killed. You’re shocked when someone gets bitten. And you want to run when they’re being chased. And with regards to the monster, they’ve done it just right. You see it but usually just glimpses and when you do start to see it straight on, it’s always at the wrong time! It’s a great thrill ride, lots of twists and as real as a monster invasion of Manhattan as you can get. Definitely going to set the bar higher for future monster movies.
Cloverfield ended up setting January opening records, probably because of the great trailers leaving the audience hanging. I hear they’re talking about doing a second one based in LA. On top of that, you can find MySpace pages of all the party goers leaving comments on each others’ pages in character. I’ll have to check that out and see if I catch anything new from the movie.