The Horror Honeys: Cloverfield: Some Thing Has Found Footaged Us

Cloverfield: Some Thing Has Found Footaged Us

Gotta love monsters who go for
recognizable landmarks.
A Guest Monster Honey Review by Sarah

Cloverfield (2008)

Confession time: I have a soft spot for found footage. Always have. Ever since I was terrified by The Blair Witch Project as a teenager (sorry Chassity) I’ve just eaten them up. I’ve seen some great ones like [REC], Troll Hunter, and Noroi the Curse, and I’ve seen some bad ones like The Devil Inside or Paranormal Activity 4 (I actually quite like 1, 3, and The Marked Ones). Yes, there’s the suspension of disbelief necessary in order not to keep shouting “WHY ARE YOU STILL FILMING?” at the screen every two minutes, but I think that when it’s done well, found footage can be an interesting storytelling device for horror.

When Cloverfield came out, it had quite the machine behind it. From that first anonymous trailer people were taken in by the mystery constructed by producer J.J Abrams. There was an in-depth internet Easter Egg hunt and by the time the movie came out the hype was at its peak to see this American take on a Kaiju film.

And... I didn’t see it. No particular reason, I just didn’t.

This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I didn’t see the film for the first time until it was on DVD, long after the hype and the backlash and the backlash to the backlash was over; and I enjoyed it, and at the time thought it was fun.

Now we have 10 Cloverfield Lane, a non-found footage film that has been described as everything from a sequel and a side story to a “blood relative” film. The trailer also dropped completely out of nowhere to confusion and delight, showing what looked like a twisted character drama with three people in a bunker while some kind of unspecified disaster is going on outside. The films is also the feature debut of director Dan Trachtenberg, who made an amazing short fan film based on the videogame Portal called Portal: No Escape that you should all go check out right now.
But with the release of the new film, does Cloverfield still hold up? And what can we really expect of 10 Cloverfield Lane?
Jeez, movies. Stop imprisoning Scott Pilgrim actresses.
The Plot: Rob (Mike Vogel) is leaving for Japan and at his going away party his best friend Hud (T.J Miller) is there to film the celebrations, including some awkward moments between Rob and Beth (Odette Annable), the friend he slept with. What appears to be an earthquake turns out to be some kind of monster destroying the city. Rob and his friends then try to escape, but that proves difficult as the city is now a danger zone.

The thing that strikes me when revisiting Cloverfield is that parts are closer to a disaster movie than a monster one. There are some very particular moments that evoke 9/11, but nowhere near as egregiously as some films, and the emphasis on the on the ground experience calls to mind news footage of civilians fleeing natural disasters. Even Rob’s quest to find Beth makes sense when you look at the way people behave in disaster situations.

I have to respect this monster, though. They're clearly a John Carpenter fan.
Characters in found footage need to be likeable in a casual and shorthand way, and for the most part Cloverfield does fine with this with one possible exception. Our camera man who won’t quit is Hud, and he alternates between bearable and infuriatingly annoying in a way that none of the other more down to earth characters are. Also his crush on the poor doomed Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) walks a very, very, fine line between “awkward cuteness” and “this girl should be buying some mace.” We’re meant to feel sorry for him when she dies, but honestly I felt worse that the most sarcastic character is gone.

Of course, a monster movie is only as good as its monster. The affectionately nicknamed by the production team “Clover” is a mixture of reptilian, insectoid and just a little bit amphibian. I think it looks pretty good, distinctive and dangerous. The parasite critters have this weird crab look to them, and aren’t necessarily bad, but their inclusion feels like it’s been done to give the characters something to physically fight against rather than dealing with the environmental dangers of the larger monster attack. It’s a little contrived, but relatively harmless as far as devices for more action go. 
Something else that Cloverfield has in its favour is how brisk it is. At 85 minutes, and a large chunk of that being credits, it gets going and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It means that the film is like a small and effective snapshot, quick and to its destructive point.

I'd be pissed too if I was doing some sightseeing and everyone shot at me.
I know it's New York, but come ON!
Verdict: Cloverfield is still pretty entertaining, if a little straightforward and not really offering much new as far as the found footage format goes. Cloverfield gets 3 and a half shaky-cam shots of the monster’s leg out of 5

As for 10 Cloverfield Lane, I’m excited. I’ve only seen the first trailer, which builds up really nicely using the song “I Think We’re Alone Now” and makes us realise that things are very off about this situation with these three characters, and John Goodman’s character in particular might be more than a little unhinged. 

There’s the obvious question of what’s outside the bunker, and there’s certainly a possibility for everything from roaming monsters to some kind of virus, but we just don’t know and at this point I’d say the mystery is working in their favour. I kind of want as much of the film as possible to be in the bunker so we can really get the most out of the claustrophobia and possible tension and paranoia between the characters, but we will see.

10 Cloverfield Lane comes out 10th March in the US 
and 18th March in the United Kingdom.