Cloverfield

A 20-something documents a monster’s reign over Manhattan with his video camera.

Cloverfield

Directed by Matt Reeves (PG-13)

A 20-something documents a monster’s reign over Manhattan with his video camera.

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★★

Cloverfield is the “most intense and original creature feature I’ve seen,” said Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle. Producer J.J. Abrams, who won over television viewers with Lost and Alias, has paired up with his Felicity buddy Matt Reeves for this big-screen horror flick. Cloverfield is a monster-takes-Manhattan story told from the victim’s point of view, offering only glimpses of the amphibious beast and letting viewers’ imaginations fill in the rest. The audience takes in the “catastrophic, literally earthshaking events through the lens of one character’s digital video camera.” This unique style of shooting makes Cloverfield a “monster movie in the grand tradition.” There’s nothing lofty about this film except the pride it takes in its gimmickry, said Dana Stevens in Slate.com. Cloverfield is basically a “line-’em-up, pick-’em-off horror movie that’s effective without being either viscerally frightening or emotionally moving.” What Abrams ended up creating was a cross between Godzilla and The Blair Witch Project that plays out like a videogame version of 9/11. “There’s no way you can watch downtown panic and crumbling towers without it seeming a bit … familiar,” said Richard Corliss in Time. Abrams claims he wasn’t out to exploit the 2001 attacks, and I believe him. But New York “is as irresistible to filmmakers as it is to terrorists.” Cloverfield’s problem isn’t luridness but lack of creativity: We’ve seen movie monsters destroy these same buildings countless times before.

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