'Cloverfield': What we saw

Ryan, Tamara and the other Misfits —
We spent almost two weeks talking Cloverfield. So, how close did we get? Was the whole thing one of Sark’s plots or the result of the Rabbit’s Foot? (Thanks to the commenter who gave us the scoop about the movie shipping under the title “The Rabbit’s Foot.”)
Let me start with the ending. And no, I won’t be spoiling.
The silence as the credits come on-screen — there’s no score within the movie, other than random songs at the party early on — is a concussion. That’s what Cloverfield is all about: The visceral feeling of being right there on the ground while something huge tears apart the West’s bastion of civilization. The camerawork gives us no respite, other than footage from happier days that had already been recorded on the tape.
Let me tell you, there were moments when I wished for that earlier footage. When what was happening was too cruel or sad or intense. When characters fell and, rather than stopping to mourn, the camera and survivors are hustled on and on and on.
We really get to like those characters. One note? Sure, but imagine you’ve just met them at, say, a going-away party. You’d normally take months to know them, but not tonight. Instead, you have seven hours (condensed to 90 minutes). Even so, it still hurts every time our plucky gang of survivors dwindles. And they do dwindle. This isn’t an action movie where the heroes can take a beating and crack wise.
I come back to the word “visceral” because that’s another example. These characters won’t shrug off what would merely scratch Arnold or Bruce or Sly. Their flesh is just as fragile as yours or mine, so there’s a real sense of danger, not only from the city falling apart but from the monsters.
Yes, monsters, and that’s all I’ll say other than to say, yes, we get to see the Big Bad. Not only in glimpses, but in larger and larger increments. No, said Big Bad is never explained, though our cameraman Hud has some funny theories. The Slusho alternate-reality game is referenced only by Rob’s brother Jason’s Slusho T-shirt. (I so want one.) Thank God for Hud, by the way. He does crack wise — like Peter Parker, stress gets him talking, as he admits — and that lessens what often becomes excruciating tension.
I’ve seen early reviews call the plot shallow, but what do you want? The movie never tries to make a point, something I dreaded during our discussion. I’m fine with it now. From the opening notes (that “incident 447” business, just one place J.J.’s number 47 appears) we know this will be one slice of perspective from people involved in a horrific situation.
I have to warn those of you who admitted you have issues with motion sickness: The camera is almost always in motion. Even I, proven immune to motion sickness, had a brief stab of pain during one scene involving a large mass of running, panicking people. If you’ve got a sensitive stomach, I hate to say it, but stay away. That’s a shame, because I can easily peg Cloverfield as one of the best, most frightening horror movies I’ve seen in a long time.
I can’t say more without diving into spoiler territory, and I won’t do that. If any of you do want to throw caution out the window, please don’t do it in the comments. I’ll mercilessly kill those until we’ve all had a chance to enjoy Cloverfield. Instead, e-mail me and we’ll jaw about details.

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