Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cloverfield (2008, Matt Reeves)

I've got to give Reeves and producer JJ Abrams credit for actually following through and making a monster movie entirely shot with a subjective camera, but it doesn't quite work as it should. It starts well enough, with a party that's shown for long enough that the initial monster attack comes as a genuine surprise, but it's the same party that reveals how much tidier Cloverfield is than it really should be. Despite trying to make the party footage feel slipshod and amateurish, the film clearly singles out half a dozen characters who are worthy of attention, and once the attacks happen, guess who we end up following? Also, the device of the "taped-over" footage is sort of lame and obvious. But the bigger problem is that the film never feels as chaotic as it ought to feel. Much of the inherent interest of a movie shot like a home video is that the camera operator generally can't help but let his mindset dictate his so-called style- if he's curious, the camera wanders; if he's interested, he zooms in on the object of his interest. And most importantly to Cloverfield- when things get chaotic, the footage becomes sort of messy and incoherent, reflecting the chaos that's around him. With a few scattered exceptions, there's very little chaos in Cloverfield. Sure, when bad stuff is happening the camera shakes and waves around, but everything feels a little too calculated, like there's a professional hand guiding things. Compare to the obvious example of Blair Witch, where it's obviously the actors holding the cameras, and you'll see how much more interesting this could have been. Cloverfield was a bold gambit, and the marketing campaign was sort of brilliant, but the film, while certainly of interest, is kind of a disappointment. Rating: 5 out of 10.

No comments: