Cloverfield is exactly what the Found Footage genre was designed for. It puts the audience directly in the action, taking the point of view of one of the characters and presenting the full blown horror of the situation. It is primarily used with straight horror movies and has been so saturated that the impact is beginning to wear off. Cloverfield delivers Found Footage in a different genre though.
Cloverfield was the first “monster” movie since Godzilla in 1998. Although both the newest Godzilla and arguably Pacific Rim have brought that genre back, Cloverfield was a unique prospect. What makes it more unique is the Found Footage aspect. It means that we don’t get the usual “monster tears-up city” story but something much more personal.
A lot of people would ask themselves, when watching disaster movies, “what would I do?” Cloverfield’s use of the first-person goes some way to answering that question. The first ten to fifteen minutes makes the movie personal and sets-up the journey the characters are going to take while the city is destroyed around them. It is a little bit of a reach and some of their decisions make little sense, however, it means we get different point of view on the unique premise.
It also means that we hardly get any footage of the monster and only see the destruction and impact. This doesn’t sound very appealing but actually makes the monster much more scary. It adds wonder and awe and you’ll find yourself scrutinising the dodgy camera footage as you catch a glimpse of a leg or see the creature in a fuzzy, out-of-focus shot in the far distance.
There is more to Cloverfield than just the monster though. Early news footage sees creatures dropping from the monster and we get a very terrifying moment in the subway. This is a perfect use of Found Footage, placing the audience directly in the action, in “harms way” and bringing the real aspect of the danger.
Unfortunately, Cloverfield also suffers from all the Found Footage problems that come with the genre. At some point you will wonder why T.J Miller’s Hud is still holding the camera. It is explained at one point, that Miller’s character believes the world should see this, but when he is fighting monsters, running in terror or climbing across debris, you have to believe he would have stopped filming.
It also doesn’t help that the film is mostly running and panicking. It means the footage we get is annoyingly shaky. This is of course what the camera would be like but at times you wish you’d see more than just the floor, a leg or the back of a car while you’re hearing a monster roar in the background.
Found Footage also depends much more on the characters. You are amongst them and unfortunately for Cloverfield, the characters are annoying. You don’t ingratiate yourself to them as you should in the first ten minutes and you spend the rest of the movie becoming annoyed with Miller’s constant whining, Lizzy Caplin being too angry and sarcastic and Michael Stahl-David making bizarre choices or just being obnoxious.
These are small gripes when the action really starts and the final forty minutes don’t disappoint. There are questions left unanswered and events which could be developed upon which makes a sequel to Cloverfield an interesting prospect. At it’s core though, it is an interesting way to tell a familiar story.
Overall, Cloverfield is a unique way to use Found Footage. Although the movie is scary in places, this is a disaster film and the use of first-person view places the audience in amongst the action. Unfortunately, at times it suffers from the same unrealistic problems that face Found Footage but these can be forgiven for an interesting approach.
Rating – 3.5
1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)