Big monsters are back. Movies like “The Host” and “Cloverfield” have reintroduced audiences to that rarest, but biggest of beasts, the giant out-of-control monster. Who needs vampires and zombies when you could have a ninety foot tall squid with a bad attitude and a Christmas bulb for a head?
The latest addition to the big monster genre is “Monsters,” an indie movie that reportedly only cost $15,000. Part road trip, part romance and all atmosphere, the story of Andrew (Scoot McNairy), an opportunistic photojournalist, who must escort his boss’s daughter, Sam (Whitney Able), back to the U.S. border through the treacherous quarantine area inhabited by… you guessed it, giant creatures left there when a NASA space craft carrying samples of extraterrestrial life crashed.
It’s a pure b-movie premise and for the first fifteen minutes or so promises to be little more than a Roger Corman film with better CGI. Then something happens. The movie becomes about the relationship between total opposites Andrew and Sam as they bond over their trip’s hardships and the strangeness of their surroundings. It’s a giant monster movie that focuses on the characters and despite some wild plot contrivances, it works.
The character study is a slow burn that leads up to the big reveal, the unveiling of the creatures. For most of the film they are seen and not heard but director Gareth Edwards paces the film carefully building up suspense through use of sound effects to climax with a wild mating dance between two of the Lovecraftian beasts. It’s a strangely beautiful and eerie sequence that brings the movie to a close.
“Monsters” isn’t as effective as “District 9” or “Cloverfield,” two other recent movies that introduced us to new creatures, but it is a complex film with timely messages about immigration (the US is protected by a giant fence to keep the monsters out) and our reactions in times of danger.
Film trailers are the single most important tool in the movie marketing business. Over the years the creation of movie trailers has been honed to a fine art and the right assortment of music, images and star power can be a powerful promotional tool. Cloverfield, a new monster movie from Lost producer JJ Abrams turned convention on its head recently with a teaser trailer that didn’t feature big stars or music, just one striking image.
There’s a party. Outside you hear a loud thump. Lights flicker and everyone rushes outside just I time for the head of The Statue of Liberty, torn from its body, to skid to a halt in from to them. Fade to black. No music, no title, nothing except a mind-bender of an image that knocked you back in your seat.
Not since The Blair Witch Project has a trailer stirred up so much anticipation. The only question that remains is: Can the movie top the trailer? Happily the answer is yes, but with reservations.
Cloverfield—the name is the US government code for the “incident” in which a mysterious creature destroyed NYC—is a curious mix of the production value of America’s Funniest Home Videos, (but without the crotch shots) and Godzilla. A movie shot entirely through the lens of a home video camera, complete with bad shot composition and shaky hand held cinematography.
If frenetic camera work is not your cup of tea then Cloverfield will not be for you. The occasionally nausea inducing visuals make the former jiggly-camera record holder, The Blair Witch Project look like it was shot by Ansel Adams on a steadi-cam. Having said that, for those willing to go along for the ride the intensity and immediacy of the images will leave you breathless.
As something—I’m not telling you what, not knowing in advance is part of the fun of the movie—lays waste to the Big Apple many of the scenes echo the well-known news footage of 9/11. Massive white clouds of dust billow out of buildings while sheets of paper eerily float to the ground, expelled from the skeletons of giant skyscrapers. These familiar images coupled with the immediacy of the home video footage give the film a realistic and horrifying feel.
Cloverfield takes elements from horror films as diverse as The Blair Witch Project, The Host and Godzilla and, in an economical 75 minutes, binds them together to create something new, fresh and really powerful.
TORONTO – The latest monster thriller to hit movie theatres is making some people queasy, but it has little to do with gore.
“Cloverfield” features the jerky shooting style of a hand-held movie camera and some audience members say it’s too much to bear. One Toronto blogger says more than a dozen people walked out of the screening he attended and that he spotted fresh vomit in the hallway leading out of the theatre.
“I can’t recommend this movie for anyone who isn’t into self-torture or hasn’t had a robust dose of Gravol,” the blogger, identified as “Allen” says at Guinevere.ca.
“Cloverfield gave me the worst motion sickness I’ve ever had,” a blogger named Almostzooey adds on Jezebel.com. “I thought I was going to vomit in the middle of the theatre.”
With obvious parallels to 9-11, “Cloverfield” is about a monster who terrorizes New York City and a group of friends that catch the mayhem on a camcorder. The film has drawn largely favourable reviews so far, with its champions defending the cinema-verite style as integral to the storytelling.
The shooting style is similar in feel to 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project,” featuring shaky views of panicked characters and bouncing shots of the ground when the beast sends them running for their lives.
Movie critic Richard Crouse said filmgoers seated next to him grumbled throughout the screening. He called the camera movement so erratic that “it makes ‘The Blair Witch Project’ look like it was shot on a Steadicam by Ansel Adams.”
Still, Crouse lauded the technique for lending a strong sense of realism and intensity and for evoking the shaky news footage that dominated coverage of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
Cineplex Odeon said Monday that it anticipated the herky-jerky motion could rub some people the wrong way. It posted signs at its theatres warning viewers that the camera work could cause side-effects associated with motion sickness similar to riding a roller-coaster.
Spokeswoman Georgia Sourtzis said the warnings are “a courtesy” to audience members and that anyone upset by the film can seek a refund. Complaints must be lodged before the film has ended and would be assessed on a case-by-case basis, she said.
Sourtzis had heard of a few complaints at one theatre, but didn’t have an overall picture on what moviegoers across the country felt of the “Cloverfield” camerawork.
“Some people were uncomfortable with the filming technique and it did cause them some uneasiness,” she said of one theatre in Burlington, Ont.
“Blair Witch,” also a Cineplex release, elicited complaints of dizziness and nausea when it was released.
Fans of “Cloverfield” say the shaky style is not that bad.
“It’s no different than riding in a car,” Craig Fulford said Monday after buying a ticket to “Cloverfield” for his second viewing.
Fulford said the wild views are central to the plot.
“It wouldn’t have made sense otherwise,” he said. “They’re supposed to be recovering a tape after this disaster. If someone’s filming with a Handycam it’s … going to come out like that. And you’re running around the city and it’s blowing up, it’s going to be totally herky-jerky like that.”
Crouse said he actually found the more extreme swinging motions to be beautiful.
“When you have these incredible visuals of this guy running and all you see is … shafts of light and a blurry image on the screen from his hand moving back and forth but you’re hearing the sounds of these people running and the swish of the air as it rubs up against the microphone on the camera, it’s pretty intense,” he said.
“That whole thing kind of all comes together. It quite literally had me on the edge of my seat and I see 400 movies a year.”
Recently a giant meteor lit up the Canadian prairie sky. “It was really bright. We weren’t really sure what happened … got up to look out the window, and all of a sudden, we heard this rumbling,” said one witness.
If this happened in a movie, a nerdy lab-coated scientist would say something like, “No telling what kind of meteor it is or what goes on inside of it … it’s been gathering the secrets of time and space for billions of years,” before giant bugs or aliens hatch from the mysterious rock, bringing intergalactic mayhem with them.
Next week a massive fireball will bring Keanu Reeves crashing to earth in The Day the Earth Stood Still, a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic. In it he plays Klaatu, an ambassador from an extraterrestrial confederation who arrives with a simple message for the people of the third rock from the sun: “If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives.”
All in all, fireballs are usually bad news.
Remember Cloverfield? After a burst of light from the sky illuminated lower Manhattan, a colossal creature resembling a giant sweaty salamander with the mumps laid waste to the city.
In The Day of the Triffids meteors do double dastardly duty. First, a colorful meteor shower attracts worldwide attention, but the light from the shower renders most of Earth’s population blind. Next, spores from the meteors turn into plant-like space aliens. That development leads to my favorite-ever line in a meteor movie.
“Keep behind me,” says hero Tony Goodwin. “There’s no sense in getting killed by a plant.”
Movie meteors aren’t always bad, however. Robert Townsend wrote, directed and starred in Meteor Man about a meek Washington, D.C., teacher who develops superpowers after being hit by a glowing green meteor. Using his newly found abilities he cleans up the streets after a drug lord moves into his neighborhood.
So far there haven’t been any reports from the prairies of alien spores, superhuman behavior or giant beasts terrorizing Brandon, Man., but if movie science is to be believed anything is possible.
According to Paul Frees in The Monolith Monsters you never know when the meteor will make itself known. “Meteors!” he says. “Another strange calling card from the limitless regions of space — its substance unknown, its secrets unexplored. The meteor lies dormant in the night — waiting!”