Sunday, January 20, 2008


This post will try to encapsulate my reaction after taking in the new film Cloverfield. This is a reactionary piece of film making, a response to our fear that we are never safe from unknown threat. This is the first great response to the devastation that fell upon New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, yet it has nothing to do with terrorists (well, while there are no such characters in the film, we can clearly see that this is what is meant).

In order for a horror film to work it has to instill panic, otherwise it's just a monster ride through a carnival spookshow. What Cloverfield manages is, is not only to grab you by the throat and take you on a devastating hellride, but it plants seeds of fear into your conscious mind. What you don't see is what you fear most. I'm glad the threat is never explained. It is shown and best of all the audience must decide what it is and where it came from by the clues that are suggested through bits of scattered dialogue.
The secret to this film's success is that it sets up the unlikely premise, strands the characters and then puts you in their shoes as they try to:
A) realize what it is that is attacking
B) discover their escape plan
C) throw off their rescue attempt with several turns of unexpected events.

But most frighteningly of all is the depiction of a ruined New York and how I would escape this devastation. Seeing the Brooklyn Bridge crumble under the wrath of the unknown beast, I immediately thought: they can't rebuild that. My mother lives just above Central Park in NYC and my most reactionary response was: I hope she knows to take the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey. I wasn't so much frightened for the characters in the film but all of NYC. Most of my family lives there. The sense of extinction is a devastating one when I consider it.
I know that this movie isn't about a monster wrecking havoc in a big city. This movie is about how people responded, what they felt, what they saw on Sept. 11, 2001. Again, I thought of my mother sitting on a park bench just west of the Brooklyn Bridge on that day and her not knowing what had transpired, and wondering to herself (as she later explained) where that big cloud was coming from. It stands to remind a movie audience that no one would be ready for something like that, no one was ready for something like that.
This goes back to what I said in my manifesto that films should leave a mark on you in any way that it can. With this film, I believe the makers achieved what they set out to do.

"This movie was so low-budget. It looks like it was filmed on a camcorder."
--theater patron's comment while I waited to use the restroom.

1 comment:

Catch22 said...

I would have to agree that a film should make you feel that it has some kind of influence of emotion. Or even spark a memory of something that you haven't thought about for some time....I really enjoyed reading this entry....