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Paramount Pictures

Creature comfort

Movies | Horror fans will enjoy the monster flick Cloverfield

Issue: "The other campaign," Feb. 9, 2008

Let's get it out of the way: The 9/11 parallels in Cloverfield aren't clever or observant; they're just in poor taste. That hasn't stopped the flick from becoming a runaway hit, though. The $25 million movie grossed $41 million in its opening weekend, buoyed by a web marketing campaign that denied fans-to-be the film's credits, its title, and all but the stingiest glimpses of the monster. It's rated PG-13 for violence, but that mostly means that when somebody explodes, she has the decency to do it behind a plastic curtain.

For all its pompous conspiracy theories (the film stock is watermarked "Department of Defense"), Cloverfield is not much more than a high-toned creature feature with some excellent scares.

After a short prologue, we find ourselves at a party with Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and his stump-dumb buddy Hud (T. J. Miller), where much twentysomething drama is interrupted by an earthquake, a loud noise, and the head of the Statue of Liberty hurtling down the street where a harmless soirée was being held just moments before. Rob, naturally, is now separated from his girlfriend by dozens of Manhattan blocks and is set to drag a few expendable buddies along with him on his quest to rescue her.

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Since the entire film is shot in grainy, dolly-disabled video, nobody in his right mind could tell you to go watch it in the theater without an airsick bag (if the gore doesn't get you, motion discomfort will), but on a small screen, the movie is a standing rebuke to that awful 1998 Godzilla remake.

Cloverfield is scary, and interesting, and larded with teasing clues that are never really explained. Where did the monster come from? Why did it bring along other monsters who look like something H.P. Lovecraft sneezed? The world may never know, or care. But horror fans will probably be pleased to sit down and yelp through this goofy 84-minute monster-fest for years to come.

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