CLOVERFIELD a Monster Hit<

(my first stab at writing a movie review…any suggestions? More? Less? I’ll work on adding personality into the next one. Promise. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!)

Type: Action/Horror

Bring your Dramamine® and get ready for 84 minutes of tilt-a-whirl action, haunted-house scares and roller-coaster views of the most original monster movies in years. After months of speculation (not to mention a few spoilers posted online), the monster has finally begun it’s rampage on New York City. This J.J. Abrams (MI:III, STAR TREK, and TVs LOST) produced juggernaut has teeth that will leave impressions in film making for years to come.

Most people will agree that CLOVERFIELD (named for the street near Abrams Bad Robot production company) is a hybrid between THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and GODZILLA. Director Matt Reeves (THE PALLBEARER and TVs FELICITY), a long time friend and collaborator of Abrams, takes a cast of unknowns and throws us into their home video recording during an extraordinary night.

The first 20 minutes of the film are all spent with Rob Hawkins who has taped his time with his girlfriend, Beth. He is about to leave for Japan and his friends and brother have set up surprise party in his honor. His brother, Jason, ends up taking the video camera for the night’s festivities. Here we meet his brother’s girlfriend, Lily, the un-witting videographer, Hud, who considers Rob his “Main Dude,” the woman of Hud’s drunken desire, Marlena. When Beth shows up with another guy, it becomes evident to Hud behind the camera, that something is going on between Rob and Beth. It is soon revealed by Lily that the two long-time friends have slept together. In the vein of Cameron Crowe coming-of-age films, Beth and Rob fight and the two part on bad terms. Soon, a heart-to-heart ensues between the guys out on the outside stairwell. And that’s when the first CLOVERFIELD ‘incident’ occurs and action begins.

Within minutes, tankers explode, the head of the Statue of Liberty is hurled onto the street, and buildings collapse sending out pyroclastic flows of concrete and debris that resemble footage seen during 9/11. As the Rob, Jason, Hud, Lily and Marlena start their exodus out of town across the Brooklyn Bridge, the monster attacks forcing them back into the city. And when Rob gets a call from Beth saying she’s trapped and can’t move before the call is cut short, the movie switches from an ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK to a rescue.

Reeves makes sure to follow some of the ‘rules’ of the best horror movies where the monster isn’t revealed until much later in the movie. We only see glimpses of the tail, the paths of destruction, or the horrific growl and roar of the great beast. And the monster isn’t the only thing to be frightened of in the dark. CLOVERFIELD includes smaller nasty creatures that tap into the fears of most of the people in the world. The director doesn’t forget to add in the gore from these attacks either. Just remember that the monsters have appetites, and we seem to be tasty. Combining all those mechanisms with the wild handy-cam film style that initially causes the film viewer to feel off-balance, makes this a thrill-ride that you want to ride to the very end.

While CLOVERFIELD may not rank as a great film (like CITIZEN KANE or GONE WITH THE WIND), it succeeds in entertaining at a high level and that makes it great. Abrams, one of the best in marketing his productions, and his crew have managed to create a new American monster that will continue to terrorize the world for a long time to come. I suspect, and hope, that we will see all new areas of media from where this character can re-emerge besides the big-screen. From video games to online competitions, the film was set up in such a way to leave room for sequels. In this age of YouTube, vBlogs, the shift towards on-demand entertainment, and the sheer volume of fan-based films and shows like Star Trek New Voyages, Star Wars fan-films at, Wainy Days, and Quarterlife, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we start seeing more ‘tapes’ surface from CLOVERFIELD.

If you are prone to motion sickness be warned. But once the characters make it back off the bridge, the queasiness will subside, though the terror may not. Otherwise, head to the theaters and get ready to run for cover.

4.5 Stars (out of 5)

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