"My name is Robert Hawkins... Approximately seven hours ago, some... thing attacked the city. I don't know what it is. If you found this tape, I mean if you're watching this right now, then you probably know more about it than I do."
A monster movie released in 2008 by LOST creator J. J. Abrams, and directed by Matt Reeves. Cloverfield follows a group of New Yorkers as they attempt to rescue the girlfriend of protagonist Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David, The Black Donnellys) during an attack by a massive building-sized creature. The film is seen through the perspective of Hudson "Hud" Platt, Rob's friend, who is carrying around a camcorder throughout the film documenting the events.The movie was shot fairly cheaply, for a budget of roughly $25 million. The movie is seen through a point-of-view perspective, and features homages to older movies (e.g., the Statue of Liberty's head rolling down a Manhattan street was inspired by a poster for John Carpenter's Escape from New York).Note: There were rumors for a time that Super 8, directed by Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, was a prequel. It is actually an unrelated film, though this hasn't stopped Wild Mass Guessing from fans who have noted similarities between the monsters in both movies.
This film provides examples of:
Action Girl: When the protagonists are attacked by Clover's ticks in the subway, most of the characters run, apart from Marlena, who beats the shit out of one of them with a wooden plank.
All There in the Manual: Information about the monster's possible origins and what happened immediately before the movie are all in the viral marketing campaign.
Bat Scare: Non-winged example: a horde of rats runs toward, then right past, the main characters when they venture into the subway tunnels. The rodents don't attack, but they are running from something else...
Behind the Black: Tanks sneak up on the camera. And eventually the creature itself.
Camera Abuse: Although the camcorder held by Hud suffers from both numerous drops AND the detonation of an atomic bombEarth-Shattering Kaboom, it — or at least the camera's SD card — still survives.
Call Back: The movie starts at 6.30 am two months prior, after Beth and Rob have their night together it ends at 6.30 ish when the monster gets hammer downed, with Beth and Rob dying together, cronologically. We also see Beth's apartment before the monster kills it. Jason, Rob's brother says something about "cherishing moments no matter how fleeting" and Rob does it. Marlena also mentions the monster eating people and then it ate Hud.
Christmas Rushed: It had to be rushed into production (which started in August 2007) to be ready in time for its stone-set date of January 18th, 2008 (the trailer, which was released a month earlier, came out while the film was still in pre-production).
Dada Ad: One of the hidden special features on the DVD is an ad for Slusho and... ye gods...
Developing Doomed Characters: The party is disturbed by a loud boom at 17:35. It's something of a relief for some viewers when the monster finally appears.
Did Not Get the Girl: Hud can do little but watch in horror as Marlena dies horribly and messily in front of him.
Distressed Damsel: Rob's (and subsequently the group's) whole ill-advised foray into the city was to rescue his girlfriend Elizabeth.
Does Not Know His Own Strength: According to the developers, the Brooklyn Bridge scene was changed from a hand destroying the bridge to a tail knocking it down, because they wanted to imply that Clover was doing its damage to the city unintentionally.
Easter Egg: As Cracked.com points out, the monster's face was actually hidden in the movie poster months before the movie came out.
Eldritch Abomination: This monster evokes this, though it's clearly influenced by various deep sea creatures.
Executive Meddling: Averted, and not. The relatively low budget of the film allowed the filmmakers to keep the nondescript title and Downer Ending (see above) despite concerns from Paramount, but executives maintained that the film be PG-13 instead of the R rating the creators wanted. When the filmmakers planned a single use of the word "fuck" (as allowed in a PG-13 film) an Executive Veto was made against it, on the grounds that the MPAA descriptor warning about even a little coarse language would stop some parents from the mid-western U.S. from bringing their kids.
Flashback Cut: Due to the fact that the "tape" that is the movie is being filmed on is taping over video from an earlier day, so when the video camera is paused and restarted bits of the original video remain.
Foregone Conclusion: It says right at the beginning that the video was recovered in Central Park. That doesn't bode well for the characters, being still in the middle of New York.
Freeze-Frame Bonus: The very last shot of the film, depicting one last home video, shows something falling into the ocean for a split second. Word of God is that this "something" is a satellite, the descent of which woke Clover up in the first place.
It is hard to make out the fact that Hudgets his legs bitten off by the monster unless the scene is watched in slow-motion.
Hellish Copter: The main characters manage to board evac choppers at the dawn of the second day of the disaster. Needless to say, Clover smacks down the one Hud is on.
Hero of Another Story: The commentary refers to one background character, who happens to be recording the carnage like Hud, to be a potential one. Along with her, there are many people attending the party who go their separate ways after the attack. The ARG sheds light on a few others—there's a girl slumped over on a couch at Rob's party. It turns out she's hungover after downing a bunch of the Super Serum that may have been involved in Clover's creation. The serum was sent to her by her boyfriend, an Eco Terrorist never seen on screen who is trying to take down Tagruato, the corporation that accidentally unleashed Clover. The ARG also followed a few of the partygoers up to the night of the party.
Hope Spot: Twice. After rescuing Hud's best friend's love interest, and the monster appearing to die, though people know the latter's going to go wrong.
How We Got Here: Not entirely. Between filming the events, we see a previous recording of Rob and Elizabeth waking up after sleeping together the previous night and going to Coney Island. As we learned later on, Rob totally ignored Elizabeth after that day and was planning to leave to Japan for his new job. The movie and the recording ends with them on a ferris wheel looking towards the ocean where something has fallen into it.
Ironic Echo Cut: Twice in the same scene. Lily says she'll tell Hud and Jason why Rob and Beth are so angry at each other if Hud turns off his camera. The next cut is her telling them that Rob and Beth slept together before he decided to move, and Hud's camera is still on but hidden on the floor. Lily then makes the two of them swear not to tell. Cut to Hud telling nearly everyone at the party about it.
Non-Malicious Monster: If Word of God is to be believed, the monster itself is not purposely trying to cause trouble- he's just lost and wants to go home. It does intentionally eat people throughout the film, though.
Nothing Is Scarier: The times when the characters (and audience) know the monster is out there but not in sight can be very frightening and tense.
Panty Shot: Up Lily's dress as they're climbing over to the roof of Beth's building.
Police Are Useless: Averted - the NYPD and emergency services apparently respond quickly and manage to organize the evacuation of Manhattan fairly efficiently.
Product Placement: Nokia cellphone batteries become so important to one character that he loots some from an electronics store; Nokia is also the company that places ads to keep you company in those stressful desolate subway room scenes. Nokia phones are vital to the plot. Not to mention thirst-saving, parasite-blocking Mountain Dew. Also, Hud's Nikes get an extended shot at the end.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Some people complained that there should be no cell reception in a subway. Sometimes there is.
Also, the Statue Of Liberty head is, according to IMDB, about 50% larger than actual size because audiences thought the true-to-life size head in the teaser trailer looked too small.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite the military lockdown on pretty much everything, one soldier not only explains everything to Rob but lets him slip out the back to find Beth.
Reconstruction: Instead of focusing on the monster pounding other monsters' faces in or wrecking the military, you're given the perspective from ordinary people... which makes one realize how horrific the bog-standard giant-monster movie plot would be if it really happened, which brings it back to its original form. Gojira, often considered the first Kaiju film (and certainly the reason we use the Japanese word), is a very dark movie with long, lingering shots of the destruction and the long term injuries he caused.
Rule of Perception: In the end, the monster just shows up, practically on top of the protagonists in Central Park, yet no indication of its approach is given beforehand, like the fact that the ground quakes when it walks, and it tends to clumsily destroy the surrounding environment wherever it goes. Partly justified, since they're very disoriented after surviving a helicopter crash.
Indeed, if you pay attention to the background as they are tending to Rob, you'll notice the remains of the helicopter (in particular a Rotor stuck in the ground) gradually shake more and more with Clover's approach.
Scenery Gorn: The movie thrives and thrills itself on absolutely destroying New York City.
Sequel Hook: Pointed out by Abrams himself, being that during the bridge crossing you can see another individual with a camera trying to record everything. Not so much a sequel hook as a possibility for Once More with Clarity.
Additionally, some static after the credits that may be resolved into "It's still alive!".
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The reason everyone stayed in NYC was to help Rob save Beth. And then Beth and Rob get nuked. So much for that, then. Did I mention that everyone else is either dead or their fate is left uncertain?
Short Lived Aerial Escape: Our heroes finally manage to get on an evacuation helicopter after their long ordeal. And then the monster whacks it out of the sky.
Shout-Out: The music at the end especially, though during the blurring moments of the camera, they snuck in frames from Black and White monster movies King Kong, Them! and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The film itself is inspired by Godzilla and other, similar B Movies.
"Roar!" is one big shout out to the work Akira Ifukube did on the Godzilla films. The extensive use of brass was a signature part of his style, and it has been said that the piece is very Godzilla-esque.
And then there's the blink-and-you-miss-it Dharma logo in the very, very beginning. Hm...
Silent Credits: For a minute or two, at least, then the above music starts up. The credit song "Roar" has such a quiet build that it's barely audible till about a minute in.
Six Student Clique: They're not really students but the characters do tend to fall into slots:
The main character: Rob
The Muscle: Jason
The Quirk: Hud
The Pretty One: Beth
The Smart One: Lily
The Wild One: Marlena
Slipknot Ponytail: Lily's hair gradually comes out of its bun after the monster attacks.
Super Cell Reception: Most people took issue with how one of the main characters could use his cell phone in the subway station. This, however, was a savvy case of Truth in Television, since the MTA is actively wiring subway platforms for cell service, specifically so riders can use their phones during emergencies. Indeed, after much of Manhattan had been smashed into oblivion, the subway station might be the only place where you can still get cellphone service.
What Could Have Been: A lot of scenes and aspects concerning the monster had to be cut in the final version or left out. One such scene showed the monster using some sort of "feeding tube" to violently devour fleeing people in what probably would have been the most horrific scene in the movie.
One of the alternate endings included on the DVD hint that Rob and Beth (or at least Beth) survived the Hammerdown bombing.