Film Reviews

CLOVERFIELD (Victoria)

By • Jan 16th, 2008 •

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Not for anyone over 30.

CLOVERFIELD is exactly what happens in the case of an extreme catastrophe. How long did it take before we knew exactly what happened to the Twin Towers? Clearly, the first responders -the Fire and Police Departments of New York, the Port Authority Police Department, and the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management – did not know the true extent of the disaster.

When it happens again, how many first responders will rush in to help?

In the scenario presented in CLOVERFIELD, a group of young people are celebrating a going-away party when an alien monster pounds into New York City. Mayhem breaks out. Nobody knows anything. And while thousands of New Yorkers are filming the carnage, it seems only one digital camera made it intact and became the official government documentation on the attack. It’s theZapruder film of the 21st Century.

Remember the great UFO flap of the1980’s? Remember the stampede of people claiming aliens from another world were abducting them and transporting them to makeshift hospitals rooms in flying saucers? Remember sex with aliens? The ubiquitous cell-phone camera and pocket digital camera would be a decade away. I met a Masai warrior in Kenya who carried a stick, a lion’s claw, and a cell-phone. He was tending his cattle. I saw monks in Lhasa, Tibet talking on cell-phones.

Alien abductions are a thing of the past because no one has successfully filmed their dreams. If you didn’t film it, it didn’t happen.

In any emergency the first thing people do is not get out of the way. They take out the cell-phone or digital-camera and start recording (see Thailand Tsunami videos). So as soon as an alien invasion of lower Manhattan happens, it is all recorded by “Hud.” He’s a lousy photographer but has been assigned to memorialize his friend’s party.

Where is R. Kelly when you need him?

Hud keeps on recording even after he shows us his crummy filming technique. He takes his camera to the streets and records for posterity the run for the bridge.

If you thought looking at pictures of people’s pets in Santa hats or their grandkids was painful, watch camera work without a “stabilizer.”

CLOVERFIELD is entirely filmed in “digital-camera reality”. It’s a neat concept and, using the hysteria of an alien monster stomping through Manhattan, a perfect set-up for absolute chaos. There’s screaming and jittery camera work. No one has a personality worth saving. Hud didn’t bother filming anything interesting pre-invasion.

Using the techniques of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and HOSTEL (the necessary calm before the storm opening where we watch the characters just being ordinary), we spend the first part of CLOVERFIELD suffering through a noisy, boring party. Since Hud is not interested in people or being an astute observer, we learn nothing about the people he films before the building they are partying in starts to crumble.

CLOVERFIELD is what we are now used to seeing on YouTube – lousy production values and cheap digital camera work. The filmmakers didn’t bow to pressure to slip in some standard Hollywood film work, and it never moves away from Hud’s point of view.

As far as depicting chaos, CLOVERFIELD is as close as one can get. And I love the truth it shows: The world might be going to Hell in a hand-basket, but it is also the right time to pick up that flat-screen TV you were coveting.

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