While being one of the most intense and eerie films I’ve seen, Cloverfield is a very, very American film.
Produced by J.J Abrams and directed by Matt Reeves, this found footage thriller tells the story of a group of friends celebrating a going away party in New York. Suddenly a giant beast attacks the city, destroying buildings and killing thousands. Recording their journey on a camcorder, the group try to survive as they navigate through the crumbing landscape.
I call Cloverfield an American film because it seems to be an allegory for one of the country’s most devastating events. Like the original Godzilla, which was a metaphor for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, Cloverfield is a metaphor for 9/11.
At the beginning we see the group partying, gossiping, drinking; things civilized people do, they’ve got no serious worries. Like America before 9/11, they’re confident and naïve.
Then the monster attacks and everything changes. Robert Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), the protagonist, goes from a successful, worry-free businessman to a man running for his life. You could say that the character himself is a representation of America’s spirit.
There’re many scenes that are clearly reminiscent of September 11th. A good example is when the monster takes down the Woolworth building, releasing a wave of smoke and dust down through the streets.
The characters are pretty bland but they’re supposed to be average American citizens, if they had individual quirky personalities and deep, complex back-stories then the thematic expression would’ve been disrupted and not as clear.
While Cloverfield is a great metaphor it’s also a good horror film. Through the found footage perspective we experience the monster’s strength and dominance as it destroys the environment around us. We, like the characters, feel absolutely powerless.
On top of that we know little to nothing about the beast. Like most of history’s scariest antagonists, mystery is the most feared quality. There’re implications that the monster is an alien from another world or a mutation from the sea. Despite those suggestions though, the film is obviously a snippet from a larger story so at the end of the day we don’t know.
Overall Cloverfield is a very underrated film and in my opinion is the second best found footage film after The Blair Witch Project (its easily tops Paranormal Activity by the way). I highly recommend watching it this Halloween.
Allegorical and intense, Cloverfield earns a respectful 8 out of 10.