(This entry is part of “Monster May,” a look at classic and iconic monster movies all leading up to the United States premiere of Godzilla on May 16. For more on what’s going on this month, check out our original post here.)
The Monster: The still unnamed E.T./Super 8 Monster ripoff (cousin?), Cloverfield Monster!
Average Size: Height, 240-300 ft; Weight, 5,806.04 Metric tons; Length, 1,200 ft.
Claim to fame: Wrecking stuff, making people nauseous, and the Cloverfield conspiracy.
Found-footage films are always pretty tricky. You have movies filled with camp and predictability like the sequels and prequels to Paranormal Activity, and you have dark yet surprising hits like Chronicle. And then there’s Cloverfield. Produced by none other than Star Trek reviver and Super 8 director J.J. Abrams , it has all the makings of a classic monster flick.
For one, it’s not just a movie. It’s an experience. Right from the get-go there’s a screen letting you know this film is “Property of the United States Government,” and that the video was found at “Incident site ‘US-144’, Area Formerly Known As ‘Central Park’.” In other words, things don’t end well. There are some more official looking warnings and stuff it starts the movie proper, but you’re already feeling apprehensive of what’s coming next.
It skips forward a month or so and Rob’s brother Jason (Mike Vogel), his fiance Lily (Jessica Lucas), and Rob’s best friend Hudson (T.J. Miller) are planning a surprise going away party for Rob, who is moving to Japan. Hudson or “Hud” get’s put in charge of the camera and begins filming personal messages from Rob’s friends, when suddenly an earthquake happens. They learn something has toppled over a large oil tanker, and as explosions and more earthquakes begin, everyone evacuates the building where they encounter a dust storm caused by a building crashing to the ground a-la 9/11. The friends all huddle for shelter and one of the girls at the party, Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) joins the group.
After getting trapped on a bridge and losing Jason, they head to a subway station and get trapped again. Finally they decide to keep moving following the tracks to another station away from what they now know is a rampaging monster. Along they way they meet some of the Monster’s Parasites, who attack the group and bite Marlena. Marlena begins to feel dizzy and look pale, and they exit the station to an underground mall which the military is using as a base. Marlena starts complaining of nausea when suddenly an entire base full of military and medical personnel realizes she’s bleeding from her eyes. The doctors freak out and rush her into a containment unit screaming “WE HAVE A BITE, WE HAVE A BITE!” and generally making things very stressful when suddenly Marlena’s body pops like a teenager’s zit.
It’s at that moment Rob get’s a call from his friend (girlfriend?) knockoff-Megan-Fox, who’s all “help me help me!,” so with the help of a soldier who tells them the army’s going to nuke Manhattan at 7 AM, they head off to help not-Megan-Fox. Well they find her and there’s a really terrible scene of them lifting her off a pole that impaled her, and they all run into the street. The Army takes Lily, and so there’s only three people left: Rob, the dude who got them into this mess, Hud, our faithful videographer, and almost-but-not-quite-Megan-Fox, who is the reason all these people aren’t safe. They get into another helicopter and are totally safe but suddenly the monster grabs them out of the sky and slams them into Central Park, killing everybody aboard. But never fear, our three heroes are totally unharmed.
Well, for now. See the Monster sees them and totally eats Hud, prompting Rob to get the camera and make a final speech before handing it to budget-Megan-Fox who says a cohesive sentence, furthering the proof that she is not, in fact, Megan Fox. And then there’s fire and things falling and it cuts to black.
It cuts back to the day in April we saw at the beginning, where confirmed-not-Megan-Fox and Rob are having a wonderful day. And then the tape runs out leaving you sad, alone, and depressed.
Oh yea there’s also a funky end thing that if you play backwards sounds like “It’s still alive.”
Realistically, this is as close to a “this would actually happen if giant Monsters existed” type scenario as you’re going to find. Sure Super 8 was crazy good, but it wasn’t as realistic as this. That being said, -5 brownie points for conveniences and coincidences.
For instance, NO MOTHER LOVING MILITARY OFFICER WOULD LET A CIVILIAN GO BACK OUTSIDE. Ever. I don’t care what’s going on, it ain’t gunna happen. Nope. Just no. Also, THEY SURVIVE FREAKING EVERYTHING INCLUDING A HELICOPTER CRASH (admittedly until the end scenes but… whatever…).
However, rule out the inconsistencies with, oh I don’t know, reality and it’s still a pretty good movie. The parasites were smart, except for the fact they basically ripped of the exploding part from Alien, and the Monster isn’t actually a bad guy. It’s a child (mind you, we humans have no idea of this, but the Monster was made to act like a frightened child, not a monomaniacal evil being).
All in all, a very VERY good addition to the monster genre. Sure, it’ll make you nauseous with all the shaky-cam and bumping and stuff but hey, that’s part of a horror movie right? Feeling sick to your stomach? Ahh get over it, it’s not like the exploding didn’t make you feel sick too.
Rating: Print. Sure it takes some breaks from logic, but it ends up working. Besides, THE MONSTER JUST TOOK THE HEAD OFF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY.
(Tomorrow is a new take on an old classic, a monster that went head-to-head with Godzilla himself!)