Cloverfield UHD Steelbook Review

4 Stars Quality film, thrilling, handsome packaging

80 minutes of intensity, 5 minutes of credits, no score save for Michael Giacchino’s piece playing over the end credits (buy the track, it’s called Roar! and it’s terrific), Cloverfield has long been a favorite of mine. The 4K might be overkill, and the lack of Dolby Atmos the definition of missed opportunity, still, if it’s not one you own already, you could do worse than this handsome Steelbook edition.

Cloverfield (2008)
Released: 18 Jan 2008
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 85 min
Director: Matt Reeves
Genre: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi
Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Michael Stahl-David
Writer(s): Drew Goddard
Plot: A group of friends venture deep into the streets of New York on a rescue mission during a rampaging monster attack.
IMDB rating: 7.0
MetaScore: 64

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 1 Hr. 24 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Steelbook with plastic sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 01/17/2023
MSRP: $30.99

The Production: 4/5

“…People need to see this, you know? It’s gonna be important. People are going to watch this.”

As friends, acquaintances, and awkward love interests gather to celebrate, Jason (Michael Stahl-Davis), at a party arranged by his brother, Rob (Mike Vogel), while the evening is sporadically documented with guests having their goodbye remarks recorded by unreliable friend, Hud (TJ Holmes), a catastrophic event disrupts the night. In the frenzy, the streets of New York become chaotic as a massive monster brings mayhem, death, and destruction. A small band of survivors from the party seek safety and join Jason as he makes his way across the city to find the girl he loves before it’s too late.

Long after The Blair Witch Project, and a year before Paranormal Activity made its mark on horror cinema with a clever ‘found footage’ conceit (though produced in 2007), Cloverfield made its debut. From Producer J.J. Abrams (along with Bryan Burk), white hot from the mosaic mystery of his Lost TV series, Cloverfield permeated the consciousness of the public through a sly, mystery-box marketing campaign. That campaign, auspiciously unleashed via the once influential (and toxic) ‘Ain’t it cool’ site run by Harry Knowles was then cemented, with cryptic intrigue, following the first teaser attached to Michael Bay’s first Transformers film. All that curiosity-conjuring goodness generated from the viral marketing campaign was a promise of something the film itself would, thankfully, end up delivering on. Cloverfield is a thrilling, lean, impressively made film that put director Matt Reeves (The Batman, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) on the map and gave writer and future director Drew Goddard his first big screen ‘Witten By’ credit.

Cloverfield is punctuated by a series of superbly staged action sequences that, despite the shaky-cam nature of the premise, shows enough of the creature and action carnage and mayhem, and allows audiences to follow along easily without spoiling the sense of ‘what in the world is going on.’ Even after 15 years, this film is still a masterful example of visual effects skill and integration, the power of sound and light, and the potency of the found footage premise. As enjoyable as this film is in the home theater experience, this is the perfect film to have enjoyed in a packed movie theater.

Ostensibly a Godzilla film from the perspective of the fleeing crowds, the cast do well against the power of the visual effects and premise. Michael Stahl-Davis is likeable, capable as Jason Hawkins, the man for whom the party was held, Odette Annable compelling as Beth, the women Jason loves and risks everything to find and help. Lizzy Caplan impressive as Mariena, Jessica Lucas solid as Lily, Mike Vogal natural as Jason’s brother, Rob, with T.J. Miller a welcome injection of humor and lightness as Hud, the man reluctantly accepting the duty of filming all the goodbyes from Jason’s friends. As Hud grips tightly to keeping the camera rolling through the mayhem because the world will “want to see,” becomes a proxy for us in the thick of the catastrophic chaos.

Cloverfield reportedly used 80% of its $25MM budget on visual effects, and that makes this film stand out from other found footage films. It’s brimming with intense sequences made possible by perfectly blended VFX and the hand-held footage (professionally captures to seem like it was unprofessionally captured, of course). The Statue of Liberty’s head crashing into the middle of a New York street, the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge, violent engagement by military tanks, trucks and personnel with the massive creature amongst the towering buildings, are all believably presented. It’s mesmerizing and edge of your seat stuff.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

As Todd Erwin noted in his review of Cloverfield on 4K when Paramount first released it 2018, Reeves shot the film on a collection of Panasonic and Sony camcorders of some quality. The resolution (1080p) was made for Blu-ray, so the upscale here for 4K isn’t getting you much, but the new color grading in HDR (Dolby Vision) does appear to enrich the contrasts and black levels. The cooler color palette does well in this version, but then, the Blu-ray always look rather good as it was.

I suppose if you don’t own this film already, the 4K is a good way to go, with the handsome Steelbook packaging a nice benefit.

Audio: 4.5/5

Despite missing a fine opportunity to update the audio to a Dolby Atmos track–and boy, could this film have done something special with that–the available Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is no slouch. It’s the same audio found on the original Blu-ray release in 2008, and the first appearance on 4K back in 2018. Incongruencies of the quality of this audio with the ability for the camera the characters wield to document the madness of their encounter aside, there’s nothing at all wrong with what’s on offer here. Dialogue is consistently easy to understand, and the one moment of distortion that stands, when the head of the Statue of Liberty crashes into the street and TJ Holmes’s character is screaming “Oh my God!” adds credibility and must have been by design. Surrounds are healthy and active, and the subwoofer gets ample opportunity to shine, too.

Special Features: 3.5/5

A rather good collection of special features all found in the accompanying Blu-ray, with the audio commentary from director Reeves also found on the 4K disc.

  • Commentary by director Matt Reeves
  • The Making of Cloverfield
  • Cloverfield Visual Effects
  • I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge!
  • Clover Fun
  • Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
  • Alternate Endings with Optional Commentary

Overall: 4/5

80 minutes of intensity, 5 minutes of credits, no score save for Michael Giacchino’s piece playing over the end credits (buy the track, it’s called Roar! and it’s terrific), Cloverfield has long been a favorite of mine. The 4K might be overkill, and the lack of Dolby Atmos the definition of missed opportunity, still, if it’s not one you own already, you could do worse than this handsome Steelbook edition.

Neil has been a member of the Home Theater Forum reviewing staff since 2007, approaching a thousand reviews and interviews with actors, directors, writers, stunt performers, producers and more in that time. A senior communications manager and podcast host with a Fortune 500 company by day, Neil lives in the Charlotte, NC area with his wife and son, serves on the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Charlotte Board of Directors, and has a passion for film scores, with a collection in the thousands.

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