This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “Cloverfield.”
The Movie: “Cloverfield”
Starring: Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan
Director: Matt Reeves
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A group’ of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77 percent
Brown: So, during last week’s Halloween Month selection, we went in-depth with a horror movie classic in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” And this week, we are doing a deep dive into one of the horror movie tropes that modern-day filmmakers have beaten into the ground like mobsters to Joe Pesci in “Casino”: Found footage.
Cheap. Relatable. Nauseating. “Blair Witch Project” popularized it. “Paranormal Activity” milked it dry for five movies and a spin-off. And according to Wikipedia, a movie called “Cannibal Holocaust” used the technique as well, making me wish we had done “Cannibal Holocaust.”
For our look into this trope, I picked “Cloverfield,” which is classified as a horror movie but is basically a first-hand look at a Godzilla attack.
And, I’m huddled up in blankets on a weekday because watching 90 minutes of jittery, spinning cameras put a knot in my stomach.
Baby Groot, help the audience visualize how I feel.
While I clean up, give us your initial take on this genre and “Cloverfield,” Froemming.
Froemming: I spent about an hour-and-a-half being nauseated, not by the monsters and blood, but because the shaky camera effect just bothers me a lot. Also, going in, if this movie made me hate TJ Miller and Lizzy Caplan, I was going to be very upset.
I’m not upset. I am just vaguely wondering why the Rob character went into a disaster zone to find a one-night stand he kinda liked at the beginning, but is suddenly in love with once Better-CGI-Doomsday began terrorizing the Big Apple. That’s the whole movie folks! Let’s go to recommendations!
Brown: I mean, we could because you did just summarize the plot. But sorry, dude. We have a film to nitpick.
But, I will make the start of this movie short because NOTHING happens for 18 minutes.
We get a look at a pretty sweet apartment to open the movie. It’s 6:45 a.m. and a guy is narrating the whole thing (we find out later it’s our main character, Rob). I did double check and I was not watching an adult film, because ALL adult films start this way.
Instead, it shows Rob going on a date with this girl named Beth. And right away I’m irritated because everyone had that friend in high school who filmed everything, and NOBODY liked that person. And this whole movie is being that person. It’s the “Being John Malkovich” I never wanted.
Froemming: Their date is going to Coney Island, and I hope their subway ride was better than the gang from “Seinfeld” was.
Brown: Or, the Warriors. Don’t forget the Warriors.
Froemming: Before this, we get a brief description that the film was found at what used to be called Central Park, so I knew right away all the characters would be dead at the end.
What was jarring was this footage from April is then cut in and out with footage from May, of a going away party for Rob, because he is going to Japan. The camera duties are given to his friend,
Erlich Bachman who would become a huge thing in Silicone Valley Hudson “Hud” Platt (TJ Miller), a man who is rightfully obsessed with my current crush, Marlena Diamond (Caplan). Hud needs to get “Real World” style testimonials from Rob’s friends.
One, I don’t think this movie understands how video cameras work, and this came out in 2008.
Two, if anyone asked me to give a video testimonial at a college-party-from-hell like we see in this film, it would be nothing but a stream of obscenities.
Brown: The start of this movie gave me such anxiety because there are few things I hate more than house parties. Watching a bunch of small talk with people I don’t care about makes me want to find the only person I know, sit on a couch and drink.
I don’t socialize very well.
Here, we get some drama when Beth shows up to the party with another guy. Now she’s in an awkward place, Rob is upset and everyone (because Hud is a gossip) knows the two slept together.
Trying to cool off Rob, Jason (Rob’s brother) and Hud go out on the fire escape (which New Yorkers always do in movies) to have a heart-to-heart.
And then, something FINALLY happens. The earth shakes and everyone is in a panic.
In a moment with earthquakes, power outages and a news report of a capsized oil tanker, you would think Hud would drop the camera and bolt. NOPE.
Froemming: Look, Hud holds this camera throughout 95 percent of this movie, so we get the stoned commentary of this guy about the goings on. And it really took me out of this, because I’m sorry, the head of the Statue of Liberty comes crashing down 10 feet in front of me, I’m throwing that camera in the general direction of the madness in self-defense. Because I am a coward.
But alas, Hud is a trooper. A very, very stoned trooper.
So there is a loud crash, the city shakes and the power goes out. This is about seven years after 9/11, which actually kind of gives this sort of panic a little more scary realism, at least it did for me.
Brown: Hud is a trooper. But, this is a movie and you want me to be sucked into this world of a monster destroying New York and putting an entire city in a panic, a guy holding a camera saying “Oh my God, did you see that, guys” takes me out of the experience. I don’t want to be reminded that I’m watching a movie.
One bit I did enjoy was when the Statue of Liberty’s head lands in the street, you see a bunch of people start taking photos of it on their cell phones, probably to put it on Facebook. I don’t know how many times I’ve scolded my sister for taking photos for Facebook of her toddler son getting into trouble instead of, you know, stopping him.
Froemming: Yup, and concerts. People, put down your damn phones and watch the damn concert.
NOW GET OFF OF MY LAWN!
Brown: No, I agree. I don’t want your crappy cell phone video of a song showing up on YouTube when I want to find a legit live version. No one wants this.
Froemming: Anyway, the head of Lady Liberty comes crashing down, and we see these cool-looking fireballs being lobbed at buildings, causing them to explode and my lizard brain felt joy in not having to think about things and just watch some ‘splosions. And now, the people in Midtown are rightfully in full panic mode. Also, Hud creeps on Marlena via camera even in trying times. Should have tried to offer her an egg instead, like Frank Reynolds would have.
Brown: Naturally, they decide to evacuate, so we’re off to the Brooklyn Bridge because when a monster attacks, I want to be hovering over a river. As the group starts to cross, Rob gets a phone call from Beth. She’s in trouble! The wall in her apartment collapsed and she sounds like she’s hurt.
True love calls, since Rob has had a crush on Beth forever, so he’s going back against his brother’s wishes.
Well, Jason doesn’t believe in love, and he gets a collapsed bridge death because of it because our monster knocks down the Brooklyn Bridge with its tail.
So we’re off to Midtown to find Beth.
Another quick wrinkle: While in an electronics store, we find out there are also tiny parasite monsters that our big monster has unleashed. And they look like minis of the bugs from “Starship Troopers.” My crush on Dizzy from that movie approves of this decision.
Froemming: He had a one-night stand with Beth a month ago, and then ghosted her because he was moving to Japan. Sounds like true love!
Brown: They do say on the fire escape that Rob has liked Beth for a long time. But yeah, that’s not the actions of a man who really is in love.
Froemming: He comes off as a toxic person. Not Harvey Weinstein toxic, but toxic nonetheless. Sleeps with her, ghosts her, then comes to her rescue in an emergency….
Wait, this is the D.E.N.N.I.S system, isn’t it?
Brown: So you’re suggesting the “Cloverfield” monster is helping Rob nurture Beth’s dependence on him?
That’s a hell of a wingman.
Froemming: We don’t know all the facts. Moving to Japan, suddenly Godzilla pops out of nowhere….something’s fishy here.
Our heroes are now on the march to Beth’s apartment. Why Marlena and Hud decide to follow this guy, I will never know. I would have ditched him the first chance I got.
Brown: Don’t forget Lily, Jason’s girlfriend that follows Rob around now like an orphaned fawn.
Froemming: Rob showed no sadness for his brother dying. He is kinda a piece of (REDACTED).
Brown: I bring up Lily because I found her beautiful. You swoon over Marlena, I swoon over Lily, even though she spends the movie running from the monster in heels like a fashionable dummy.
Froemming: The streets are not safe, so what do they do? Well, take the subway, kinda like the Warriors. But the trains are not running, and the gang figures they can safely cover what looks like 60 miles in less than a half-hour on foot.
I’ve been to Manhattan, I question the time it takes these people to travel around the city. It’s (REDACTED) huge.
Brown: According to Google Maps, it’s 3.5 or 4 miles and would take 60-90 minutes to walk. So, score one for “Cloverfield.”
Froemming: According to Google Maps, you can go ahead and suck it.
Anyway, they take the subway tunnels. And things start getting a little off, because the rats are fleeing as if they sense Charlie Kelly down there. We then hear strange, guttural noises and suddenly those monsters from “Starship Troopers” attacks everyone. I wish Hud dealt with those creatures like he dealt with children who sold his buddy bunk drugs (NSFW).
Brown: Quick theory on this movie: Because of what happens to New York thanks to the monster, the government announces that the city will be turned into a giant prison for the worst of the worst criminals. And then, Snake Plisskin eventually flies in to save the president in “Escape From New York.”
So after the attack from the monster’s minions, our four heroes find a safe haven to patch up Marlena, who got bit by one of those things. And when those things do appear on screen (thanks to using the night-vision on the camera), it’s probably the only real scare in the movie. You know it’s coming, but it could make for a scare for those not paying attention.
This really wasn’t a horror movie. Suspenseful, I’ll buy. Scary, no.
While Hud gives his thanks, Marlena becomes Dante from “Clerks” and reminds everyone she wasn’t even supposed to be here today.
In hindsight, that makes sense. Hud is as dimwitted as Randall.
Froemming: Actually, Dante was the dimwit in “Clerks,” but whatever.
They find themselves now in a department store that now occupied by the military, and Marlena can get the medical help she really needs. But we see there is something more off with her after the bite, and the last we see of her is with blood coming out of her eyes and she explodes into blood behind a curtain. So…that’s a thing with these creatures, I guess. It’s like they just make up the dangers of these things as they go along.
And, for some (REDACTED) reason, these military guys are pretty cool with Hud filming the disaster and everything going on.
Brown: Right?! They tell him to shut it off at one point. But you’re the military! You have guns! Make him surrender the camera! But NOPE, this is the stupid medium we decided to tell our story with, so Hud HAS to keep the camera.
A military guard lets the group go but gives them a warning: Be at the evac point at 6 a.m. or else you’re getting destroyed when the “Hammer Down Protocol” is implemented and Manhattan will be destroyed in an effort to kill the monster.
Froemming: This is a very stupid movie. I suspend logic for a lot of things when I watch films, but this is (REDACTED) off the walls idiotic. No military personnel would allow civilians to wander into a disaster zone like this with a warning to meet up at the right spot like parents do with children at a mall, and they sure as (REDACTED) wouldn’t talk about nuking Manhattan off the planet ON CAMERA!
(REDACTED) you, movie.
But alas, our three dimwits are now off to save Rob’s girl, and if I were Hud at this point, I would have told him I’m out. It’s his problem, not mine.
Brown: I would have been out at the bridge. But I’m the master of my domain and I would have gone full Kramer by exclaiming “I’m out” when I found out I’d have to walk up 40 flights of stairs to save Beth from her Time Warner Center apartment.
Froemming: They should have been Ghostbusters-exhausted on that climb.
Brown: Nope. We’re watching Olympians, apparently.
Rob, Lily and Hud all scale a leaning building for this woman, who appears dead with a piece of rebar pierced through her chest.
Only… she’s alive. She’s alive?! A piece of rebar is STICKING OUT OF THE LEFT SIDE OF HER CHEST! HER HEART HAS METAL THROUGH IT!
(REDACTED) you, movie.
Froemming: She’s fine, they just have to yank her from that metal and she is right as rain, because this movie might actually lose an IQ test with the president.
Brown: OK, let’s say she somehow lives through rebar through the chest. That would surely weaken Beth, right? NOPE. Later, she’ll get into a helicopter crash and SURVIVE.
We watched “X-Men,” didn’t we? This is the only way she lived through this.
Froemming: We watched “Logan,” and I am not sure he would have survived what Beth went through in this, even with his mutant powers.
Now, they make the evacuation, Lily on one helicopter, never to be seen again, and the three others on another. Then the “Hammer Down Protocol” is about to happen. And it looks like the creature is hurt.
But it is not, and I think its tail smacks the helicopter and it crashes, and I laughed pretty hard at that, because this movie is so stupid.
Brown: You want stupid? We’ll review “Lucy” sometime.
I will say, I appreciate a horror movie where the black person survives, so godspeed, Lily.
Now, our leftover trio, who are apparently unbreakable like Bruce Willis in that M. Night Shyamalan movie are waking up in Central Park. Hud’s masterpiece appears to be done as he picks up the camera… until the monster reveals itself over him and kills our videographer.
Now, thoughts on the up-close reveal, Froemming? The glimpses we got of the monster seemed more menacing since it was this long-limbed thing. And then when we see it, it’s knockoff Cthulhu meets ‘90s Godzilla. All it needed was that Puff Daddy-Jimmy Page song that everyone hates but I secretly enjoy.
Froemming: I thought it looked like Snoke from “Force Awakens,” so another thing JJ Abrams recycled from one project to the next, I guess.
And why did this huge monster single out Hud? The thing was tearing down buildings all through this, but suddenly it singles out some random dude with a camcorder? Sure, why not.
Rob and Beth now hobble to safety in a tunnel in Central Park. Rob, for reasons (?) decides they should record more testimonials, because even on the brink of death, his priorities are still on being a YouTube sensation.
Brown: It’s pointless. I’m convinced Beth survives this. She’s already survived a pierced heart and a helicopter crash. She’ll be like Nordberg the rest of her life, but she’ll still be breathing.
Froemming: You saying Beth will be jailed for breaking into a place and trying to steal property that once belonged to her? And at one point be accused of killing her wife?
Brown: Wouldn’t shock me. That apartment seemed nice. If anything, Beth is a Highlander.
So anyways, the monster appears to destroy Central Park, we get one final glimpse of the date Rob and Beth went on a month ago, and the credits do some sequel baiting that I neglected to watch.
Froemming: I skipped them as well. Let’s record our testimonials over in recommendations.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Brown: No. It’s not bad. But, it’s an insult to the brain and a test of your gag reflex because of how it’s shot. If you do see it, take some Dramamine.
Froemming: I was mildly entertained, but I would say no. It is not a very good film.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: