Cloverfield Film Review


Cloverfield Film Review:

Recently, I did an annual watch of a film favourite of mine, this film was Cloverfield which came out on the 18th January 2008 for public viewing in Theaters and later on DVD which was how I originally saw the film and watched it recently. In my opinion this film was incredibly monumental to me for many reasons, the marketing was extremely interesting and engaging, the new take on a found footage film around the time when the genre of found footages dying out and its allegorical approach at cultural anxiety post September 11th 2001. I will explore these aspects of the film in this review.

The premise for Cloverfield is quite simple, a group of friends are having a leaving party for the protagonist ‘Rob’ before he leaves New York for Japan for his new job venture until “something” attacks the city and are left in a position to escape New York. The first thing the viewer is going to notice if you watch this film is that its’ found footage, sadly this may turn some people off from this film as I don’t think found footage had the best track record especially at that time with clones of Blair Witch Project Rip-offs which had less of a thought compared to Cloverfield. The found footage is extremely important in this film as you would not have the same film without it and is used to comment on our current generations technology on documenting tragic events, this found footage is also used to recapture the style of the horrifying footage from the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and this is incredibly obvious not just from the camera work but from the mise-en-scene, smashed buildings, cars on fire, smoke, debri and lots more. The directors even stated these influences in interviews so It is not just a coincidence.

The film was also met with criticisms of its decision to incorporate heavy influences from the event which killed 2,977 people with critics bashing it saying “Cloverfield harnesses the horror of 9/11…and repackages it as an amusement-park ride... It says a lot about how far we are now removed from the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, that it has become fodder for Hollywood…If 1950s horror films were really about the communist threat … then why can’t modern horror films mirror our own fears about real-life terrorism? There’s no reason that they can’t. But there’s also no reason we have to accept the cheapening of real-life tragedy as a means of entertainment”.




I respect these criticisms on this film for giving people an open perspective on the films we are watching these days and trying to make sure the victims and people affected by this event were not treated with disrespect, however, I believe this film still gave respect to the situation as it is a survival story not a star-studded action film which pretends 9/11 did not happen. The film therapeutically took people back to September 11th to remind what people at the time were thinking, feeling and overall processing on the day of the attack with lines in the film reminiscent to the people predicting that America was at war when the second plane hit the south tower, “were at war”. A lot of similarities from what I have mentioned can be seen in this clip from the film. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkFcHUvyJ-k).

I think it’s bold for this film to recreate the similar horrific imagery of the terror attack on the World Trade Center as it gives us a reminder that this has happened and I think it’s a more respectful route than pretending it didn’t happen like the censorships we saw in films at the time with Spider-man (2002), Lilo & Stitch (2002), Men In Black 2 (2002) which removed involvement of The World Trade Center or anything involving planes and skyscrapers. The film is in my opinion terrifying and I think it really gives the viewer a sense of how scary being in a situation like this would be, having to face an overwhelming force, something you couldn’t stop.

The confusion met by the characters in this film reflects back to our audience as we also don’t know what is attacking the city, this is another key factor alongside the found footage which keeps us immersed in the chaos we are witnessing on screen. The filmmakers do slowly reveal what is attacking the city but it is teased and kept to the side for a chunk at the start to build the setting of the film and to help us relate to the characters we are following. This technique is called an Enigma Code, however according to the film’s producer, J.J Abrams, it’s called a ‘Mystery box’. It’s an obvious tactic in a majority of his produced tv shows and films (Super 8, Lost, Elias, 10 Cloverfield Lane) and is used to just keep us immersed by making us question the situation. This sense of mystery ties extremely well to the context here of this film as this sense of mystery in the film keeps us engaged wanting to know more and more about the situation.


The marketing for the film was also incredibly important (just like Blair Witch Project) as it managed to involve an ARG (Alternate Reality Game) into it. This involved secret websites you could find online detailing dodgy and mysterious situations, this impacts the film heavily as it gives brief explanantions/ better understanding to certain things in the film but also really built anticipation for this films release with it’s use of enigma codes. If you want to see an example of the ARGS incorporated in this film, follow this link (http://www.jamieandteddy.com/password.php) and put “jllovesth” on the login, this leads to a bunch of video’s tied to the film (https://cloverfieldclues.blogspot.com/2007/09/jamieandteddycom.html).


A problem I tend to have with this film is it’s nihilistic perspective as there is no positive message shining out of it, it’s just a film of people running and screaming for their life, however, I think this nihilistic behaviour supports the realist perspective and makes this film more scarier as it feels quite relatable with the moral confusion we get when situations happen like this and makes us know that the film is not going to hold anything back. A slight warning to my next section of this review as I am going to have to delve into spoilers, I do recommend seeing this film without having any knowledge of what happens in it or what is causing the attack as I don’t think it is a film that you want to ruin for yourself.



Spoilers Below!


During the survivors attempt to escape New York, the film reveals what is attacking the city and (surprise, surprise!) is a monster, nothing else is made clear in the film about it’s origins and as this is from a point of view of a civilian we don’t need to know any more than that, we are in the perspective of someone who is seeing this creature for the first time.

The film is extremely well at managing the creature as it doesn’t let it overstay it’s welcome or turn into a big monster battle/ creature feature, the film tends to build it’s fear from it’s atmosphere not the monster like previously mentioned. The fact we get to see what the villain is in the film was refreshing as that wasn’t common when Found Footage blew up again with Blair Witch Project (1999). The film’s plans according to the producer J.J Abrams was to create America’s own monster just like how Godzilla was Japan’s big monster. I found this very interesting as Godzilla was originally an allegory on the use of nuclear weapons and captured the cultural anxiety many had from the nuclear bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This shows how clever Cloverfield was at making a monster film, it took and looked at deep roots of what made a monster film great, not the big massive battles waged against monsters, humans and other monsters but the fears present in our political/social climate.

“We also must never forget the most vivid events of recent history. On September the 11th, 2001, America felt its vulnerability – even to threats that gather on the other side of the earth. We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat, from any source, that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America” - George W. Bush, 2002.

Thanks for Reading!



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