Starring: Michael Stahl-David, Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan
Directed by: Matt Reeves (“The Pallbearer”)
Written by: Drew Goddard (debut)
In an age where idiotic creature features like “Primeval” and “Skinwalkers” are getting greenlit for production, you have to be a bit surprised when someone actually gets it right. Sure, the new monster flick “Cloverfield” is a bit gimmicky with its delivery, but make no doubts about it, it’s an entertaining addition to the genre.
Set in New York City (like a number of monster movies of the past), “Cloverfield” opens with a group of young adults throwing a going-away party for their friend Rob Hawkins (Stahl-David), who has accepted a job in Japan and will be leaving the next day.
The get-together gets a bit dramatic when Rob’s best friend Beth (Yustman), who he recently realized he has fallen in love with, brings a date with her to bid him adieu. Words are said that can’t be taken back and before you know it, Beth and her new man leave the party in a haste.
All the while, Rob’s friend Hud (T.J. Miller), has been capturing all the action on a camcorder (possibly for a YouTube upload after the party is over?). Despite the early fireworks, Hud and everyone else in the Manhattan area hasn’t seen the big show of the night just yet.
Minutes later, the partygoers are startled when the apartment they are in begins to shake. They head for the roof of the building to get a better look when the local news reports an oil tanker has capsized near the Statue of Liberty. “Do you think it’s another terrorist attack?” a scared individual says as they climb the stairs to see the destruction.
As they peer across the city – and as Hud continues to videotape – a building in the center of N.Y. explodes. Everyone runs back downstairs and scatters into the streets. When the head of the Statue of Liberty is thrown into the fracas, things take a turn for the worst.
An enormous Godzilla-like monster has found its way into the city and is destroying everything in its path. Rob and a small group of friends find their way out of the neighborhood as fires blaze and buildings crumble.
Instead of following the military’s orders to evacuate the Manhattan area, Rob is persistent about finding Beth. Although they have nothing invested in his love-struck and heroic plan, the rest of the group decides to follow him and hope for the best as they weave through the middle of the war zone.
Taking a voyeuristic angle to the film (Hud’s camera work tells the whole story), screenwriter Drew Goddard (TV’s “Lost”) keep the story intense and fast-paced for the quick 90-minute runtime. Although there is not much of a human element or emotional stronghold in the entire thing, the film delivers on what it has promised from its marketing campaign. We’ve seen it before when the White House is annihilated in “Independence Day” or when the Statue of Liberty is buried in snow in “The Day After Tomorrow,” but “Cloverfield” has enough of a distinctive purpose for the genre to make it something fun and terrifying to witness from the outside in.