Cloverfield departs from our usual notion of a horror film, for many reasons. Before getting to that, let me tell you the skeletal plot. It is a creature based horror film, concentrating on four New York friends, the usual mid-twenty, unassuming, amateurish, wisecracking bunch, who throw a going-away party for one of their friends and get caught up in a vortex when the creature attacks their city. Their journey to save one of their friends provides a panoramic view of the horror that is ravaging the city.
Their acting is nothing ingenuous, but the film has been shot in a manner that the acting does not demand attention, which is, perhaps good. This is again reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project which featured unknown, inexperienced people in lead roles, one of whom even won a Raspberry Award; yet it did not preclude the film’s success. This, I believe, is a clever way of focusing and limiting our attention to the manipulations of the film. One tends to treat such unknown actors as ordinary people, their lives at the mercy of the unmerciful horror; the horror is the dominant force preying on our minds.
The extraordinary, and at times nauseating, aspect of this film is the way it has been shot. The shaky camera technique has been used, since the film is seen through a recorder being held by one the characters. Thus, the warning at many theatres, “People watching this film may experience side effects similar to those caused by a roller coaster.” This gives the same realistic and macabre effects which have been exploited by earlier films like the Blair Witch Project.
The film does not fall prey to the stereotype of in-your-face blood and gore of slashers. The horror is given the benefit of our imagination, and the scenes of the creature taken sparingly and tantalisingly through that shaky camera ameliorate the effect. By following this “less is more” ideology, the film succeeds in soaring the heartbeat by preying on the stretch ability of our imagination. The creature can be anyone, depending on what one fears the most. The mind strains, with trepidation, to comprehend what is going on through that eerie shaky precarious video cam. The audience is overcome by alternate waves of nausea and horror till one does this
Another aspect of the film that has been noticed by many critics is its similarity to the post 9/11 chaos in the city. The evacuation, tall skyscrapers smashing down, people trapped in burning buildings and the singular unstoppable horrors are reminiscent of that day.
Conclusively, one must watch the film simply for the astonishing cinematography and the roller-coaster ride of thrills and frights it takes you on. The film is a prototypal monster horror experimental film of the ‘mockumentary’ genre and keeps the promises one would expect from such a film. I give it seven out of ten.
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