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Paramount Home Video presents
Cloverfield (2008)

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

- (T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: April 21, 2008

Stars: Jessica Lucas, Michael Stahl-David, T.J. Miller
Other Stars: Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan, Mike Vogel, Brian Klugman, Chris Mulkey
Director: Matt Reeves

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images
Run Time: 01h:24m:34s
Release Date: April 22, 2008
UPC: 097363520641
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AB+A- A-

DVD Review

Thanks to a trailer that featured the severed head of the Statue of Liberty being hurled down a New York City street by some unseen creature and dozens of viral websites nurturing the fanboy hunger with clues for finding out whatever the hell it was all supposed to be, Cloverfield was literally a monster months before it ever hit theaters. And yet the by-product of all of that fan frenzy can ultimately go just one of two ways, and once Cloverfield was theatrically released in January 2008 the Internet hubbub had reached such a point that the film would have to crap gold bars out of the screen in order to properly match all of the preconceived expectations and anticipation.

Coming under the producer wing of golden boy J.J. Abrams (Lost, Alias, Felicity)—whose name largely eclipsed that of theatrical rookie director Matt Reeves—Cloverfield seemed predestined for greatness, yet not long after it opened complaints of excessively shaky nausea-inducing camera shots began to surface. Then there were the beefs about its fairly short runtime, the lack of any proper explanations and the inevitable sense of a general letdown that no hype machine can possibly survive. A mini backlash arose, and though the film had a record-setting opening weekend, it proved easier to find folks bitching about it than who actually loved it.

But the thing is Cloverfield delivered just what it said it would, a you-are-there-as-something-huge-eats-New-York monster picture. Tearing a page out of the now familiar The Blair Witch Project playbook, the entire film is presented as a hand-held recording found by the government after the attack, in all of its unedited glory. And like many monster flicks, the human characters are given a modicum of substance just so we can easily identify them later, as twenty-something Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is about to head to Japan for a new job (something explored in much greater detail on those viral sites). His friends are throwing him a going away party on the same night the big ugly eventually comes a-calling, and we are given cursory intros to an assortment of secondary players, such as an ex-of-sorts (Odette Yustman), Rob's brother (Mike Vogel) and girlfriend (Jessica Lucas), the wisecracking friend (T.J. Miller) and a girl no one really knows all that well (Lizzy Caplan).

Once the madness starts—cue Statue of Liberty head!—Cloverfield does pile on heaps of shaky camera work as the characters run through the streets, as rumors of what's happening play against quick glimpses of something really, really big. A rescue mission to find Rob's ex is just an excuse for Reeves to parade them through dark subway tunnels, scale dangerous buildings and encounter a frazzled military while trying to stay alive. And there's that monster, too. Whatever the hell it is, it's a whopper—ugly as all get out, too—and the fact that it's not just big, ornery and hard to kill (it does so much, much more than just rampage) that make it especially unpleasant and, more important, memorable.

There's a manic pitch black tone to Reeves' film, and the vagaries of the plot work pretty well given that we are only shown things from the perspective of the confused and fleeing characters. The visual effects do look impressive, and the shaky cam approach does wonders in keeping things not all that clear cut, so there aren't as many lingering monster shots as there are quick, frenzied glimpses. I'm kind of glad to see a resurgence in the big monster movie (the less we say about Roland Emmerich's Godzilla, however, the better), and films like The Host, The Mist and now Cloverfield show that this once popular genre can once again be extremely satisfying.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has the luxury of needing to look purposely degraded, as the entire film is theoretically shot on a character's hand-held video camera under an assortment of adverse conditions and questionable lighting. It's tough to separate the intentional flaws over transfer hiccups, so the texture of the finished product looks rough, like it should.

Effectively minimal, but deceptively clean.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround packs more punch than someone's handheld camera would likely gather, but that's a nerd nitpick on my part. It's an aggressive presentation, populated with all sorts of well-placed surround cues and plenty of deep bass that helps sell all the mayhem. Voices remain clear throughout, though occasionally are "lost" in a flurry of background noises that try to replicate that "caught live" feel.

French and Spanish 5.1 dubs are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Deleted Scenes
2 Alternate Endings
2 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Matt Reeves
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Easter Egg
Extras Review: Too bad the cover art is littered with all those reviewer blurbs, because it really detracts from that iconic image of a headless Statue of Liberty. If that kind of thing matters to you, check out the Suncoast exclusive steelbook if you're looking for some exceptionally cool packaging. But I digress, because this standard single-disc release does have an official looking Project Cloverfield security sticker on the outside, and inside the label face of disc itself is purposely scuffed up to look like it may have endured some rough times.

While rumors of a deluxe two-disc set still lurk on message boards, this single-disc version carries a nice collection of supplements. There is a solo commentary track from director Matt Reeves and it's a fairly peppy talk. Not much in the way of dead air, as an animated Reeves chats up the finished product rather excitedly, and given the short runtime of the feature, it's well worth sitting through his comments. There's the usual topics of visual effects/green screen/etc, and he's upfront about not being entirely happy with some elements of the film, though overall he clearly seems quite pleased. As he should be.

A pair of interesting docs—Document 01.18.08: The Making Of Cloverfield (28m:17s) and Cloverfield Visual Effects (22m:29s)—do a nice job covering the origins (hello Godzilla!), the hush-hush elements of the filming, on through the extensive post-production work. I Saw It! It's Alive! It's Huge! (05m:51s) is too short, but manages to give a thumbnail look at the development and design of the creatures.

A set of four quickie deleted scenes (03m:34s) are available with optional Reeves commentary, as are the two alternate endings (04m:34s). The slight variations of the endings is of far more interest than the deleted bits, though the differences are rather subtle.

A gag reel dubbed Clover Fun (03m:57s) is your basic botched line collection, while an easy to find Easter Egg (01m:55s) that I'll call the Rack Them and Pack Them clip is much more entertaining.

Cloverfield's infamous trailer is curiously absent, though included here is a teaser for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, and the trailer for Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The disc is cut into 16 chapters, with optional subs in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

I'm glad to say Cloverfield delivers what it promised in that infamous trailer, uncorking a chaotic and fun monster movie that goes with a shaky Blair Witch approach to covering all the action. At not even 85 minutes long, no one can accuse director Matt Reeves of overstaying his welcome, and in that time he keeps explanations to a minimum and focuses on a small group of friends trying to make their way through New York City as a big nasty creature destroys it.

Highly recommended.

 


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