‘Surprise!’ But not for long, right? With Rob’s party gate-crashed and the sly advance buzz-clouds cleared, does JJ Abrams’ Dogmezilla still stand up? We think so. Come to it raw if you were too hyped-out to catch its cine-run and it’ll eat you up, the panic-attack plot packing judders aplenty. The initial landmark-lobbing shock was ‘spoiled’ as early as the first teaser, but Abrams’ and director Matt Reeves’ smart camcorder aesthetic plays tight, hurling you hard into the rush’n’rubble of a monster-trashed New York via four hipsters on a rescue trip. Cuts work like jolts, Spielbergian “ooohs” and “aaahs” surrender to running and screaming, scary-hairy night vision reveals the monster’s dog-sized foot-soldiers for... let’s just say, “Something else. Also terrible.”
Substance-wise, Cloverfield’s sole, minor flaw is implied on Reeves’ effusive DVD talk-track. He’s hotter on technique, rat-wrangling and the clammy power of subterranean “David Lynch drone” than subtext: meaning, it’s hard to buy Rob’s hunt for squandered-love Beth as a “metaphor for priorities” when some “horrific shit” (read: damn exciting) is rocking your world. But in terms of re-scaling monster movies, Abrams and Reeves land a quick, bruising hit. Rather than trying to haul cinema away from download culture with the razzle-dazzle of 3D or IMAX, Cloverfield sucker-punches home viewing at its own game. Here, the new-school blurry-vision of YouTube merges with spectacle cinema, via the old-school lessons of Alien: seeing something in full isn’t as thrilling as glimpsing it in a dread-cam dash of storm’s-eye intensity.
Buzzing palpably over that crack core conceit, the DVD extras are copious. Everyone chinny-wags like frothy kids, from Abrams with his power-sums (“Take genre, add monster, equals my favourite movie of all time”) to star Michael Stahl-David “jumping rope” between takes to keep himself in the film’s “space”. Between full-blooded homage and fresh cine-flesh, Cloverfield stays on its toes throughout, too. See it. It’s alive.