'Cloverfield' gimmick works
Go ahead and call it gimmicky, but "Cloverfield" is effective.
The trailer, with its image of the Statue of Liberty's severed head bouncing down a Manhattan street, created huge buzz online and at Comic-Con.
The title gave away nothing - it's just the name of a street near producer J.J. Abrams' Los Angeles office.
And the premise seems tailor-made for the YouTube generation: a monster attack on New York City as seen entirely from the perspective of a partygoer's hand-held video camera.
The "Blair Witch" technique does grow dizzying but, again, it's effective because it feels so authentic and gives the movie an interactive quality. Truly, if a creature several stories high came stomping and roaring through your town, wouldn't you document it, too, and wouldn't it look just like this? (Well, you would if you were 25 or younger.)
But this monster mash-up is a lot of fun, creating some intense gross-out moments and maintaining suspense throughout its speedy running time. Adding to the feeling that you're watching a real attack as it happens is the casting of mostly unknown actors.
Michael Stahl-David stars as Rob, who's about to move to Japan for work (in a nice little homage to "Godzilla") and whose going-away party is interrupted by the arrival of a very large, angry reptile. Odette Yustman is Rob's gorgeous would-be girlfriend, Beth, who lives in a high-rise overlooking Central Park; and T.J. Miller is Hud, the guy behind the video camera. The creature we only see in obscured glimpses for the longest time.
Surely this will remind a lot of people of what the city was like on Sept. 11, with its falling buildings, walls of dust and smoke, and general pandemonium as people run around seeking safety and hunting frantically for their friends. It does send a chill but, now that it's been several years, the sensation doesn't feel exploitative.
Abrams says "Cloverfield" is a metaphor for the fearful times we live in, but it's doubtful most moviegoers will head into it with such a lofty thought in mind. They're mostly going for the ride. And they'll get it.
* Cloverfield, now playing at the Vista III in Storm Lake, rated PG vor violence. Run time 84 minutes. Score - three stars out of four.