Die, Monster, Die!

Godzilla meets Blair Witch in Cloverfield.

click to enlarge OFF WITH HER HEAD: The Statue of Liberty gets a little off the top courtesy of a Godzilla-like monster in Cloverfield. - Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
OFF WITH HER HEAD: The Statue of Liberty gets a little off the top courtesy of a Godzilla-like monster in Cloverfield.

The reason that most of us go to monster movies is to see the monster, and the one in Cloverfield is fairly impressive. A Godzilla-sized horror show that skulks around like some stripped-down version of an H.R. Giger creation (a bony amalgam of spider, crab, reptile and a few other odds and ends that should never co-exist), this shrieking nightmare steals the show whenever it appears.

Unfortunately, there's not really much show to steal, since the monster has precious little screen time and almost everything else about the movie is unbearable.

The pitch here would barely fill a cocktail napkin — Blair Witch meets Godzilla — and the film never really makes a stab at expanding that conceit. The first half hour introduces us to both the bogus concept (amateurish shaky-cam footage supposedly translating as a more credible, intensified reality) and to the disposable characters, a bunch of shallow yuppie twerps attending a going-away party for one of their pals. We're forced to sit through endless, headache-inducing footage of these nonentities standing around making small talk before things summarily start blowing up, and the big, bad monster initiates the extended (but not particularly exciting) chase scene that is Cloverfield.

We're supposed to believe that everything we're seeing is being shot by one of the characters on his camcorder, but badly framed shots and nonexistent editing can only be excused so far. The giant monster is a huge guilty pleasure (I particularly liked the smaller, even more repulsive creatures that drop from its limbs like lice) — but, a few special effects aside, this mess looks like anyone could have made it, and not in a remotely interesting way. If this is the future of filmmaking, brace yourself for what comes next.

Cloverfield (R) Michael Stahl-David, Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan, T.J. Miller, Jessica Lucas and Mike Vogel. Now playing at local theaters. 1.5 stars

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