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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: Cloverfield

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#1 of 91 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted April 05 2008 - 04:35 PM

Directed by Matt Reeves

Studio: Paramount
Year: 2008
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 84 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99

Release Date: April 22, 2008
Review Date: April 6, 2008

The Film


A clever amalgamation of the tone and tenor that made such horror films as Aliens and The Blair Witch Project so popular, Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield is a cracking good time. Suspenseful and scary without the unbridled gore that sometimes makes shock films monotonous, Cloverfield is a lean, stripped-for-action thriller that’s also touching and even funny. It may not break any new cinematic ground, but the terrain it probes is nevertheless worth the exploration.

During a going-away party for young businessman Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), New York City finds itself under siege by some kind of frightful disturbance. People are scurrying to get out of the city in massive droves, and Rob, together with his brother Jason (Mike Vogel), Jason’s girl friend Lily (Jessica Lucas), deadpan friend Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), and good natured videographer Hud (T.J. Miller) who was videotaping the party, make a mad dash for the Brooklyn Bridge. Rob, however, receives a cryptic distress message from a girl he’s deeply fond of but recently estranged from, Beth (Odette Yustman), so he and the gang decide they’ll take the risk of finding her in midtown Manhattan before they seek safety from the city’s attacker(s).

Thus, the film turns into a chase and destroy movie with our frightened band dodging numerous perils on their rescue mission and then later in their desperate bid to escape the city without losing their lives. Drew Goddard’s script has concocted several astonishingly effective shock moments (the subway tunnel is a special favorite) while at the same time keeping spirits up by having the jovial Hud’s dry, goofy sense of the absurd come to the fore. Nervous laughter while under duress is always an effective means of capturing and holding an audience. It works to grand effect here.

Matt Reeves’ direction deftly blends the green screen special effects work with actual New York locations and studio sets to make a slick, believable package that‘s entirely engaging and surprisingly realistic. One must get past the notion that someone fleeing for his life would continue to videotape everything that was happening, but once that hurdle of disbelief is conquered, the film is completely disarming with a brief enough running time to sustain tension to the maximum and provide complete identification with the young leads.

T.J. Miller’s Hud steals the picture even though we only see him on camera for a brief period. His running commentary (some of it obviously ad-libbed) is frequently hilarious not only during the twenty minute party sequence but even after the mayhem begins in earnest. Michael Stahl-David makes an eager young protagonist, and Lizzy Caplan’s Marlena fires a few zingers at Hud which also produce some uneasy laughs.

The special effects work is cleverly accomplished offering us just a taste of the villains at first and gradually revealing more and more of the adversaries our heroes are facing as the film progresses. The smallish nature of the production, unlike Roland Emmerich’s gargantuan Godzilla which sank under its own enormity, makes for a snazzy, snappy thriller, much more resembling the effective chills of the small scale 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers than its more ambitious but sometimes lumbering remakes.

Video Quality


The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with anamorphic enhancement. Since the movie is meant to look like it’s been videotaped, discussions of sharpness, contrast, detail, and the like seem almost superfluous. Does the DVD represent accurately the intended theatrical look of the film? Absolutely. Black levels run the gamut from milky to inky, and the various light levels from the dark tunnels to the bright subway platform and the amber lighting of the party all come through superbly. The film is divided into 16 chapters.

Audio Quality


The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is thoroughly compelling. Deep, extensive LFE engage the senses continually (which reminded me at certain times of the masterful sound design in the most recent version of The War of the Worlds), and there are plenty of discreet effects used in all the channels with imaginative pans and bone-chilling smaller sounds always at play.

Special Features


Director Matt Reeves contributes a very gabby audio commentary where the filmmaker rarely draws a breath. It’s literally exhausting listening to him ramble sometimes about certain scenes or set-ups, but his enthusiasm is contagious, and he’s obviously delighted with how his film turned out, his first work in this genre.

“Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield is an entertaining 28-minute documentary touching on every aspect of the production process from filming on both the Paramount and Warner backlots, to location shooting in Los Angeles, Santa Clarita, and New York. The featurette is presented in anamorphic widescreen.

Cloverfield Visual Effects” covers the eight main areas of the production which required special effects work including how the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty were fashioned, the creation of the parasites and main creature, and the destruction of many New York landmarks including the Woolworth Tower. This anamorphic featurette runs a generous 22 minutes.

“I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge!” goes into more detail with various designs for the monster. It runs 5½ minutes and is also in anamorphic widescreen.

The disc offers 4 minutes of funny outtakes, mostly adlibbing on the set which didn’t work.

4 deleted scenes are offered which can be played all at once or individually and with or without director commentary explaining why the scenes weren’t used. Together, these anamorphic scenes run 3½ minutes.

Director Matt Reeves also provides commentary (or not) with 2 alternate endings for the movie, neither of which is as effective as the one in the finished work. Together they run 4½ minutes.

There are previews of the upcoming (and highly anticipated) Star Trek and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Surprisingly, the trailer for Cloverfield is not present on this disc.

In Conclusion

4.5/5 (not an average)

Cloverfield is a wildly entertaining but completely unpretentious horror thriller. This set offers plenty of bonus material for the curious about how the effects were manufactured, and the picture and sound are both of high quality. It’s highly recommended for fans of the genre.

Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC


#2 of 91 OFFLINE   MarkBirds


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Posted April 05 2008 - 05:35 PM

I'm sold. And I really don't see a reason to wait for the Blu-ray version, either. Thanks for the review. Nice work!
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#3 of 91 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

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Posted April 05 2008 - 11:28 PM

Good review but the movie has no replay value for me. Its a one trick pony.
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#4 of 91 OFFLINE   MatthewLouwrens



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Posted April 06 2008 - 12:32 AM

That is unsurprising to me (many DVDs these days omit trailers), but in the case of Cloverfield it is articularly disappointing. I would have loved to see a documentary about the marketing of the film - the way it came out of nowhere with a surprise trailer on Transformers, the lack of an officially known title for so long, the way they used the supplementary websites not just to build up excitement for the film (say in the way Dark Knight is), but to actually attract people trying to figure out just what 1.18.08 actually was. This would have made a good place to discuss all that, but unfortunately not.

#5 of 91 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted April 06 2008 - 01:27 AM

You're right that many DVDs don't include trailers any more, but most of the Paramount DVDs I've reviewed lately have been the exception to the rule (Sweeney Todd, There Will Be Blood, Into the Wild, The Kite Runner). That's why I was surprised Cloverfield's wasn't here. It was included on some of the other DVDs I've just mentioned.

#6 of 91 OFFLINE   TravisR


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Posted April 06 2008 - 03:24 AM

Thanks for the review! Looking forward to picking this up.

#7 of 91 OFFLINE   EricSchulz



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Posted April 06 2008 - 07:40 AM

That will be on the Director's Cut Edition that will be released in about six months...(j/k)

#8 of 91 OFFLINE   Bonedwarf


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Posted April 06 2008 - 04:57 PM

A directors cut with a third alternate ending. A SONG AND DANCE ROUTINE! Mark my words!

#9 of 91 ONLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted April 07 2008 - 06:00 AM

That is amazing considering the original trailer is more (in)famous and more collectible than the film itself. Posted Image

While replay value is pretty low thanks to awful shakycam and the fact the monster only has about a couple of minutes of screentime in total, I will eventually buy the film when the price drops just to get a good look at what looked like an interesting monster and it's making in the featurettes. Posted Image

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#10 of 91 OFFLINE   PaulP



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Posted April 07 2008 - 06:42 AM

Any other DVDs have the 01-18-08 teaser on them?

#11 of 91 OFFLINE   Jerome Grate

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Posted April 07 2008 - 08:46 AM

My only regret is not seeing this in the movie theater, but I was waiting for this release with great anticipation. I'm all over this one, and goosebumps run up and down my spine with a 5 out of 5 rating for sound.
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#12 of 91 OFFLINE   TonyD


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Posted April 07 2008 - 06:39 PM

i saw it in the theater,and now i saw it at home. i will watch it again, plenty of replay value for me.

#13 of 91 OFFLINE   IanDP


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Posted April 08 2008 - 12:38 AM

As long as you have a decent sound system, you should be able to capture the theater experience of this movie. In particular, the LFE will rattle your bones, like nothing you've felt before.

#14 of 91 OFFLINE   Colin Jacobson

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Posted April 08 2008 - 01:02 PM

I liked this flick WAY more than I thought I would. Dunno about replay value - I've only seen it on DVD - but I really liked it.

BTW, I skipped it theatrically because I knew the shakycam would give me motion sickness. For those sensitive to that form of nausea, I STILL felt a little ill after I watched the DVD. If you watch it on a small screen, you'll probably be fine, but I guess my new 50" set was a little too big for comfort! Posted Image
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#15 of 91 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted April 09 2008 - 07:29 AM

If you have a PS3, you can download at least one of the trailers in HD from the Playstation Store. (Movie trailers are free to download.) Or you could a few months ago, anyway.
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#16 of 91 OFFLINE   Yumbo



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Posted April 12 2008 - 12:46 AM

Just watched on 185" screen, and it was a blast! Fun, good sound, ok picture. A couple of over the top scenarios, but still enjoyable. Very good effects.

#17 of 91 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 12 2008 - 01:02 AM

I may have to give this a rent, not sure I can wait for the BD

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#18 of 91 OFFLINE   Mike_Richardson


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Posted April 14 2008 - 02:08 AM

The movie was a lot more "mildly" entertaining than "wildly" entertaining for me. The characters were totally uninteresting and the first 30 minutes of the movie could be skipped entirely as every one of these nameless faces is so wholly bland and unappealing you don't care about them in the least.

The FX and action are fine when they start and the movie provides decent fun, but it isn't anything unique or groundbreaking. It's basically the Emmerich-Devlin GODZILLA with a camcorder.

Still worth a view though Posted Image

#19 of 91 OFFLINE   TonyD


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Posted April 16 2008 - 11:02 AM

this is so much better then that godzilla load of a movie. just watched again and like more each time i see it. btw right at 1hr 6 min 55 secs there is a shot that is only 1 frame of
king kong (the real one) about to swat a plane from atop the Empire State uilding
also that shot of something falling into the water at the end is so clear i cant believe i didnt see it at the movies.

#20 of 91 OFFLINE   Film Syncs

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Posted April 16 2008 - 12:42 PM

That's interesting about the frame insert. I also missed the object falling in the water. But a group sitting near me was commenting on seeing it so someone was more observant than I was.

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