What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this monster movie from the creator of Lost rightly comes with a warning for viewers who are sensitive to unsteady camerawork -- the entire movie is filmed from a handheld perspective, and the images are frequently hectic and loud. Violence includes monster attacks, people running and screaming, people bitten by creatures in dark spaces, explosions, ruined buildings and landmarks, fire, bloody bodies, and military strikes. Some of the imagery initially recalls scenes from 9/11. An early scene shows a young woman in bed (presumably after sex), her naked back and side visible (nothing explicit). A party scene shows cleavage and drinking. Language includes repeated uses of "s--t" and some "damns" and "hells."
What's the story?
CLOVERFIELD begins quietly: Rob (Michael Stahl-David) wanders through an apartment overlooking Central Park, his video camera alighting on his pretty lover, Beth (Odette Yustman). They flirt and talk about visiting Coney Island, though tensions emerge when that same camera documents Rob's going-away party -- newly promoted at work, he's on his way to Japan. But such trivial concerns are quickly dispelled when a giant, reptilian monster attacks New York in an assault that initially recalls 9/11, with flaming buildings, clouds of dust, and screaming victims. Despite the risk, Rob, Lily (Jessica Lucas), Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), and Hud (T.J. Miller) make their way from downtown to rescue Beth, who's trapped in her midtown apartment. As they skitter along sidewalks and trudge through dark subway tunnels, they dodge the big monster, smaller bat-like creatures, and frightening military assaults.
Is it any good?
Combining low-budget grit with spectacular effects, the film uses its tightly focused, handheld documentary premise (recalling The Blair Witch Project) to make the monster plot extra scary. The lack of context or explanation for the attack echoes feelings of panic on 9/11, when no one could anticipate what would happen next. While the romantic quest to rescue Beth provides a recognizable plot and some events will look familiar (looting, collapsing high-rises and bridges, people using cell phones to document disaster), unlike in many similar films, here you can never be sure what's around the next corner.
But for all its mystery, the monster is mostly an excuse for the film's more ambitious experiment: creating characters out of moment-by-moment action, rather than compelling emotion. As they're thrown almost immediately into chaos, none of them are particularly well-drawn or even sympathetic. Instead, they're emotional sketches of fear and uncertainty rather than individuals with backgrounds and futures. As you can see by the several other anonymous figures who pull out their cell phones to capture the turmoil, the movie's characters are of a generation completely at ease with the concept that they should document everything around them, as well as their own "testimonies." Defined by its time and place (post-9/11 America), the film is clever, harrowing, and a wild ride.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about whether the movie's images remind them of 9/11. Do you think that was intentional? How has that event -- so much of which was captured in the media and shown on television -- affected subsequent horror/action movies?
Why is New York such an attractive target city in these movies?
Does the handheld camerawork make the action scarier? Why or why not? What other movies/media have used this approach?
Is the movie accurate in its depiction of how public events are documented (immediately filmed, commented on, blogged about, etc.) in today's world?