Spoilers are out there.

I didn’t see this film when it came out. I’ve dodged watching it because I tend to find found-footage genre films either acceptable or completely unwatchable. Now, I can honestly count this one as a well-crafted film, even if I’m watching it years later without the viral hoopla that came with it. I didn’t think I’d enjoy this much, but it does draw you in and the performances are quite decent. Flaws are easily overlooked.

(Credit: Paramount Pictures)

Cloverfield (2008) was directed by Matt Reeves and written by Drew Goddard. It is produced by J. J. Abrams and Bryan Burk. Lily (Jessica Lucas) and Jason (Mike Vogel) are throwing a surprise farewell party for Jason’s brother, Rob (Michael Stahl-David). Lily tries to get Jason to video blog the party, but Jason enlists Hud (T. J. Miller) instead. Hud agrees when he learns that Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) is coming. There’s a little drama when Beth (Odette Anable) shows up with a new fling. We know this because Hud is taping over a previous recording that shows up at random times, where we learn Rob and Beth hooked up earlier even though they’ve been officially broken up for a long time.

The beginning of the film does a really decent job at casually introducing the characters as well as the dynamic between this circle of friends. Even Hud is a character behind the camera as he fails in his awkward advances with Marlena. Once he learns about the hook up Hud wastes no time in blabbering it over to everyone. Yeah, he’s an idiot but at the same time this is somewhat endearing. Once the power starts to go off and explosions happen around the city, Hud decides to keep filming and that’s how we’re able to follow the story. The stakes are raised when something comes barreling down to the street… and turns out to be the head of the Statue of Liberty.

Okey, that might be gimmicky, but it does grab our attention. From then on, we follow the gang as they try to evacuate, seek shelter and keep running into some very scary stuff. At this point, the audience knows we’re in a monster movie but the main cast wisely avoids saying it. The performances are adequate, the humor is incidental and the horror does feel tangible. The characters feel familiar to us and when one meets their demise, it’s a moment. We want them to survive, but we know better.

Strongly recommended. Even for someone like me who is not a particularly big fan of found footage movies, this is top notch storytelling where nothing can be told and everything has to shown. The cuts to Rob’s previous recording serve as very believable framing device to the current events. The result is an entertaining film with three dimensional characters and the start of a subtle but clever movie trend and franchise.

That will do for now.