Monster movies are one of the genres I find completely irresistible.  Zombie flicks are the other.  Aside from King Kong, one of the most racist movies made in America, every notable creature film has come out of Japan.  Movies like Jaws, Piranha, and Barracuda do not count, because they are more horror than anything else and they are about the invasion of man into the territory of the beasts, not the other way around.  We are the interlopers, whereas in a true monster movie, the monster is thrust upon us and we must recover.  Then there is B-movie garbage like Ant Man and Squirm! which are worse because there is no message.  It is only exploitation.  Yet now, from one of the most visionary producers comes a tale directly inspired by the legacy of the king of all monster movies, Godzilla.

Starting this April 22nd, now available on DVD from Bad Robot and Paramount Pictures, is J. J. Abrams latest film, a fascinating new look at the monster movie.  Cloverfield, one of the most anticipated movies in years, is finally here for you to view at home.  Now filled with special features, take this masterful piece of monster commentary back with you today.

Cloverfield is the story of a group of friends at a going away party for Joe, one of their own.  The entire movie is shot from the video camera of Hud, Joe’s best friend.  Friends meet, awkward flirting happens, people drink, conflict erupts.   All of a sudden, the earth shakes and the power goes out.  People rush out into the streets to see what is happening just in time to see something crash into one of the buildings and land in front of the crowd.  It is the head of the Statue of Liberty.  Some suspect terrorism, but people begin to see glimpses of a monster in the city.  The group of friends attempt to escape Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge, but the monster crushes it with his tail.  The friends are driven back into the city.  From there, the army invades Manhattan and everything gets worse and worse.  What follows is a thoroughly amazing film, a good story and an even better message.

The special features included in this disc are a selection of deleted and extended scenes which were not chosen to be a part of the film, several alternative endings, outtakes, several featurettes, including one on the making of Cloverfield, an optional audio commentary on the film from director Matt Reeves, and also hidden research on the case designated Cloverfield.

I expected this movie to be terrible.  I did not think that the handcam way of filming the movie would work.  Collateral was a pretty shaky film and I thought Michael Mann had lost his touch.  Miami Vice may have proven that point, but the handheld nature of Cloverfield works quite well.  It felt painfully real.  In fact, in one of the featurettes, they speak of how they watched all sorts of YouTube videos from 9/11 and other terrorist attacks to create that realistic feel of barely focused terror.  And that’s where the genius of this film lies.  In the original Godzilla, the monster stands in for the threat of nuclear war.  He breathes nuclear fire and the shots at the end of the movie of a ravaged and burning Tokyo are chillingly reminiscent of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even 63 years later.  In the same way, the monster in Cloverfield is symbolic of terrorism.  There is the destruction of a national symbol, the same cloud of debris chasing people through the streets of Manhattan, the same scenes of dazed and dusty civilians, the painfully familiar newscasts where no one is sure what’s going on, the complete failure of the military to be able to comprehend or counter the threat.  That’s the triumph of the film.  Yes, it’s scary to have a monster ravaging our cities.  It is even more terrifying to have a faceless enemy we worked to create trying to ravage our cities.

Cloverfield does what those select few great monster movies have done.  They scare us to death, because the monster is never simply out there, it’s always inside us as well.

This DVD is available at Amazon.com.

Nathaniel Jonet 

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