|Music by||Michael Giacchino|
|Release date||January 18, 2008|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Next film||Cloverfield sequel|
Cloverfield is a 2008 film produced by J.J. Abrams, directed by Matt Reeves, and written by Drew Goddard. It depicts the attack of a giant monster in New York City, witnessed by a small group of friends. The film is presented as a tape found by the Government after the events of the movie. The filming style is similar to that of The Blair Witch Project, given that the film is filmed entirely from the point of a character's video camera.
- ""Five young New Yorkers throw their friend a going-away party the night that a monster the size of a skyscraper descends upon the city. Told from the point of view of their video camera, the film is a document of their attempt to survive the most surreal, horrifying event of their lives.""
- —Official description
The movie is presented as digital hand-held camera footage found by the United States Department of Defense. At the start of the film, it is stated the camera was "found in US-447, area formerly known as Central Park". The main record of events is interspersed with footage of two main characters prior to the crisis.
On April 27 at 6:42 am, Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) awakens after spending the night with longtime platonic friend Beth (Odette Yustman) in her father's Columbus Circle apartment. They plan to visit Coney Island for the day.
On May 22, Rob's brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and his girlfriend, Lily (Jessica Lucas) prepare their apartment for Rob's farewell party, as he has accepted a job as a vice president in his company's office in Japan. Rob's best friend Hudson "Hud" Platt (T.J. Miller) is given a camera by Jason and the responsibility of recording final goodbyes from family and friends at the party, but instead unsuccessfully flirts with his crush, Marlena (Lizzy Caplan). Beth arrives with a date, Travis (Ben Feldman), which upsets Rob. To his dismay, he realizes Hud is taping over footage of him and Beth, including their trip to Coney Island, which shows up intermittently throughout the film. Lily reveals Rob and Beth slept together several weeks previously, which Hud then shares with other people at the party, making the matter worse. Rob provokes Beth and her date into leaving the party.
While Hud and Jason try to talk to Rob, a brief blackout occurs, and the building shakes. When the power returns, everyone turns on the local news, where the anchor explains that there was an earthquake and an oil tanker has capsized in the bay off Lower Manhattan. Curious party goers and apartment dwellers go up to the roof to spot the disaster, where they witness an explosion in Lower Manhattan. As fire and debris begin to rain down, the party goers flee to the street below. The head of the Statue of Liberty, damaged and charred, crashes down into the street beside them. Hud is able to record a glimpse of what seems to be a giant monster moving through the city. The Woolworth Building collapses in its wake, causing Rob, Jason, Hud and Lily to take refuge in a nearby convenience store while the creature passes. After the panic, the streets fall silent, and the group finds Marlena outside, shaken by the events. They decide to use the Brooklyn Bridge to exit Lower Manhattan.
On the bridge, they see the capsized oil tanker and the headless Statue of Liberty. While walking across, Rob gets a cell phone call from a distressed Beth, who tells him that she is stuck in her apartment and unable to move. Hud calls out for Marlena and Lily, but Jason, unable to hear them clearly, does not stop walking. The bridge begins to shake as the monster's tail suddenly appears and crushes the bridge. They are chased by the collapsing bridge, many innocents are killed, including Jason. The bridge collapses finally and Hud films the destruction of the bridge and they retreat.
As Marlena tries to comfort the grieving Lily over the loss of her boyfriend, Hud approaches Rob, who is still stunned at what had just occurred. Suddenly remembering that his phone conversation with Beth had been interrupted, Rob stops at an electronic store that is being looted where he steals a cell phone battery and finishes listening to Beth's message. On the news, Hud sees the Brooklyn Bridge's full collapse as well as the military engaging the monster. The soldiers are attacked by parasitic spider-like creatures that fall off the monster. The four proceed to Manhattan streets to find Beth.
As the group makes their way to Beth's apartment, they are caught in a crossfire between the monster and the military. The friends barely manage to escape into the Spring Street Station. The group decides to walk through the tunnels to reach Beth's apartment. In the tunnels they are attacked by several parasites. One parasite grabs Hud and tries to drag him away, but Marlena fends it off with a pipe, only to be bitten by another parasite. The group escapes into the abandoned Bloomingdale's department store via the subway station, and are engaged by Seargent Pryce and a squad of infantry, who has taken cover inside the department store and set up a field hospital and command center to treat the wounded. Marlena begins to bleed from her eyes and nose. When she is revealed to have been bitten, two men in hazmat suits grab Marlena and take her behind a curtain while Lily, Rob and Hud are taken away by soldiers. Hud films the curtains just in time to see Marlena's stomach expand and explode. Rob and the others have little time to grieve as Sergeant Pryce allows them back up to the streets, but warns them to report to a military evacuation site before 6:00 am, which is when the last helicopter evacuates Manhattan and the military will enact its "Hammerdown" protocol, which will allow for the sacrifice of Manhattan if necessary to kill the monster and its parasites.
The group continues to Beth's apartment, in the Time Warner Center, finding her tower partially collapsed into the adjacent tower. The three climb the standing tower and cross onto the roof of Beth's building and work their way down to her apartment. Beth is found trapped and impaled. After the rescue, they make their way to an aerial evacuation site and encounter the monster once more, while the military continues to attack it. At the landing zone, Lily is raced into a departing helicopter without her friends. A few moments later, Rob, Beth and Hud are taken away in a second helicopter. In the helicopter, they see the monster bombed by a stealth bomber and it appears to have been killed.
Just as Hud begins hailing victory over the monster, it reaches up and attacks the helicopter. The helicopter crashes into a grassy clearing in Central Park. The next day, May 23, the three survive the crash and hear a voice on the helicopter's radio warning of the Hammerdown protocol being effected in fifteen minutes, with the pilot telling anyone listening that if they can hear the air raid sirens going off, then they're in the blast zone and have only two minutes to escape.
Hud and Beth pull an injured Rob clear of the wreckage, but Hud returns to recover the camera, and as he does so, the monster appears above him. It examines Hud for a few moments before attacking and killing him. Rob and Beth grab the still filming camera and take shelter under a bridge in Central Park as air raid sirens begin to blare in the distance, indicating that the Hammerdown protocol is about to be put into effect. Rob and Beth quickly take turns leaving their last testimonies on camera, just as numerous explosions occur outside and the monster can be heard screaming. The bridge collapses and, as debris covers the camera, Rob and Beth can be heard professing their love to one another before another explosion occurs.
The film cuts to Rob and Beth's Coney Island date, during which a satellite can be faintly and briefly seen falling from the sky into the ocean.
J. J. Abrams thought up a new monster after he and his son visited a toy store in Japan while promoting Mission: Impossible III. He explained, "We saw all these Godzilla toys, and I thought, we need our own American monster, and not like King Kong. I love King Kong. King Kong is adorable. And Godzilla is a charming monster. We love Godzilla. But I wanted something that was just insane and intense."
In February 2007, Paramount Pictures secretly greenlit Cloverfield, to be produced by Abrams, directed by Matt Reeves, and written by Drew Goddard. The project was produced by Abrams' company, Bad Robot Productions. The visual effects producer was Chantal Feghali.
The severed head of the Statue of Liberty was inspired by the poster of the 1981 film Escape from New York, which had shown the head lying in the streets in New York. According to Reeves, "It's an incredibly provocative image. And that was the source that inspired producer J. J. Abrams to say, 'Now this would be an interesting idea for a movie'."
The film was initially titled Cloverfield; however, this changed throughout production before it was finalized as the original title. Matt Reeves explained that the title was changed frequently due to the hype caused by the teaser trailer. "That excitement spread to such a degree that we suddenly couldn't use the name anymore. So we started using all these names like Slusho and Cheese. And people always found out what we were doing!" The director said that "Cloverfield" was the government's case designation for the events caused by the monster, comparing the titling to that of the Manhattan Project. "And it's not a project per se. It's the way that this case has been designated. That's why that is on the trailer, and it becomes clearer in the film. It's how they refer to this phenomenon [or] this case", said the director. The film's final title, Cloverfield, is the name of the exit Abrams takes to his Santa Monica office. In turn, the road used to lead to the Santa Monica Airport, which originally bore the name Clover Field.
One final title, Greyshot, was proposed before the movie was officially titled Cloverfield. The name Greyshot is taken from the archway that the two survivors take shelter under at the end of the movie. Director Reeves said that it was decided not to change the title to Greyshot because the film was already so well known as Cloverfield.
The film received a subtitle in Japan, where it was released as Cloverfield/Hakaisha (クローバーフィールド/HAKAISHA Kurōbāfīrudo/HAKAISHA?). The subtitle "Destroyer" was chosen by Abrams and was translated into Japanese as Hakaisha (破壊者 lit. "Destroyer"?) by Paramount Japan at his request. The subtitle Kishin (鬼神 lit. "Demon[ic] God"?) was chosen for the manga spinoff, Cloverfield/Kishin, released exclusively in Japan.
The casting process was carried out in secret, with no script being sent out to candidates. With production estimated to have a budget of $30million, principal photography began in mid-June 2007 in New York. One cast member said that the film would look like it cost $150 million, despite producers not casting recognizable and expensive actors. Filmmakers used the Panasonic HVX200 for most of the interior scenes, and the Sony CineAlta F23 high-definition video camera to tape nearly all of the New York exterior scenes. Filming took place on Coney Island, with scenes shot at Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park and the B&B Carousel. The scenes of tanks firing at the creature while the main characters hide in a stairwell were filmed on Hennesy Street on Warner Bros. backlot in Burbank, CA. Some interior shots were taped on a soundstage at Downey, California. Bloomingdale's in the movie was actually shot in an emptied Robinsons-May store that was under reconstruction in Arcadia, California. The outside scenes of Sephora and the electronics store were taped in Downtown Los Angeles.
The film was shot and edited in a cinéma vérité style, to look like it was taped with one hand-held camera, including jump cuts similar to ones found in home movies. T.J. Miller, who plays Hud, has said in various interviews that he taped a third of the movie and almost half of it made it into the film Director Matt Reeves described the presentation, "We wanted this to be as if someone found a Handicam, took out the tape and put it in the player to watch it. What you're watching is a home movie that then turns into something else." Reeves explained that the pedestrians documenting the severed head of the Statue of Liberty with the camera phones was reflective of the contemporary period. According to him: "Cloverfield very much speaks to the fear and anxieties of our time, how we live our lives. Constantly documenting things and putting them up on YouTube, sending people videos through e-mail – we felt it was very applicable to the way people feel now."
Several of the filmmakers are heard but not seen in the film. The man yelling "Oh my God!" repeatedly when the head of the Statue of Liberty lands in the street is producer Bryan Burk, and director Matt Reeves voiced the whispered radio broadcast at the end of the credits. After viewing a cut of the film, Steven Spielberg suggested giving the audience a hint at the fate of the monster during the climax, which resulted in the addition of a countdown overheard on the helicopter's radio and the sounding of air raid sirens to signal the forthcoming Hammer Down bombing.
Style of cinematography
The film's shaky camera style of cinematography, dubbed "La Shakily Queasy-Cam" by the late Roger Ebert, caused some viewers (particularly in darkened movie theaters) to experience motion sickness, including nausea and a temporary loss of balance. Audience members prone to migraines have cited the film as a trigger. Some theaters showing the film, such as AMC Theatres, provided posted and verbal warnings, informing viewers about the filming style of Cloverfield while other theatres like Pacific Theatres just verbally warned customers in detail at the box office about experiencing motion sickness upon viewing the film and what to do if they had to step out and vomit.
The cinematography influences the encoding of the video and can cause compression artifacts to fast motion across the field of view.
- Main article: Cloverfield Monster
Visual main effects supervisor Nick Tom and Phil Tippett's "Tippett Studio" were enlisted to develop the visual effects for Cloverfield. Because the visual effects were incorporated after filming, cast members had to react to a non-existent creature during scenes, only being familiar with early conceptual renderings of the beast. Artist Neville Page designed the monster, thoroughly creating a biological rationale for the creature, even if many of his ideas like "elongated, and articulated external esophagus" would not show up on screen. The key idea behind the monster was that he was an immature creature suffering from "separation anxiety". This recalls real-life elephants who get frightened and lash out at the circus, because the director felt "there's nothing scarier than something huge that's spooked".
Before the film's release, Paramount carried out a viral marketing campaign to promote the film which included viral tie-ins similar to Lost Experience. Filmmakers decided to create a teaser trailer that would be a surprise in the light of commonplace media saturation, which they put together during the preparation stage of the production process. The teaser was then used as a basis for the film itself. Paramount Pictures encouraged the teaser to be released without a title attached, and the Motion Picture Association of America approved the move. As Transformers showed high tracking numbers before its release in July 2007, the studio attached the teaser trailer for Cloverfield that showed the release date of January 18, 2008 but not the title. A second trailer was released on November 16, 2007 which was attached to Beowulf, confirming the title.
The studio had kept knowledge of the project secret from the online community, a cited rarity due to the presence of scoopers that follow upcoming films. The controlled release of information on the film has been observed as a risky strategy, which could succeed like The Blair Witch Project (1999) or disappoint like Snakes on a Plane (2006), the latter of which had generated online hype but failed to attract large audiences.
Pre-release plot speculation
The sudden appearance of the untitled trailer for Cloverfield fueled media speculation over the film's plot. USA Today reported the possibilities of the film being based on the works of H. P. Lovecraft, a live-action adaptation of Voltron (based on a mis-interpretation of the trailer's line "It's alive!" as "It's a lion!"), a new film about Godzilla, or a spin-off of the TV show Lost. The Star Ledger also reported the possibility of the film being based on Lovecraft lore or Godzilla. The Guardian reported the possibility of a Lost spin-off, while Time Out reported that the film was about an alien called "The Parasite". IGN.com also backed the possibility of that premise, with The Parasite rumored to be a working title for the film. Online, Slusho and Colossus had been discussed as other possible titles, as well as Monstrous, although this was dispelled by Abrams at ComicCon. Entertainment Weekly also disputed reports that the film would be about a parasite or a colossal Asian robot such as Voltron.
Visitors of the website Ain't It Cool News have pointed out 9/11 allusions based on the destruction in New York City such as the decapitated Statue of Liberty. The film has also drawn alternate reality game enthusiasts that have followed other viral marketing campaigns like those set up for the TV series Lost, the video games Halo 2 and Halo 3. Members of the forums at argn.com and unfiction.com have investigated the background of the film, with the "1-18-08" section at Unfiction generating over 7,700 posts in August 2007. The members have studied photographs on the film's official site, potentially related MySpace profiles, and the Comic-Con teaser poster for the film. A popular piece of fan art posited that the monster was a mutated Humpback Whale.
All major characters received a personal Myspace page which are accessible and photos are available though blog posts have been removed following MySpace.com's website revamp during the Summer of 2013.
Unlike most viral marketing campaigns this one had virtually nothing to do with the films plot or characters, instead it focused mainly on the fictional drink Slusho!] and the fictional company Tagruato. Puzzle websites containing Lovecraft-ian elements, such as Ethan Haas Was Right, were originally reported to be connected to the film. On July 9, 2007, producer J.J. Abrams stated that, while a number of websites were being developed to market the film, the only official site that had been found was 1-18-08.com. At the site, which now redirects to the Paramount Pictures home page, a collection of time-coded photos were available to piece together a series of events and interpret their meanings. The pictures could also be flipped over by repeatedly and rapidly moving the mouse side to side. Also, if the page was left open for six minutes, the monster's roar could be heard. Eventually, www.cloverfieldmovie.com was created. The site provided both a trailer and a number, 33287, which, when texted from a mobile phone, provided a ringtone of the monster's roar and a wallpaper of a decimated Manhattan. This eventually turns out to be a Paramount number (people later received material on Iron Man, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Kung Fu Panda, and The Love Guru).
The drink Slusho! served as part of the viral marketing campaign. The drink had already appeared in producer Abrams' previous creation, the TV series Alias. Websites for Slusho! and Tagruato (タグルアト Taguruato?) were launched to add to the mythology of Cloverfield. The Japanese phone number in the Tagruato website did work and played recorded messages. one of them was:
- "Thank you for calling Tagruato. Due to high call volumes, your call has been transferred to an automated answering service. There are no updates at this time. After the tone, please leave a message, and one of our associates will find you as soon as possible."
- —Tagruato message
A building bearing the company logo for Tagruato can also be seen in the TV spot of the 2009 Star Trek film, and Uhura orders a Slusho! during the bar scene. When Cloverfield was hosted at Comic-Con 2007, gray Slusho! T-shirts were distributed to attendees. Fans who had registered at the Slusho! website received e-mails of fictional sonar images before the film's release that showed a deep-sea creature heading toward Manhattan. Fans who ordered merchandise received pieces of torn Tagruato documents and Japanese newspapers along with their products. Slusho! has also appeared in Fringe and Heroes.
Producer Burk explained the viral tie-in, "It was all done in conjunction with the studio... The whole experience in making this movie is very reminiscent of how we did Lost." Director Reeves described Slusho! as "part of the involved connectivity" with Abrams' Alias and that the drink represented a "meta-story" for Cloverfield. The director explained, "It's almost like tentacles that grow out of the film and lead, also, to the ideas in the film. And there's this weird way where you can go see the movie and it's one experience... But there's also this other place where you can get engaged where there's this other sort of aspect for all those people who are into that. All the stories kind of bounce off one another and inform each other. But, at the end of the day, this movie stands on its own to be a movie.... The Internet sort of stories and connections and clues are, in a way, a prism and they're another way of looking at the same thing. To us, it's just another exciting aspect of the storytelling."
- Marketing tie-in websites also include
- JamieAndTeddy.com - Jamie And Teddy, password: jllovesth,
- MissingTeddyHanssen.blogspot.com - Missing Teddy Hanssen,
- TIDOWave.com T.I.D.O. Wave,
- www.USGX8810B467233PX.com and others.
At Menuism.com there are reviews for a Japanese restaurant called Garbanzos in Norway that mention Tagruato, Slusho! and Seabed Nectar.
A four-installment prequel manga series by Yoshiki Togawa titled Cloverfield/Kishin (クローバーフィールド/KISHIN Kurōbāfīrudo/KISHIN?) was released by Japanese publisher Kadokawa Shoten. The story focuses on a Japanese high school student named Kishin Aiba, who somehow bears a connection to the monster.
Based on the film's successful opening weekend, Hasbro began accepting orders for a 14-inch (36 cm) collectible toy figure of the monster with authentic sound and its parasites that were shipped to fans by December 24, 2008.
Cloverfield opened in 3,411 theaters on January 18, 2008, and grossed a total of $16,930,000 on its opening day in the United States and Canada. It made $40.1 million on its opening weekend, which at the time was the most successful January release (record taken by Ride Along in 2014 with a weekend gross of $41.5 million). Worldwide, it has grossed $170,602,318, making it the first movie in 2008 to gross over $100 million.
As of October 29, 2011, review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 77% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 196 reviews. According to Metacritic, the film has received an average score of 64, based on 37 reviews.
Marc Savlov of The Austin Chronicle called the film "the most intense and original creature feature I've seen in my adult moviegoing life [...] a pure-blood, grade A, exhilarating monster movie." He cites Matt Reeves' direction, the "whip-smart, stylistically invisible" script and the "nearly subconscious evocation of our current paranoid, terror-phobic times" as the keys to the film's success, saying that telling the story through the lens of one character's camera "works fantastically well". Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter called it "chillingly effective", generally praising the effects and the film's "claustrophobic intensity". He said that though the characters "aren't particularly interesting or developed", there was "something refreshing about a monster movie that isn't filled with the usual suspects". Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly said that the film was "surreptitiously subversive, [a] stylistically clever little gem", and that while the characters were "vapid, twenty-something nincompoops" and the acting "appropriately unmemorable", the decision to tell the story through amateur footage was "brilliant". Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that the film is "pretty scary at times" and cites "unmistakable evocations of 9/11". He concludes that "all in all, it is an effective film, deploying its special effects well and never breaking the illusion that it is all happening as we see it".
Todd McCarthy of Variety called the film an "old-fashioned monster movie dressed up in trendy new threads", praising the special effects, "nihilistic attitude" and "post-9/11 anxiety overlay", but said, "In the end, [it's] not much different from all the marauding creature features that have come before it". Scott Foundas of LA Weekly was critical of the film's use of scenes reminiscent of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City and called it "cheap and opportunistic". He suggested that the film was engaging in "stealth" attempts at social commentary and compared this unfavorably to the films of Don Siegel, George A. Romero and Steven Spielberg, saying, "Where those filmmakers all had something meaningful to say about the state of the world and [...] human nature, Abrams doesn't have much to say about anything".
Manohla Dargis in the New York Times called the allusions "tacky", saying, "[The images] may make you think of the attack, and you may curse the filmmakers for their vulgarity, insensitivity or lack of imagination", but that "the film is too dumb to offend anything except your intelligence". She concludes that the film "works as a showcase for impressively realistic-looking special effects, a realism that fails to extend to the scurrying humans whose fates are meant to invoke pity and fear but instead inspire yawns and contempt." Stephanie Zacharek of Salon.com calls the film "badly constructed, humorless and emotionally sadistic", and sums up by saying that the film "takes the trauma of 9/11 and turns it into just another random spectacle at which to point and shoot".
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune warned that the viewer may feel "queasy" at the references to September 11, but that "other sequences [...] carry a real jolt" and that such tactics were "crude, but undeniably gripping". He called the film "dumb", but "quick and dirty and effectively brusque", concluding that despite it being "a harsher, more demographically calculating brand of fun", he enjoyed the film. Bruce Paterson of Cinephilia described the film as "a successful experiment in style but not necessarily a successful story for those who want dramatic closure". Some critics also pointed out the similarity to the Half-Life video game series, in particular the "Ant-lion" monsters from Half-Life II, and the constant first-person perspective.
Empire magazine named it the fifth best film of 2008. The French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma named the film as the third best of 2008. Bloody Disgusting ranked the film number twenty in their list of the "Top 20 Horror Films of the Decade", with the article calling the film "A brilliant conceit, to be sure, backed by a genius early marketing campaign that followed the less-is-more philosophy to tantalizing effect... much like Blair Witch nearly ten years earlier, Cloverfield helped prove, particularly in its first half hour, that what you don't see can be the scariest thing of all."
The film was nominated for four awards: two Saturn Awards for "Best Supporting Actress (Lizzy Caplan)" and "Best Science Fiction Film" and two Golden Trailer Awards for "Best Thriller for Trailer" and "Most Original Trailer". The film went on to win a Saturn Award for "Best Science Fiction Film". It was also ranked #12 on Bravo's 13 Scarier Movie Moments.
Cloverfield In Popular Media
- Comedy Central's South Park featured a two-part episode mimicking the idea behind Cloverfield and the first person handycam story, except with giant furry guinea pigs instead of giant man-eating monsters.
- Cartoon Network's Madspoofed Cloverfield, renaming it Cliffordfield. Instead of the giant man-eating monster, it's a big red dog who wants to play, but destroys the city trying to. It showed a lot of similarities to the movie. It too is through the eyes of a camera. The beginning and ending parts are a lot alike, along with the parasites that bit Marlena Diamond (which are fleas that fell from Clifford and bit Jennette McCurdy), the Statue of Liberty's head falling off (except its a tennis ball), it is taped over another tape (Hermit's American Idol audition tape), and the beginning black screen with the message on it. The monster from the movie also appears in an episode called "Pacific Ring / Horton Hears a Whodunnit!".
- During the end of the credits, a garbled radio sound clip can be heard. At first it appears that the audio reads "Help us", but when played backwards the man says, "It's still alive".
- The title of the movie spawns from the Government codename, or "Case Designate" for the events depicted in the movie. At the start of the film a Government message appears, explaining this.
Behind the Scenes
- Wikipedia Cloverfield Page
- Cloverfield Clues blog
- 1-18-08.com (defunct, required Adobe Flash Player)
- Cloverfield on CNBC
- Cloverfield article on iMDb