the studio gate

the backlot

the screening room
The Screening Room

I shut my eyes during "Cloverfield." It shook me to my core. The film was so immensely scary, I closed my eyes like a child. But it wasn't the monster that shook me. It was the camera work by a supposed modern-day yuppy that made me nauseous. Really, really nauseous.

The concept of "Cloverfield" that had fan boys panting after its first preview is enticing and fun. Imagine a terrifying creature that suddenly lays waste to Manhattan and you've pretty much guessed the plot. We don't care about the pretty 20-somethings that inhabit the film. They're simply fodder for what's going to happen eventually. They're going be under attack and they're going to run, cuss, scream and behave like young actors would in a similar situation. Overacting is the key. The actors in most of the Godzilla movies I've seen are more convincing. Destroy the iPod generation! All we really want is monstrous destruction, and the film does deliver that.

It's just a film, I know. But I had some issues with it. The camera work took me completely out of the film. I had to stop the DVD just to get my balance. Good thing I didn't see this movie on a 60-foot screen. The camera work, though carefully choreographed and lit by professional cinematographer, Michael Bonvillain, ASC, is worse than being on a puke ride at a local carnival. The movie would've, with the deletion of the camcorder carrying "actor," been much more fun to watch. For me, this wasn't an enjoyable experience. The scares and destruction scenes would've worked in spades without the camcorder-as-a-character storyline. One of the first things I learned with using any camera is to keep still and keep your balance. Don't nauseate your audience. Sometimes occasional hand-held camera works to augment a part of a scene is okay by me. But this film purposely keeps you off-balance, and it's not necessarily a good thing. "Jaws" was shot on the wide open sea, handheld. Bill Butler's cinematography is rock steady. I don't believe most audience members in 1975 got sick from sea sickness in watching that film. They got sick from the on-screen gore. A simple change in "Cloverfield's" script might've made this a much easier ride to take.

The film has quite a few references to the real destruction that happened on 9/11. I guess we've come to a point in time that there are going to be more movie references to that horrible day as time goes by. Films were made during and after many of history's most horrific tragedies, so this isn't anything new. The difference for me is that 9/11 still seems so fresh, that some of "Cloverfield's" images of people running from smoke and concrete from the collapsing Chrysler Building are a little bit unnerving.

The monster scare tactics that were hyped by fan boys on the Internet do work, but they're nothing too original. We get the usual jump-out-at-you and make you jump-in-your-seat visual and sound effects. There are some clever sound effects, especially for the spawn of the "Cloverfield" monster hiding out in Manhattan. But we also get references to "Alien" and even "E.T." In other words, "Cloverfield" feels like a combination of previous monster and alien movies we've seen before. The movie does offer some good scares, though. By the time we get to the horror of the beast from the Hudson River (or wherever it's from), we're looking for motion sickness medicine.

The cast seems like they came from the "Beverly Hills, 90210" school of acting. Nearly every cast member is skinny, pretty, handsome and well-to-do. Hairstyles and clothes are perfect, and everyone talks in "dude" or "hey, man" talk. These are some damned successful 20-somethings to be livin' the high life in Manhattan. Heck, even the lead character has been promoted to some V.P. job in Japan (get the connection?).

I'm getting cynical about "Cloverfield." It is entertaining to a degree. But next time a monster attacks your major city, put the camera down and run. Leave the camera work to the professionals.
Bill Kallay
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved.

Quick Glimpse


Playful ode to Godzilla movies, but shakey camerawork causes its undoing

Director: Matt Reeves 

Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller    


Lots of extras



Picture: Very Good
Sound: Very  Good

J.J. Abrams is the man of the hour, next to Judd Apatow

Aspect Ratio (1.85:1)

Dolby Digital 5.1

April 22, 2008