The Speculist: What the Heck Was THAT?


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What the Heck Was THAT?

Just got home from watching Cloverfield, the much anticipated new monster movie from producer J. J. Abrams. Stephen and special guest Tobias Buckell and I speculated a little about this movie on a recent FFR. We had a few questions:

1. What exactly is the monster?

2. Will the monster ever be shown?

3. Once it is shown, won't it all be sort of a let down?


I'm very pleased to report that the answers to these questions are:

1. Beats the heck out of me.

2. More or less.

3. Nope.

I'm also pleased to report that Cloverfield does not disappoint on any level. The closest I came to being disappointed by the film was in seeing, very near the end, about five seconds more of the monster than I really wanted. But in this age of movies that hit us over the head, across the shoulders, down the middle, and back up again by every possible angle of every variation of every fantastic image we could never even hope to imagine, the thing that impresses me most about Cloverfield's treatment of its subject is summed up in one magic word: restraint.

By limiting the POV to what can be seen through the viewfinder of a handheld camcorder, director Matt Reeves has given us an up-close and in-your-face, at times almost claustrophobic, victim's-eye view of a city under siege by Some Great Big Thing.

Think Godzilla meets the Blair Witch.

Even so, the movie is neither sparing with its shocks nor parsimonious with its special effects. Once the action starts, you're hooked. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat several times during the brief 90 minutes or so that Cloverfield requires to tell its tale.

Although the action is all limited to what goes on in a single camcorder, the story involves us in several plot lines, and even manages to pull off a credible flashback sequence which frames the main narrative. There is nothing particularly deep or complex about the soap-opera lives of the beautiful young people on whom this adventure falls, but I have to admit that I got so caught up in their personal drama in the first 10-15 minutes of the movie that it almost came as a shock when the first KAPOW! hit and suddenly I was watching a monster movie.

I won't say anymore. I don't want to spoil anything for anyone. Okay, except one thing: a number of disgruntled teenagers in my immediate vicinity were highly disappointed by the ending, one even claiming he was going to ask for his money back. All I can tell you is that the end of the movie is clearly spelled out both in the opening frames of the film and in the trailer that I'm sure we've all seen by now.

To quote another highly entertaining film: are you watching closely?

Anyhow, go see Cloverfield. You'll like it.


I saw Cloverfield this morning and absolutely hated it. As much as I don't think anything I say about it could ruin what will probably be one of the 3 worst movies I will see this year, I will say that the central gimmick of the movie and how they tried to validate it is the central reason for its failure. I expect a decent weekend box office with a huge drop off after word of mouth gets out.

What a huge letdown.

Well, so far it's running a respectable 76% over at Rotten Tomatoes. But it does seem to be either a you-love-it-or-you-hate-it kind of a deal.

As I mentioned, some of the younger crowd at the showing I attended definitely fell into the "hate it" category.

I thought it was very clever. Not sure which "central gimmick" you're referring to, but I found all of the movie's many gimmicks quite effective.

Saw it last night with my wife. She's not big on horror/monster movies, as they give her nightmares.

This one did just that for her.

I loved it. I think it is one of the best monster flicks I've ever seen. And I grew up on these things. It beats the hell out of the Matthew Broderick "Godzilla" (that may not be saying much to some people!), which I enjoyed for the shear campiness of it all, if for nothing else.

Cloverfield was extremely well directed. It did a masterful job of getting enough clear shots of the horror and terror to convey the immensity of the situation, while not showing so much that one became inured to it all. And I quite often found myself using body english to try to get the camera to move so I could see more! Edge-of-the-seat indeed.

What I found interesting was how Hud (T.J. Miller) almost stole the whole movie, even though he had perhaps 2 minutes total of camera time. That, again, was direction.

Loved it, loved it. I may just go see it again (don't do that too often) just to take in all of atmosphere.

The movie was alright. Kind of a cool concept, but the ending was lacking.

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