31 Aug

Cloverfield

We previously introduced the post type, Birthday Super Munch, in which the Munch member who is celebrating their birthday gets the opportunity to decide the menu of the movie they will be watching. As we approached another members birthday we decided it was best to make a change to that initial concept and allow the person who is participating in the festival of aging to make the ultimate decision on what moving picture we watch instead. This will be a movie christened as one of their favorites that will forever be known as a Munch’s Marvelous Movies. This pantheon of the greats will grow overtime and provide the road-weary members an opportunity to watch a movie that they love.

Okay, just to be clear here, our options are: die here, die in the tunnels, or die in the streets. That pretty much it?

-Hud

The Setup

I (Ben) can only assume that it may come as a surprise to you (the reader) that Cloverfield is one of my favorite movies. It didn’t win any prestigious awards, it hasn’t had some long-standing cultural impact, and it sits at a mediocre 77% on Rotten Tomatoes. How could a found-footage film detailing the attack of a monster on New York become one of my favorite films? It’s a mystery. No really, everything about this film is mysterious. From the beginning when it was known under a variety of names such as “Cheese” and “Slusho.” Or when actors were initially reading lines for their potential parts and they were using scripts that had little to do with the film. Or finally when the first trailer was released showcasing the first moments of destruction and then a quick cut to black, not even revealing the title of the film. Cloverfield has always been shrouded in mystery. It is a vortex of secrets and it captured my attention and dragged me in.

After I originally watched the film with a group of friends, I hurried home and delved into the forums and message boards surrounding the film. Each new board providing more juicy details and information that I was starving for. I had a folder of bookmarks on my internet browser devoted to Cloverfield that I studiously went through every day hoping someone had found something new. What opened in front of me was a fantastic Alternate Reality Game full of plain-looking websites for Slushies, a drilling company, and a Japanese corporation. Each with their own ties to the movie. This only furthered my interest in the film and soon I wanted to know everything about the movie but more importantly the monster, where it came from, what created it, and whether or not it truly was just a “baby.”

Eventually the breadcrumbs of information slowed down, and then vanished altogether, but what remained was a deep, long-standing interest in the film. Never before had a movie held my raptured attention, and even as I recognize the film’s shortcomings and why it wasn’t for everyone, I could not let it go.

So without further ado, I welcome Cloverfield to the ranks of Munch’s Marvelous Movies.

 

The Food

Our names are Andre Wyatt, Leanna Robb, and Ben Mouch. It’s 12:13 AM on Sunday, August 23rd. Approximately five hours ago, some… furry thing attacked the city. We don’t know what it is. If you found this blog, we mean, if you’re reading this right now, then you probably know more about it than we do. Whatever it is, it ruined Ben’s party, it ate our food, and left destruction in its wake.. We’ve found ourselves with limited internet access and have taken the opportunity to write this. The world needs to know what happened here tonight.

We should have known something was up when a massive tremor shook our kitchen. In the stillness that followed, we opted to keep the party going and continue with our preparations of the soy and maple glazed almonds we were just about to place in the oven. The arrival of the monster must have loosened some wires or damaged the oven because the almonds emerged slightly burnt – a mistake we are much too experienced to have made on our own. Although the combination of sweet and salty flavors on the almonds was delicious, it was surely a sign that the night was beginning to go downhill.

We abandoned the almonds and moved on to the two batches of crostini we were making for the party: one, a delicious bruschetta, and the other topped with an outstanding combination of peach slice, honey-feta spread, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. These turned out beautifully and tasted even better, but before we knew it, the monster struck again. As we searched for cover amid the quaking apartment, we watched it lumber past our window, the huge, hair-like tentacles protruding from its face blowing in the wind.

With, what we could only assume, our imminent deaths on the horizon, we planned a spectacular last snack that could end up being our last meal. We prepared some fried chicken sliders with a spicy, sriracha aioli for everyone at the party to enjoy. We were fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to try them before we were forced to vacate the premises, and even in our exasperated state we have to tell you they were delicious. But back to the important stuff. That monster… we are clueless as to where it came from and it seems as if the military was in the same camp as us.

We were to finish the night out with Ben’s favorite dessert: cheesecake. It was going to be delicious with a strawberry spread on top of decadent cheesecake. It would have really capped off the night… but…

The Drinks

While we decided to focus solely on food and let our guests bring the drinks we were thoroughly disappointed that the only guy who brought beer decided to get a case of Bud Light Lime. It may have been the first sign that something bad was going to happen, because you know a party that only has Bud Light Lime is going to be a horrible party. But still, after everything that happened that night…well, let’s just say a Bud Light Lime would probably taste like heaven on earth right about now.. It’s cool, has a light wheaty taste, with more than just a hint of lime, and is all wrapped up in that perfectly misshapen bottle. It would take our minds off everything that had happened on that horrible night.

The Movie

Cloverfield, guys. What a film. It was like a mix of your typical holiday home video and that Jurassic Park movie where the T Rex gets loose in the city, but actually way better than either of those things on their own.

You can’t talk about Cloverfield without getting into what made it so effective, the way it was filmed. Although many viewers of Cloverfield experienced motion sickness from the shaky, home-video style of filming, we support the creators’ decision. The found footage approach definitely increased the believability of the movie, and ended up being a great way to tell a multi-layered story. They were able to  make some of the CGI scenes that with time might not have aged as well, look great and build tension. In addition, cutting back and forth between the events at the Coney Island weeks before, centering on the protagonist (Rob) and his love interest (Beth), and the current events, as the band attempts to survive the destruction, managed to help us understand why it was so important for Rob to find Beth later in the movie.

Having that emotional core was what made Cloverfield stand out from the pack of dozens of monster movies. While many rely on science-y exposition or intense action sequences to keep audiences engaged with the movie, Cloverfield managed to get us invested in the characters. The characters were normal human beings trying to react and survive in a horrific situation. They are awkward, scared and unsure how to proceed at times. The cameraman’s attempts to infuse comedy in an intense situation is for of stress-relief for some people, and it offered some levity in an intense movie. How many scary movies actually do a good job at getting the audience to care about the characters? Not many.

The final reason why Cloverfield was great was because it was legitimately scary. We found ourselves holding our breaths, gasping, or even jumping throughout the whole movie.  Despite only showing up on screen for a minute or two at most (probably working in its favor), the Cloverfield monster was one of the most terrifying monsters of the century. When you finally do get a look at the monster the devastation it has reaped throughout the movie builds it up in your head and it a climactic moment for both the audience and the on-screen characters.

The Reviews

Andre: Hell yeah. Cloverfield is awesome. I saw the movie when it came out in theaters and kind of forgot about it afterwards, but man was I glad to see it again. It was better, and scarier, than I remembered. I’ll be revisiting this one again.

Leanna: 8 stars out of 10. I remember when this movie originally came out, I was entranced by the vague and foreboding nature of the trailer. I recall deciding that I definitely wanted to see it, but never followed through. When Ben said he wanted to watch this movie, I was excited for my chance to finally watch the film, but wary that it might not stand the test of time. Although the found footage format might deter from the overall cinematic quality of the movie, I think it actually helped preserve it in the best possible way. It was like we had found the camera and were able to watch this moment in time that had been preserved on someone’s personal camera. I was instantly sucked into the story, caught myself holding my breath during the most suspenseful scenes, and instantly wanted to know more about the fate of the surviving (we think) heroes and the monster itself. It was fun to watch, and extremely well done.

Ben: This is one movie that I won’t review solely because my experience with it extends beyond the movie itself. It wasn’t just an experience encapsulated in 80 minutes for me, it followed me for months after I watched it. It is intense, unbelievable, and ultimately, one of my favorite films.

“It’s still alive.”