Monday, January 28, 2008

the weekend before last i did manage to see the big monster movie using hand-held cameras as pov a la blair witch project cloverfield. i didn't expect much since most monster movies are rarely frightening. but i admire the moxie of the directors of blair witch who managed to create a piece of cinema that i thought was disturbing because the creature chasing the 3 student filmmakers is never seen. the use of hand-held cameras also creates a bit of flavor that strengthens the limitations of working with a minuscule budget. plus, using hand-held cameras is a kind of cinema verite that i thought worked pretty effectively. in other words, i loved the style of blair witch and if there's a monster that has to attack manhattan - and it seems like a monster has to attack manhattan every other week in the world of filmdom - then by god use hand-held cameras so that the viewer - me - feels like i'm right in the midst of all the chaos and destruction.

so most of the minuscule budget of cloverfield was spent on creature cgi and special fx. yes, we see the nasty monter and yes that bitch was unstoppable. the shambles of a plot concerns a quartet of twentysomethings searching for their leader, rob's, girlfriend who left for her flat after a quarrel with rob at his own going away party, about an hour before the creature attacks. there needn't be a plot at all since the movie was about the confusion of an attack on manhattan. there were plenty of post-911 imagery, such as billowing dust and asbestos from falling buildings, people walking around dazed and shellacked with debris, papers floating to the ground and fires everywhere. nor is there an explanation as to what the monster is. there shouldn't be for in most decent horror films evil just is and that is all.

most of the set pieces were good, including the creature's attack on i think it was the brooklyn bridge. there were also shades of our lives in contemporary media culture. for example, when the head of the statue of liberty - shown both in the teaser and full trailers - is shot down the street by the creature, rob and co. stop to take pics of it with their mobile phones after it stalled on a taxicab. and when hud, our pov in this nightmarish vision, is on the brooklyn bridge he films a guy who is filming him as they both film the sight of the headless statue of liberty as she is examined by the klieg light of a police helicopter.

but before you think i hated this movie i will end this piece by saying i didn't. if the post-911 imagery screams exploitation then i must remind ourselves that the japanese responded to nuclear holocaust with their own radiation spewing monster that attacked tokyo, of which this film is so indebted. and as for the reports of people barfing up either their drinks, popcorn, lunch and/or dinner while watching this film, i can't speak for them. because i loved the jittery, sometimes unfocused lens of hud as we watch him and rob and crew try not to get eaten by the monster or blown up by the military. oh, another piece of proof that this movie is a horror film: because in this small universe made by producer j.j. abrams - of the oft red-herring baited tv series lost - and director matt reeves, the military are one of the good guys.


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