“I Had A Good Day”

So, I watched Cloverfield awhile back, and I don’t know what everyone was bitching about, but honestly? It kind of rocked.

Cloverfield’s another one of those movies that’s shot entirely through shaky cam (I’m sorry, cinema veritae. No, we don’t take ourselves too seriously at all.) This one doesn’t feature any witches, ghosts, or zombies, though. Instead, there’s an unspecified, big ass monster that’s doing its level best to rip apart New York.

Oh, poor New York. You always get screwed by giant monsters, don’t you?

The story centers around a group of people who are at a going-away party. The dude going away, Rob, is also our main hero. The unspecified, big ass monster starts attacking the city in the middle of said party, and Rob’s friend, Hud, who’s been filming the festivities thus far, decides to document everything else that’s happening, namely their attempt to a) find/rescue Rob’s not-quite-girlfriend-but-long-love Beth and b) escape the city.

As always, I have to point out that I am not the kind of person who’s going to give a shit about documenting anything while running for my life. I won’t care about putting things up on youtube later, and I won’t care that people need to know what actually happened. I won’t care about these things because I will be too busy RUNNING FOR MY LIFE. I, you see, have my priorities straight, dammit.

However, despite all this, I think the use of the camera works well in Cloverfield, and it helps that the guy who’s holding it isn’t exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. Cloverfield is tense and exciting and surprisingly funny, thanks to our main comic relief Hud, and once the action gets going, it never really stops. I like watching the whole event from the survivor’s point of view. I like that the audience’s knowledge about what’s going on is limited. I like how quickly things happen in the film. I like the movie, period.

Here are a few notes, for your perusal.

1.) Going onto a bridge is very rarely a good idea.

2.) Going into a tunnel is NEVER a good idea.

3.) In fact, living somewhere that forces you to choose one of these two options if you ever need to leave quickly is ALWAYS a bad idea. Which is why living near San Francisco and not actually in it works well for me.

4.) There was a lot of talk about this movie and how the shaky-cam made people sick to their stomach. I can understand how those people might not have liked Cloverfield so well; I, too, am prone to not liking things that make me want to vomit. However, none of the camera stuff really bothered me when I watched the film. Maybe if I had seen it on a big screen. As it was, I had a headache . . . but that started long before the movie.

5.) Nobody really stood out to me in acting, but nobody really bothered me, either. I believed in their terror, their horror, and their grief. Even their very questionable decision-making skills . . . I believed in that, too. Nothing felt cheap to me.

6.) Like I mentioned before, Hud is definitely the comic relief, and it’s a good thing for this film. (“Rob, it’s time to leave the electronics store.”) It gives the movie a bit of balance, lets the audience have a little fun, because, let’s face it: monster movies are supposed to be fun.

I’m always kind of interested in characters that you rarely or never get to see. Like Pablo in REC, for instance. I end up voting for these characters, probably since I’m looking through their camera and their point of view the whole time. So, yeah, Hud is kind of awesome, even if he’s sort of a silly ass.

7.) I know I already mentioned that tunnels were always bad, but, seriously people: walking through a subway tunnel in pitch dark is ALWAYS an awful, awful idea.

8.) The subway tunnel scene totally rocks, though.

9.) Besides my total lack of interest in documenting horrific events for public viewing, I am, also, a terrible person. There are very few people I can think of that I would willingly go back into a city for when said city was being attacked by a giant monster, particularly after said monster has already killed people that I cared about and is currently eating helpless people in the same general direction of the person who needs to be rescued. It’s not that I wouldn’t care, or that I might not feel super survivor’s guilt for the rest of my life, but, honestly? In that kind of situation, I wouldn’t expect most people to come after me, either. I’m very dedicated to living, and I expect others to feel the same.

10.) Finally, before the Spoiler Section, here are possibly my favorite lines in the whole film:

Beth (looking at the monster) “What is that?”

Hud: “It’s a terrible thing.”

And now, unto the Spoilers:

SPOILER ALERT

SPOILER ALERT

SPOILER ALERT

SPOILER ALERT

SPOILER ALERT

Per usual, helicopters suck.

Well, that’s not entirely fair to say. Okay, rewind: Rob’s brother, Jason, bites it early when the monster takes out the bridge. (The scene where Rob has to tell this to his mother over the phone is fairly heartbreaking. I think, especially after 9/11, it makes you wonder what you would say to your loved ones if you knew this phone call could be your last.) Later, after the group has run into the army, Marlena (Hud’s sort of bitchy, wannabe actress crush) explodifies behind a sheet after she gets bitten by these little monster things that are, frankly, creepier than the giant monster attacking the city. Her death is creepy and awesome without actually showing you much, and I thought that was pretty cool.

This army dude tells the group that they need to evacuate with the rest of the survivors, because at 0600, America is nuking the shit out of New York. But Rob, you see, can’t do that, because he still needs to find not-quite-love Beth, and Lily can’t let Rob save Beth alone, because Lily was Jason’s fiancee and that makes Rob her family (I really like all of Lily’s and Rob’s interactions; it’s nice, seeing a male and a female character who don’t have to be sleeping together to care about one another) and even Hud can’t let Rob and Lily save Beth alone because Rob’s his main man, and, also, Hud’s a little useless and probably doesn’t much relish the thought of being by himself. After all, who would he document?

So, the three go off to rescue Beth from the 30-something story of her toppling apartment building and find her in her living room, impaled but alive. They rescue her and get out, miraculously making it back to the army in time to helicopter their asses out of there. Lily is forced to get on the first helicopter alone, and that’s the last we see of her, so I choose to believe that she’s alive for reasons I’ll go into in a little bit. Then Beth, Hud, and Rob all get into the next helicopter, but oh noes! The monster strikes it down before the can escape into the sunset. They survive the crash, but the monster comes and eats Hud–oh, poor, simple Hud–while Rob and Beth escape to under this little bridge thing, and they hold each other and say that they love one another and then America nukes the shit out of New York.

First: there are people who say you can hear Rob and Beth after the sound of the explosion, which means that they might still be alive. Personally, I think that’s crap, and that they’re both dead, but I’ve always felt that if you don’t see their dead bodies on the screen, preferably with the head five feet away from the torso, then you’re free to believe whatever the hell you want (and, yes, I’m talking to you, Farscape miniseries. You cannot break my spirit. {Spoiler content deleted} is still alive, dammit!) So, sure, Rob and Beth could still be alive, even if they’re totally not.

What I’m really glad for, however, is that Lily made it out, and here’s why: I think shaky-cam movies are pretty much set up to be tragic, no-one-makes-it-out-alive movies. (After all, the video tells the story. No one HAS to make it out.) And that’s okay, the first couple of times you see it, but after awhile, it gets to be so routine that you go into a movie like this thinking, Okay, so everyone’s going to die, oh, that’s ORIGINAL. The predictability takes away from any emotional impact that the film, on its own, might have been able to muster. If everyone had died in Cloverfield, I would have liked it less. The fact that Lily made it worked for me. (It also helped that I liked her, and that it wasn’t Rob and Beth who made it out together. The only thing less predictable than no survivors in a shaky-cam film is the romantic lead couple surviving in a horror film.)

There’s been some serious talk about a sequel to Cloverfield, and, personally, I’m hoping it doesn’t happen. I’m more interested in seeing Matt Reeves take on a new project than seeing a sequel to this one–unless it’s a silly action movie that’s pretty much set up for additional films, I’m usually a little bummed when someone makes a sequel to a film like this. The story ends where it ends for a reason. I don’t need to see more. I don’t want to see more. I might be interested in hearing what the director or writer thinks happened afterward, but once the story is captured on film and sent to the theatres, it’s over, man. What happens after should be left to the imagination of the audience. Which, I suppose, doesn’t mean that I would absolutely refuse to watch a sequel if it was filmed. It does mean that seeing it in theatre would be highly unlikely.

Maybe if they cast someone really cute. I’m a sucker for a pretty boy. I have no shame.

Tentative Grade: A-.

Moral: Don’t be an asshole to the love of your life. When she leaves your party because of said asshole behavior, you’re just going to have to cross the city to rescue her from a giant monster/Operation Clean Sweep, thus endangering yourself and your friends and ultimately resulting in lying to your terrified mother when you say that you’re going to be fine when you clearly won’t be fine because you’ll be DEAD. If you had just been NICE to the love of your life (jeez, what a concept) then she wouldn’t have left the party at all, and you guys could have all made it to the army folks together, early enough to evacuate BEFORE the monster took down the helicopters. Good going, Rob. Thanks for fucking nothing.

Also: live in the Midwest. There seem to be less random monster attacks there, and even if one does come your way, there are more readily accessible escape routes.

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6 Responses to “I Had A Good Day”

  1. Fatpie42 says:

    I didn’t think there was a big backlash against Cloverfield. Everyone seemed to agree that it was great fun, that the concept was fantastic, but that some of the characters were really ANNOYING. Which would be pretty much my take on it.

    The only thing that I really DIDN’T like was when I heard someone say that REC was doing a bad job of copying the Cloverfield handheld camera format. I didn’t just get upset because, of the two, REC is the better movie. Nor did I get upset because REC’s method of ensuring that keeping the camera makes sense even when you your life is in immediate peril while, as you say, the cameraman in Cloverfield only seems to keep hold of the camera during such moments because he’s an idiot.

    No, my real reason for being upset by the insinuation that REC was badly ripping off Cloverfield is that REC CAME FIRST!!!

    If their reaction to REC was “oh we’ve seen this all before” that is an argument for better and quicker distribution of awesome foreign movies. It is not an argument against REC’s originality.

    • I was okay with the characters. I didn’t love any of them, but they didn’t really bug me, either. Actually, I don’t think the characters were the focus of any of the negative reviews that I heard. Mostly, I just heard that it wasn’t scary enough or that it was just kind of lame. Only recently have I heard good things, and I liked Matt Reeves when he spoke at Comic Con, so I decided to watch it, and I’m glad I did.

      I get why you have to make the comparison, and I’d be irritated too, if people said REC was a ripoff of Cloverfield but I liked both movies a lot, and I think they both did a good job with their respective styles. I haven’t decided which one I liked better yet, and I don’t really feel the need to.

      • Fatpie42 says:

        Yeah, REC is really great real-life-camera-based zombie movie while Cloverfield is a really great real-life-camera-based Godzilla movie. Personally I’d say I preferred REC, but I liked both of them.

  2. Clemmie says:

    Hi! Got here through the Moviebuffs Livejournal community.

    I agree with pretty much all you said, but I just skimmed over your summary.

    I believe it was pitched in the way: “This film is Blair Witch Project meets Godzilla.” Hence, the cinema verite style. (We have much to thank Blair Witch Project for.)

    It’s very high concept and it succeeded in all it was going for. As for not liking the characters, I think it’s because most people are used to characters that we grow to love and don’t have to bitch about. These types of characters we get now (that Cloverfield itself had) are very post-modern in a way. They’re not perfect. They can be annoying and yet we can still root for them. Specifically in Cloverfield though, it aimed for the kind of audience of the late 20’s to early 30’s bracket, which I believe was the age range of the characters in the film. Either the people who didn’t like it saw it as a Freudian mirror, or the film is really just not accurate in the depiction of these characters. But that is up for debate. And I’m not yet in that age range so what do I know.

    Regarding [REC], I believe with the above commenter in that [REC] is a better film, but in one aspect, Cloverfield is a superior film to [REC]. Near the end of [REC], it conveniently explained the weird goings-on, while Cloverfield didn’t. Cloverfield is superior because it didn’t have to explain itself. It succeeds more than [REC] because we are left with more questions that we can answer for ourselves. Still though, [REC] *is* better, in my opinion, because it tackled more issues, especially regarding ethics.

    I agree that they shouldn’t make a sequel for Cloverfield, and they really shouldn’t have anymore for [REC]—but unfortunately. (They already explained! Why a sequel?) But alas, it’s a common trend for these well-received films to produce sequels, because they’ve already proven to be successful gambles. Also, sequels mean that they already have an established audience in the viewers who saw the earlier film.

    That’s all.

    ~Clemmie

    • I haven’t decided which film I like better, but I do like that Cloverfield barely explains anything about what’s going on. I don’t really find that a flaw in {REC}, exactly, but it is one of my favorite things about Cloverfield.

    • Fatpie42 says:

      Haven’t seen REC2 yet, but have been really looking forward to it for a while now. Sadly I’ve only heard negative reviews of it so far.

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