Cloverfield (2008) directed by Mark Reeves
Rob's friends are throwing him a farewell party in Manhattan. They are all late 20s/early 30s types. Rob's ex-girlfriend Beth shows up but things don't go well. She leaves after some curt words are exchanged. As Rob's best friend and his brother talk to him about it out on the balcony, the building shakes precariously. Turns out Rob should have left New York earlier because some monster is attacking the city. Rob decides to go after Beth. The only problem is she lives in the direction where the monster is attacking.
The movie is a "found footage" film. In this case, the footage is a tape from Rob's camera documenting the farewell party, which turns into a chronicle of their experience of the attack. The tape has some old video when Rob took Beth to Coney Island the month before, giving the characters a little more background and empathy. Unfortunately, it looks like there are some edits (like most of the testimonials from the party?) that blow the attempt at realism and immediacy. I never got fully invested in the film like I did with Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. I started wondering if the Coney Island bits, which made sense narratively, would really be so perfectly lined up in random spots on the tape. So the found footage was a problem for me.
The other problem I had was all the hints at what's really going on. I had the impression that there was a larger, more interesting story and we were stuck following this group of semi-interesting, semi-sympathetic characters. The ultimate ending for Rob and Beth is touching if not surprising. I was expecting more from the talent behind the film (produced by J. J. Abrams and written by Drew Goddard). Some moments are startling and beautiful and terrifying but quite a bit of the film looks like stuff borrowed from other, better films.
I was surprised by how mediocre this film is. It would have been less distracting without the found footage gimmick and a better story was probably going on somewhere else in Manhattan. The isn't bad; I am still going to watch 10 Cloverfield Lane, which hopefully is the better story.