Continuing our Mini-marathon of first person horror we take a look at Cloverfield right after the break…
America has never had its own Godzilla. Sure it’s fought Godzilla once or twice, most notably in Godzilla Vs King Kong – The winner of which was determined by which side of the World you lived on – and the less said about the American Godzilla the better. But America has never had a Godzilla of its own, not really.
Supposedly this was the same thought that went through JJ Abrams head when he was in Tokyo and was greeted with a plethora of Godzilla merchandise. He quickly came up with a story, gave it to someone else to write and Cloverfield was born.
Godzilla didn’t work because for one thing it was a terrible film, as if someone saw the T-Rex sequences in Jurassic Park and thought about how great it would be to see that in a City. For the record Spielberg did that with Jurassic Park: The Lost World, and that one stretch of film is better than the entirety of Godzilla. The other reason it didn’t work was because Godzilla is so inherently Japanese. It was a monster brought about after the advent of the bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. It was reactionary, just like the glut of Horror films directly influenced by the horrors witnessed in Vietnam.
In a way Cloverfield is the same. It’s a post 9/11 movie, and like War of the Worlds it plays on imagery from that day. Not in a callous, manufactured, way. But in a way that brings that horror closer to home. In short it makes it believable, it makes it believable because we’ve already seen it. Godzilla takes place in New York just as Cloverfield does, and its scenes of destruction ring as false and phoney as the old rubber suit of the classic ToHo Godzilla films. Cloverfield however is decidedly different. There’s no gleeful destruction here; it’s all panic and chaos, and it’s all very real.
One of my favourite moments from the film is all too brief, but it opens up a world of possibilites. While our group of survivors are on a bridge our cameraman briefly crosses path with someone else who’s also filming the events of that night. Suddenly there’s a realisation that in this digital age it makes sense that everyone would be filming. We’re so used to films like The Blair Witch Project or The Last Broadcast or even [Rec] and its sequel taking place within one camera that we never stop to think “Well what if someone else is filming all this too?”. Who knows what happens to that other person on the bridge. But there’s the exciting possibility that one day we’ll get to see their story too.
Suffice to say I liked Cloverfield, in fact I liked it a lot. It can work as a straight monster movie, or you can accept that it has its roots in something a lot more familiar than that. That’s not to say the film is perfect. You have to make pretty big leaps of logic to go along with what the main character does, and there’s a moment towards the end that we finally see the monster in all it’s glory that feels like something of a cheat. It’s a moment that plays completely false, and just seemed to be inserted so that people wouldn’t moan about not seeing the damn thing. Still, for a Summer film it has a remarkably downbeat ending, but for a post 9/11 film? Well the ending feels just about right.
*So I know I mentioned I have films with the word ‘house’ in the title coming up next, and I still do, I just thought we were on a roll with the first person thing right now. So I think I might do a few runs like this. So coming up we’ll have all the Alien films (Seeing as I get my nice Blu-Ray set soon) along with cheap knock off Galaxy of Terror, and a glut of slashers. Peppered in between is going to be some oddities. And wait for it, I think an annual viewing of the awful Manos: The Hands of Fate is in order.