“Cloverfield” is a short, sweet horror flick that’ll scare you shitless. Before the film’s 2008 release, the project was shrouded in mystery, the premise kept almost entirely under wraps (effectively heightening the hype). Directed by Matt Reeves, “Cloverfield” is technically the baby of producer J.J. Abrams, the creator of “Lost” and most recently the director of “Star Trek” and the new “Star Wars.”
It’s basically Godzilla-meets-Blair Witch, a monster movie compounded by shaky hand-held camerawork that’ll feel disturbingly real if you’re sober and verging on all-too-plausible if you’re stoned. The story tails a group of well-intentioned 20-something yuppies in New York. Rob, the cutest of the crew, is moving to Japan, so they’re throwing him a party. In attendance at the shindig is Beth – she and Rob are secretly in love, but neither has the courage to admit it – and Rob’s best friend Hud, who is tasked with capturing everyone’s farewell bids on camera.
Then the attack begins: Something starts wreaking havoc on Manhattan. There are explosions, torrents of fire, buildings crumbling into dust, and cacophonous screams of sirens and people. The Statue of Liberty’s head hurtles down the street, torn clean off. It’s clearly a monster of some kind, though the 9/11 references are hard to miss (“Is it the terrorists?” one partygoer cries). Hud keeps filming.
The chaos and destruction of “Cloverfield” is chilling because there aren’t explanations. No one knows what the monster is. This is existential horror, the senseless kind you’d feel if a large-scale assault was actually happening. We’re never privy to grander perspectives from outside the friend group. There aren’t cuts to scientists figuring things out or examining data. (But I’m sure your stoned brain can invent some monster-origin stories).
Like most monster movies, “Cloverfield” is scariest before we ever glimpse Godzilla’s possible ancestor, a gigantic reptile who lumbers around taking out skyscrapers. The U.S. military firebombs it to no avail. Fast and deadly spider-crab hybrids drop off the creature and leap atop bystanders.
Some audiences complained the hand-held camera POV (through which we witness the entire story) gave them motion sickness. Hud has a haphazard filming style. But weed is good for nausea. Plus the movie is a clean, perfect 85 minutes. It’ll fly by before any of your buzz wears off.