The F*ckin Black Sheep: Cloverfield (2008)

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We’re hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

Cloverfield (2008)
Directed by Matt Reeves

“When the group members slowly die through various attacks (or stupid decisions), it’s a joyous moment in cinema history.”

Hollywood is basically a desperate teenager, still in high school doing whatever seems the most popular or trendy thing at the moment. Case in point: 3-D movies or the found footage phenomenon. It’s like the man bun or high waisted stonewash jeans of the day (name your short lived trend). After BLAIR WITCH PROJECT helped shake the world of cinematography (terrible pun) in 1999, the trend somehow still continued through 2008 when CLOVERFIELD made theatergoers queasy. It was a decent hit, earning around $80 million ($170 million worldwide) off a $25 million budget. Not bad. And that’s why we’re getting a “spiritual successor” (according to JJ Abrams) in the upcoming 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE.

However, as I revisited CLOVERFIELD nearly a decade later, it’s one monster movie that does not hold up. The found footage gimmick is officially dead, and thank god. While I found CLOVERFIELD nauseating back in ‘08, it hasn’t aged well, looking tired and dated. It’s like looking back through old photos of yourself when you went through that goth or New Wave phase. What were you thinking? (Notice that 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE ditched the found footage angle).

Beyond the over reliance of shaky syndrome, CLOVERFIELD includes the biggest collection of who gives a f*ck characters I’ve ever seen on film (the first 15 minutes is painful). They’re bland, obnoxious, and uninteresting, which ends up an amazing feat considering something interesting continuously happens all around them. The fact that main character Rob tries to walk through Midtown Manhattan, into the heart of a Godzilla-ish rampage, while the army engages in heavy combat, is just plain stupid. Yes, he wants to find his girlfriend, but come on. Hell, I don’t even understand why this group keeps following Rob around. Why? Because he was recently promoted to VP and moving to Japan? Or maybe it’s that sharp suit and tie that makes him a leader to believe in. Regardless, when the group members slowly die through various attacks (or stupid decisions), it’s a joyous moment in cinema history because that’s one less annoying character we have to listen to.

Speaking of Hud the cameraman, I have to admit T.J. Miller never appeared on my radar until DEADPOOL, and boy he’s all over this movie as our virtual narrator (we only see Miller’s face a few times). Unfortunately, he’s comes across more insufferable than funny as he continually screams “Rob! Rob! ROB!” over and over and over. Enough already. However, he does have his moments (like when he worries in the subway tunnels about seeing flaming homeless guys).

What CLOVERFIELD does get right is the continuous teasing of the monsters. Director Matt Reeves (who went onto big success with DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) and writer Drew Goddard (recently Oscar nominated for THE MARTIAN) keep the suspense tight as we never linger in a setting too long. They keep the pace moving and the monsters are only shown in small glimpses.

But again, I’m so over the damn found footage shtick. And CLOVERFIELD works as the poster boy for the most nausea-inducing movie ever. I remember seeing it in theaters and I had to look away several times to rebalance my brain. At home is no better. And considering that $25 mil budget (and the fact it was produced by J.J. Abrams), I expect better CGI than what’s on the screen. The monsters aren’t that impressive, failing to look realistic in the moments the movie needed them to the most. Perhaps 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE will find something new to do with the genre. Here’s hoping.  





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