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Face-Off: Cloverfield vs. Monsters

03.08.2016by: Brian Bitner
In our previous Face-Off, ZOOLANDER took on ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY. While I gave ANCHORMAN the edge, and some of you were with me, it looks like more of you lean toward ZOOLANDER. Both films are definitely an acquired taste and require a certain tolerance for the idiotic, so I certainly won't fault anyone for preferring one over the other.

This weekend, we have 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE hitting theaters, which producer J.J. Abrams is calling a "blood relative" to 2008's CLOVERFIELD. Since the new film doesn't use the same found footage device as its spiritual predecessor, we'll have to wait to see exactly what the relationship is. The trailer certainly suggests the same horror/suspense/mystery/something's-out-there vibe, though, so this week we thought we'd look at CLOVERFIELD and MONSTERS, the 2010 alien invasion/border crossing film that put ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY director Gareth Edwards on the map.
CAST
Michael Stahl-David as Rob Hawkins
Jessica Lucas as Lily Ford
T.J. Miller as Hudson 'Hud' Platt
Mike Vogel as Jason Hawkins
Lizzy Caplan as Marlena Diamond
Odette Yustman as Beth McIntyre

Starring a fairly unknown cast in 2008, CLOVERFIELD now reads as a call sheet for some of the biggest shows on television. The cast charms us as a fun group of twenty-something partygoers job and makes a solid transition to terrified evacuees as shit gets real.
Scoot McNairy as Andrew Kaulder
Whitney Able as Sam Wynden





With about 95% of the film's dialogue, these two carry the story completely. Given the scarcity of the monsters, it's on the two leads to make us care about their situation. Fortunately, both give strong performances and help pull us into the reality of the world beautifully.
PLOT
When a giant monster appears in lower Manhattan, a group of friends attempt to save another friend before fleeing the city.


While there are elements of CLOVERFIELD that keep it from feeling like just another monster movie, the plot certainly isn't one. Having said that, I'm glad the filmmakers don't bog us down in the origin story of the creature.
A photographer is tasked with escorting his employer's daughter from Mexico across the U.S. border, which happens to be infected by large alien life forms.

So many alien/zombie/monster/horror movies take place at the moment of invasion. Like DISTRICT 9, MONSTERS drops us into a world in which the presence of the aliens is a way of life. Sociopolitical metaphors abound.
WRITING
In order to compress a lot of action into a short amount of time, CLOVERFIELD takes plenty of liberties in having our protagonists stumble into whatever situation they need to be in next. That said, the combination of humor, humanity, and drama really helps solidify the characters as real people.
MONSTERS' dialogue-heavy presentation feels more like a stage play than a film with monologues and character building driving the plot. The scenes can tend to feel a bit one note, however, and some moments of corny, "monster movie" dialogue keep this one from taking the point.
DIRECTING
While some found footage movies have been successful, the genre itself has never been terribly popular. Regardless, Matt Reeves uses this device well without it ever feeling too gimmicky or in your face. The cuts back to Rob's day with Beth are a nice touch and keep the heart of the story present.
Without a big budget, Gareth Edwards smartly uses tension and mystery to keep us intrigued. While we only catch a few glimpses of the monsters before the end, the gritty atmosphere and immediacy of the film make us believe we are a part of the world.
MONSTERS
The hype surrounding the monster in this film was so great that I think some of us couldn't help but be disappointed on the reveal. While the intent was to create something completely original, the alienness of the creature keeps it from feeling immediately real. Nevertheless, in fans' minds, Clover has earned a place in the pantheon of movie monsters, so I'll let it take the point here.
The MONSTERS monsters are even more alien and unreal feeling than Clover, with subpar CGI doing them no favors. Again it's the issue of the more you see, the less satisfied you are. There's something to be said for these creatures being presented as sympathetic characters in the end, but we'll get to that in a second.
FINALE
In true monster movie fashion, everyone dies (presumably). CLOVERFIELD depends so heavily on building the mystery of what the creature is that the ending feels a bit anticlimactic. After we get a few good looks at the beastie, it takes out the helicopter and leaves no survivors, and that's it. Kudos for the mysterious shot of something falling into ocean in Rob and Beth's final flashback scene, though.
As Andrew and Samantha await help, two aliens appear and share an intimate moment in their presence. While it's not a big monster movie action scene, it's a beautiful moment and the perfect ending for a film about two characters falling in love and learning what they truly value in life.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE
CLOVERFIELD moves along at a nice, fast pace and offers plenty of jump scares and dramatic moments along the way. Add to the mix plenty of light moments from T.J. Miller and company, and you get a nicely well-rounded 85 minute ride.
This is where MONSTERS really loses points. Not only does the title of the film promise more action than it delivers, but the story itself can drag at times. While it's refreshing for a monster movie to focus more on character than theatricality, the drama really needs to be gripping and well-paced to keep us engaged.
ACCOLADES
IMDB: 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 77% (Audience Score: 68%)
Metacritic: 64 (User Score: 6.2)
IMDB: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 72% (Audience Score: 52%)
Metacritic: 63 (User Score: 6.7)
CLOVERFIELD
When it comes down to it, MONSTERS is a drama with monsters, and CLOVERFIELD is a monster movie with drama, so it really depends what you're after. I really, really wanted to give this one to MONSTERS, but in rewatching both films, I found myself enjoying CLOVERFIELD more the second time around and MONSTERS less. While I'm a sucker for atmosphere and character-driven fare, MONSTERS just doesn't entertain the way CLOVERFIELD does- a huge point against a film that markets itself as a monster movie. Feel free to tell me I made the wrong choice, though; I certainly won't argue. Either way, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE comes to town this Friday. Will you be heading to the theater to see what all the mystery's about?

Agree? Disagree? Which do you prefer?
POST YOUR CHOICE BELOW!

If you have a suggestion for a future Face-Off, let us know below or send me an email at brianbitner@joblo.com.

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