The internet can make or break films. Take Batman and Robin, whose startling ability to derail a hugely successful franchise can be attributed to a reputation-obliterating bombardment from Ain’t It Cool News. Likewise, Snakes on a Plane failed commercially because, for all the online hype, studios failed to differentiate between people laughing at them and people laughing with them. So where does that leave Cloverfield, backed by huge online curiosity and one of the most secretative publicity campaigns ever?
Answer: in a very good position, because it’s a bloody good movie. Essentially a monster flick shot entirely in shakycam, Cloverfield sees a group of partygoers trying to escape a ferocious leviathan which is smashing its way through New York.
To start with, Cloverfield is a truly immersive experience; the decision to frame the film through a character’s video recording allows the viewer to experience the genuine fear of being trapped in a dying city. Likewise, the acting is utterly sincere and racked with emotion. These aren’t your typical disaster movie archetypes, either, rather everyday, likeable individuals who are simply trying to survive.
And the titular monster? Brilliant. Introduced through teasing glimpses of tail and limb, the beast is a lumberingly iconic creation whose lack of back-story or motive mean that it is really just an embodiment of the terror which is gripping the city. In fact, the only problem I have with this film is actually advertised in most cinemas; motion-sickness. Sitting in a darkened room watching 84 minutes of a wobbling camera means that I ended up suffering at the hands of the “Cloverfield Illness.”
Nonetheless, this is a breathtakingly original and genuinely terrifying monster film for the (at the risk of sounding pretentious) post-9/11 world. Hideous, nihilistic and sincere, this is one of the greatest experiences you’ll have in a cinema for a long time. Just beware if you have a weak stomach.