Little was known about Cloverfield when it was teased. I remember seeing the trailer for it before the first Transformers in 2007. The first act party scene was shown, giving us little more than the premise and setting. The entire scene played out, ending with the Statue of Liberty’s head landing in the street. I was completely enthralled.
Cloverfield is the embodiment of the mystery box, something J.J. Abrams and crew use constantly. While it’s backfired on him a bit recently (Star Trek: Into Darkness), Cloverfield perfectly nails the idea, being the embodiment of the film. The characters know as much as the audience, with only the most diligent eagle eyed viewer able to add a few more pieces to the puzzle. For me, they completely succeed on all fronts.
The plot is simple, a monster, a la Godzilla, attacks New York city the night of a character’s going away party. Deciding to rescue his lover instead of evacuating, we learn more about the creature, catching glimpses of it as it wreaks havoc. The monster is only full seen in the third act. Not one piece of promotional artwork or trailer showed the creature. This completely worked in the films favor as it added to the air of mystery. Considering this had one of the biggest openings for a movie in January, I’d say they were pretty successful.
The actors didn’t even know what sort of project they were auditioning for. Many used scripts from Lost or Alias to audition, or scripts specifically written for auditioning. Everything was kept under wraps. I’m surprised no news leaked out about the project. This is incredibly impressive in the age of the internet.
While little was explained about the monster during the movie, a few little tidbits were shown to give the audience to give closure. In a blink and you’ll miss it moment during the final scene, something can be seen falling into the ocean, a month before the attack. If you stay through to the end of the credits, you’re treated to a garbled radio communication that’s impossible to decipher unless you’re a robot. It simply says, “It’s still alive,” played backwards. Why backwards I don’t know.
Found footage films (alliteration!) rarely work unless smartly executed. Like the Blair Witch Project and first Paranormal Activity, this is one of the few times it did. The explanation must be heavily factored into the plot to be successfully executed. While it was done so here, my only complaint is how did they find the camera if the monster was still trapezing around NY? I remember signs being posted around the theater, warning people of the chance of motion sickness.
Matt Reeves directed this while Drew Goddard scripted. Reeves did the U.S. remake of Let the Right One In, Let Me In. He directed the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which I’m really looking forward to learning who this Dawn is and why she’s so important. Buffy alum Goddard however, wrote and directed Cabin in the Woods, and is heading the upcoming Daredevil Netflix show.
There’s been rumors for years about a sequel to the movie. While I would like to see more, I know it’s a bad idea. What made this special was the mystery, which the creators knew. Less is more. Though I wouldn’t mind seeing another mystery box movie. Maybe not a big budget one though.
Enjoy the mystery? Want a sequel? Comment below!
Should I watch Alias?