I’ve just gotten clearance to post a Cloverfield review, but I’m at a Starbucks on West Pico and have to be back at my home in 25 minutes in order to let a plumber in, so I’m just going to post what I’ve written about it in a letter to a friend. I’ll add to this later this morning:
Cloverfield is a monster film unlike any other — a complete original, but no less of a rock’ em-sock ’em for that.
It’s amazing in that it’s so short (by my watch about 74 minutes without credits), and yet so fierce. If Allen Ginsberg didn’t already own the title I would suggest that they call it Howl. This is not your father’s Ray Harryhausen rampaging- monster flick. Those movies, comparatively, were parlor dramas for the tame of heart. This movie is REM madness. It is Guillermo del Toro on a tab of brown acid with a little crack thrown in.
Cloverfield is a post-9.11 fever dream. As if a person who’s been through 9.11 in lower Manhattan has gone to bed traumatized and shaking with dread, and this is the dream they have. Illogical, ferocious, madball, all-engulfing….but very much of our world. Not It Came From Beneath The Sea but It Came From Someplace Deep in the National Psyche.
I don’t want to draw overly literal parallels here, but you can’t tell me this thing isn’t 9.11-inspired. You can say it isn’t and that’s fine, but I’m not buying it. Nobody will. The travelling dust cloud threatening to engulf everyone, the crowds walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, the earthquake-like impact that everyone feels at the very beginning, the molten explosion and the flying projectiles (like the scrap metal and wheels of the jets sailing down into the streets after the second plane hit)….gimme a break.
It has the illogic and surrealness of a Luis Bunuel nightmare because (and this is the genius of it) the beast doesn’t make “sense” in the way that ’50s monster films did. Explanations are entirely up to you, the viewer, because the Cloverfield victims don’t have clue #1.
In the watching of monster movies, we’ve all been trained to expect permutations of prehistoric beasts or enlarged versions of real-life animals (like King Kong). This guy…I don’t know what he is but he’s winning. (Kidding.) He’s a nightmare that “means” nothing but says everything. He’s a vision out of a Grimm Brothers fable, but one written by a deranged Matt Damon or Heath Ledger while locked in a 19th Century mental ward. He’s a fiend that a heroin addict might see in his sleep during his first night in rehab.