Wednesday 27 June 2012

The Wishmaster (1997)

Probably the last decent gasp of a certain generation of horror cinema, I’d not seen THE WISHMASTER since its original cinema release, and on a repeat viewing recently I was actually surprised it was made so late on, as it feels very 80s indeed. It’s absolutely not great cinema, but if the old-fashioned Weird Tales (i.e. circa 1930s) had still been going I’d like to think this is the kind of story they would have published. In fact this is definitely a movie for fans of the kind of fun pulpy horror at which that magazine excelled in its heyday. 
After an explanatory title card read out by PHANTASM’s Angus Scrimm, we kick off in Persia in the twelfth century where a Djinn is busy granting the wishes of the Emperor. Said wishes seem to involve a number of Screaming Mad George-style body horror effects (actually executed by KNB). A helpful wizard is able to trap the djinn in an amber jewel before the all-important third wish can be granted that will allow the djinn dominion over the world. He remains trapped there until eccentric millionaire collector Robert Englund buys the statues it’s been buried in. Unfortunately a drunken crane operator ensues that the statue gets smashed at the docks. The jewel is pinched, sold on and eventually split open by a ‘jewel analyser’ (I suppose) with the result that the djinn is free again, this time in the form of gravelly voiced Andrew Divoff who is keen to grant someone three wishes so his prophecy can come true.
Plotwise WISHMASTER is reasonably diverting and quite a lot of fun, but where the film really comes into its own is as a movie for horror fans both old and new, especially those who might get a kick out of the aforementioned Weird Tales updating with a host of familiar faces. Peter Atkins fills his screenplay with characters named after famous pulp horror and SF authors (Beaumont, Derleth, Merritt, Finney) and there’s a character called Aickman in there as well. Director Robert Kurtzman follows suit by peppering the film with various guest star turns by actors famous for their horror roles in films of the last couple of decades including NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’s Englund, Kane Hodder (FRIDAY THE 13TH PARTS VII to X but criminally not FREDDY vs JASON), Reggie Bannister (PHANTASM I - IV), and Tony Todd (CANDYMAN I-III and the FINAL DESTINATION series). The film also has posits the novel idea of the djinn being unable to harm anyone except by what they wish for, leading to a couple of amusing sight gags that work well. The opening credits also reads a little bit like a high school reunion of 1980s horror with not just Atkins (HELLRAISER 2 - 4) but Harry Manfredini (FRIDAY THE 13th) composing the music and Jacques Haitkin (ELM STREET 1 & 2) as director photography. WISHMASTER is low-budget horror fun with plenty of blood and a pleasingly retro feel that’s well worth ninety minutes if you’re in the mood for a dose of light horror from people who know what they’re doing.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Cosmopolis (2012)

I suspect not a lot of people are going to like this film. The Robert Pattinson fans who have foolishly put their money down hoping to see their TWILIGHT star in yet another romantic role will probably leave at the point where he has his prostate checked in what must be the most unnecessarily prolonged digital rectal examination in cinema history. If not, then the scene of our Robert having a prolonged wee will probably be the final straw for them, if they’ve managed to last that long.
But plenty of other people will hate COSMOPOLIS as well. They’ll say that it’s boring, that it’s too self-consciously arty, and that it makes no sense. These people may even make up the majority of those who get to see it which is all the more reason why this film needs flagging up at the House of Mortal Cinema. By the time the film finished I loved COSMOPOLIS, and I had almost forgiven David Cronenberg for wasting my time with A DANGEROUS METHOD in which two people who could act and Keira Knightly wandered around in period costume for no good reason and to no great purpose.
The best Cronenberg cinema has always had a purpose, even though his recent work has of late become less palatable to me than his earlier films. I’m sorry but A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE and EASTERN PROMISES, while both very well made, had me clutching the arms of my cinema seat in frustration. This was a director who could do so much more, be so much more innovative, and while it’s become something of a cliche to say it, these movies, and especially A DANGEROUS METHOD had me hankering for the Cronenberg of old, the one who filled a residential complex with a combination of venereal disease and aphrodisiac or who caused rage to take on the shape of psychopathic children.
But there is another Cronenberg as well, one who existed before those wonderful body horrors. I’m talking about the Cronenberg who made weird short films like CRIMES OF THE FUTURE and STEREO, and that’s the Cronenberg I felt was behind COSMOPOLIS - the artist who expertly uses the trappings of science fiction, however tangentially, as a vehicle for his concerns and observations about human nature. That’s the Cronenberg who made this film, and it’s a delight to have him back.
You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about the plot yet. That’s because as far as I can tell COSMOPOLIS is virtually plotless. Very, very rich Robert Pattinson decides one day that he wants a haircut on the other side of town and takes his state of the art limo to get there. On the way he holds conferences, has sex, and meets with celebrities, while gradually the streets he passes through become more derelict and threatening. We learn that someone is trying to kill him and eventually, bereft of his bodyguards, lovers, limousine and even his jacket and tie he comes to a reckoning in the darkest part of town.
I’ll be honest here. For the first half an hour I didn’t like COSMOPOLIS at all.  It has to be one of the coldest, most dispassionate films I have ever seen. In fact if I had to describe it in terms of other art and other artists I would say it has a feel somewhere between Cronenberg’s own CRASH, Andrzej Zulawski’s POSSESSION (1981) and the fiction of J G Ballard and Brett Easton Ellis, especially AMERICAN PSYCHO (novel not film). It really is that cold. Characters speak almost in monotone, camera angles are deliberately uninteresting and I actually started to nod off at one point.
BUT (and it is a big one), once you realise that this is meant to be an art house science fiction movie, the sort so prevalent in the early 1970s before STAR WARS did a lot to ruin the chances of intelligently-made SF getting off the drawing board, and that the ‘feel’ of the picture is actually quite possibly the most important thing about it, you can say goodbye to logic or trying to make sense of what people are talking about (I don’t think much of it matters but some of it is properly funny) and just let this weird, bleak, uncaring world wash over you. To give you an example of how strange this film is, suddenly out of left field a terrorist tries to assassinate Pattinson with a cream cake and we then get a monologue about how he has performed various other pastry-based atrocities with political aims in the past. I would mention other examples but I'd hate to spoil the film for anyone brave enough to go and watch it.
To be honest I can’t explain why I liked COSMOPOLIS so much, but this is me trying my best to do so. I honestly think it’s my favourite film of Cronenberg’s since CRASH or possibly before. It’s innovative, thought-provoking, funny and shocking by turns, and I can’t wait to watch it again. Well done Mr Cronenberg - I’m finally absolutely delighted with another film that you’ve made.

Friday 22 June 2012

Inferno Carnal (1977)

One of the cruellest films I’ve seen in a long time, this 1977 Brazilian oddity from the never very pleasant mind of Jose Mojica Marins (writer, producer, director and star of this) takes us to a world of big-haired ladies, abysmally loud furniture and oft-hilarious mistranslated subtitles to deliver Marins’ version of a conte cruele.
Marins stars as Dr George Medeiros, a mild-mannered cardigan-wearing pipe-smoking scientist whose wife Raquel is having an affair with his best friend Oliver. The two decide they can’t be apart any longer so rather than get a divorce Raquel throws acid in George’s face and Oliver sets fire to George’s laboratory. George gets taken to hospital where we are treated to some actual eye surgery (it looks as if they’re removing a sliver of metal) in graphic detail. Meanwhile Oliver sets about spending all the money Raquel keeps giving him on Brazilian prostitutes. George is discharged from hospital with his face looking like a cross between Cropsy from THE BURNING and the scary mask used by Baird Stafford in NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN. 
Raquel and Oliver split up and George stabs Oliver to death. Raquel, consumed by guilt, begs George to take her back and, in a scene that didn’t go the way I was expecting at all, picks up the jar of acid that just happens to be sitting on the dining room table and empties it all over her own face. Off she goes to hospital for some plastic surgery that doesn’t work at all. She is discharged and comes back to the family home where the acid-scarred wife comes face to face with her acid-scarred husband in a bizarre scene that almost makes this film worth watching. And then there’s a twist that absolutely does make it worth having stuck with the film thus far. George isn’t scarred at all! He’s wearing a mask! “The acid you threw at me was much weaker than what you poured on yourself,” he sneers as beautiful Virginia walks in. She’s the redhead we’ve seen naked in the shower a few time throughout the film for absolutely no reason at all whose gratuitous nudity is now wholly justified in terms of the plot. George embraces her and as the two of them prepare to go out to the theatre he orders his acid-scarred wife to be thrown out onto the street. “What’s the play about darling?” asks Virginia as the immaculately-attired couple prepare to leave. “Oh infidelity,” he replies, “as so many stories are these days.” Freeze frame on George’s  mutilated wife being dragged out of the house. The End.
Jose Mojica Marins is famous for his Coffin Joe series of films, of which I have seen a couple. Those movie are never less than interesting provided you yourself have a fairly solid grounding in reality (otherwise I suspect they’re capable of tipping people over the edge). INFERNO CARNAL (or HELLISH FLESH as the rather poor English translation would have it) is much more The Pan Book of Horror Stories Goes to Brazil, and despite being a bit rough around the edges (the credits look like a five year old’s school arts and crafts project) this is actually worth sticking with for the final nasty twenty minutes. I may have created a rod for my own back here, but I now realise I’m going to have to watch all of Marins’ other films to see what else he can come up with.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Necronomicon (1993)

Another attempt to bring the works (or at least the inspiration) of H P Lovecraft to the screen in the early 1990s resulted in this uneven anthology film that, while not entirely successful by any means, turns out to be another of those pictures that time has been quite kind to.
It probably helps that there’s a period setting, at least for the framework story. It’s the 1930s and HP Lovecraft (Jeffrey Combs doing a very likeable version of HPL) is brought by a taxi driven by Brian Yuzna to a library where the fabled book of the title is being guarded by an order of monks. Pretending to be actually interested in volumes of alchemy Jeffrey has soon pinched the key to the chamber where the special / valuable / naughty books are kept and pretty soon he’s leafing through the book of the dead and making notes. It’s these notes that allow the film to then segue into three short stories.
First up is The Drowned, directed by Christophe Gans, who went on to make BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF and SILENT HILL. I enjoyed this more than either of those films, but I suspect that may in part be due to the fact that The Drowned so wants to be a Roger Corman Poe picture that it hurts, but in the best way. After the death of his wife in an accident for which he was responsible, Bruce Martin Payne buys a deliciously gloomy, windswept mansion on a cliff top where he learns that one of the previous owners (played by Richard Lynch) made a deal with the Deep Ones to bring back his own dead wife and child. It all went horribly wrong, of course, but that doesn’t stop Bruce from trying the same thing. There’s a whole film in here and sadly twenty minutes just isn’t long enough to do it justice, but there’s enough fine imagery and an atmosphere that’s just so right that I’m very willing to forgive its shortcomings, especially as the music for this segment, by Joseph LoDuca, is excellent as well.
Next is The Cold, an adaptation of HPL’s Cool Air starring David Warner as the scientist who can only survive in very low temperatures and who ends up pulling himself to pieces in a welter of special effects. It’s directed by Shusuke Kaneko and it’s not bad, often being cited in reviews as the best episode. I personally prefer The Drowned but some good performances and effects make this episode very watchable too.
The final story is Whispers, directed by Brian Yuzna and as different from the other two as you could possibly get. A female police officer on the trail of ‘The Butcher’ gets trapped in the depths of a building and ends up prey for some weird flapping things that like sucking bone marrow and use human brains to reproduce. It’s all a little bit silly and (dare I say it) far too over the top to work, especially after the relative restraint of what has come before. Oddly enough I found the flappy monsters more reminiscent of Frank Belknap Long’s The Hounds of Tindalos or Clark Ashton Smith’s horrific brain sucking things from The Vault of Yoh-Vombis than anything actually by Lovecraft. Then there’s just time for Jeffrey Combs to fight the otherworldly monks before the end of what is really a bit of a curate’s egg of a picture. The framework and the opening story made it more than worthwhile for me, and anyone who has an interest in Lovecraft's mythos  horrors being translated to the screen could do much worse than spend 93 minutes with this.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Needle (2010)

Here’s a cracking little Australian horror film that’s a combination of supernatural thriller and good old-fashioned giallo that keeps you guessing until the end.
Ben Rutherford (Michael Dorman) is a college student who inherits an eighteenth century mechanical device called Le Vaudo Morte from his father. One night, at a party with his close friends he shows them the device and shortly afterwards it’s stolen. At the same party a photograph has been taken of the group and soon they’re beginning to die in horrible ways. It turned out that Le Vaudo Morte is a Victorian Voodoo revenge machine (how wonderful is that for a concept?). All you have to do is slip a photograph of your intended victim into the top of the box, pour the requisite mixture of blood and wax into the device, and a wax doll is created that can then be mutilated according to the tormentor’s wishes. That the tormentor in NEEDLE does this wearing black leather gloves and the torments in question include some quite spectacular and creative death scenes (in some cases in front of incredulous witnesses) means that NEEDLE does a fine job of referencing its horror heritage while at the same time remaining very much something that feels fresh and original. To me Australian horror has tended to mean movies set out in the wilds of the country like WOLF CREEK, LONG WEEKEND or even ROAD GAMES. With its glossy photography and slick characterisation NEEDLE actually feels more like an Italian film made on a US college campus, and I mean that very much as a compliment. The acting is pretty good as well, with all the characters coming across as better drawn than the average FINAL DESTINATION shreddie (and I love those films too). 
      It’s probably worth bearing in mind when reading this review that I’m a sucker for anything that includes nasty Victorian mechanical devices a la Guillermo del Toro’s CHRONOS, but I’m certainly going to look out for the next work from director John V Soto as well as chasing up his previous effort CRUSH. NEEDLE is really pretty good and certainly deserving of more genre love and attention than it seems to have got. Any more of these and I’ll have to start an Australian Giallo section.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

The Theatre Bizarre (2011)

Anthology movies seem to be making a bit of a comeback, which is good news as far as I’m concerned. After all, I grew up on movies like DEAD OF NIGHT (1945), George A Romero’s CREEPSHOW and absolutely anything and everything by Amicus, and so did David Gregory, British owner of Severin films, producer of this movie and director of one of the six story segments on offer. Each of the stories is by a different director, each director was given the same (small) amount of money and each was told they could do pretty much what they wanted. The difficulty, then, was presumably ensuring that the final product wasn't too uneven and credit has to be give to Mr Gregory and his co-producers that the directors selected for this project have each delivered unsettling stories that veer from the emotionally devastating to the outrageously flamboyant but overall give THE THEATRE BIZARRE a cohesive feel. I really liked this film when I saw it on the big screen at London's FrightFest last year, and a recent DVD rewatch has confirmed my feelings and strengthened my opinion that we really do need more of this sort of thing.
Jeremy Kasten directs the wraparound sequence which is set, reasonably enough, in the theatre in question. When a young girl sneaks inside to watch the show who should take to the stage but a marionette of Udo Kier! Udo introduces each of the stories and gets more ‘human’ as the film goes on. Each of the introductions features grotesque stage tableaux involving more life-size puppets, and these work as a fine way of tying together into a whole the weird and wonderful stories we are about to see.
First off is Mother of Toads, directed by Richard Stanley of DUST DEVIL and HARDWARE fame. This has to be one of the very few movies to even attempt to adapt the work of Clark Ashton Smith (one of my favourite authors and it was a delight to learn that Mr Stanley is a fan, too). A couple travelling through France cross paths with a witch (Catriona MacColl), who turns out to be a bit more than just a harmless old woman. Some of the imagery here is splendid, with Lovecraftian symbols etched in stone mixing with the damp countryside of the Pyrenees to provide an appropriately unsettling atmosphere. There are plenty of toads here as well, including a great big one but to say any more would be to spoil it.
Buddy Giovinazzo’s ‘I Love You’ is next and is as brutal, harsh, honest and extreme a depiction of the breakdown of a marriage as I have ever seen on screen. First class acting from Andre Hennicke and Suzan Anbeh and some awful violence make this one a mini classic. After that we get Tom Savini’s ‘Wet Dreams’, which features the director himself as a psychiatrist trying to help Donnie (James Gill) with his recurrent unpleasant dreams where a beautiful girl turns out to have Lovecraftian genitalia. It all ends horribly and the episode itself is deliberately dreamlike, with the suggestion that different characters are moving in and out of each others nightmares. I think.
Next is a complete change of pace with Douglas Buck’s lyrical and gentle ‘The Accident’, in which a mother does her best to explain death to her young daughter after they witness the deaths of a motorcyclist and a deer in a road accident. This episode can be interpreted in different ways, one being that the child is eventually reassured that death isn't such a bad thing. In my mind there’s something much bleaker and darker going on, and the really evil part of me hopes that’s what the story is actually meant to be about.
Karim Hussein’s ‘Vision Stains’ features a girl who is able to drain the life visions from women at the moment of their death by aspiration using a needle and syringe. She then injects them into her own eye to live the experiences and write about them. There’s an awful lot of eyeball violence in this one, which may distract some viewers from wondering how on earth this girl has managed to repeatedly do all of this in such squalid surroundings without succumbing to some awful eye infection. 
Last up is David Gregory’s ‘Sweets’, which is a dessert serving in every way. Channeling his inner Ken Russell Mr Gregory serves up a deliciously outrageous tale of yet another relationship breakup, but this time one using baths full of cream and carpets covered in crushed biscuits as metaphors. It’s a seriously twisted, flamboyant and wonderful ending to a film that deserves as wide an exposure as possible. Not all the stories are going to be to everyone’s tastes, but it is extremely reassuring that this kind of film-making is going on. I understand THEATRE BIZARRE 2 has been announced and I for one can’t wait.

Sunday 10 June 2012

The Pact (2012)

Being released with little fanfare in UK cinemas this week is THE PACT, the  debut feature from writer-director Nicholas McCarthy. I understand it’s an expansion of a previous eleven minute short film of his, with which I am unfortunately unfamiliar. The budget for THE PACT is low, the sets are minimal, and the actors are all pretty much unknowns, but the only thing that’s really important about this film is that all of these factors work in its favour, resulting in a well-made, restrained and surprisingly suspenseful horror film that takes itself seriously and never goes too far over the top.
The film begins with Nicole (Agnes Bruckner) sitting in the drab 1970s-decorated bungalow of her recently deceased mother. She makes a Skype call to say goodnight to her daughter, who is being looked after by her cousin, only for the little girl to ask who the figure is that’s standing behind her. Before you can say ‘I bet there’s nothing there when she turns round’ Nicole has disappeared. Her biker-chick sister Annie (Caity Lotz) tries to find out where she’s gone and ends up being thrown around the same house by a supernatural force for her troubles. Annie enlists the help of a local cop (Casper van Dien) and together they discover a walled-up room in her mother’s house that Annie never knew about in the sixteen years that she lived there. How the room ties in with the supernatural entity, and with a spate of serial killings performed in the area several years previously I will leave you to find out for yourselves. 
Kicking off with a reference to Sheridan LeFanu (see if you can spot it), and closing with a cameo by a bottle of J&B (again, keep an eye out or you’ll miss it) and with cinematic references to John Carpenter and Lucio Fulci along the way, THE PACT is actually much more than the sum of its derivatives, and is probably the first film in a long while that has gradually seduced me into liking it with some very well-engineered scares, a plot that never goes in quite the direction you’re expecting, and some chair-arm-clutching suspense sequences that are actually so spot on it was a delight to come out of the cinema having experienced the kind of delicious mixture of dread and suspense that I haven’t enjoyed in a long time. The characters aren’t especially likeable at the beginning but they grow on you, and what I really liked was that a number of standard tropes of a film of this kind (getting a blind psychic involved, using a ouija board) are all handled with a degree of originality such that they don’t feel cliched or over-used. A quick trawl through some current internet reviews reveals that this film isn’t terribly well-loved and that’s a shame, because McCarthy definitely has his horror heart in the right place and many of his visual set-ups are just perfect. Definitely worth a look.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

The Apple (1980)

What in God’s name is this?
      Rock musicals are notoriously difficult to pull off successfully, and movie history is littered with the odd (sometimes very odd) success, such as Richard O’Brien and Jim Sharman’s THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) and lots and lots of failures - CAN’T STOP THE MUSIC (1979), XANADU (1980) ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS (1985) and others I could mention but I have a feeling I might lose the will to live before getting to the end of this if I do. It does, however, take a very special talent indeed to make a film so gob-smackingly, unbelievably, ludicrously awful as THE APPLE. With the imminent release of the Tom Cruise-starrer ROCK OF AGES, what more paltry and tenuous excuse could there be for revisiting this glitzy, glossy load of way, way over the top camp nonsense from 1980?  A kind of demented cross between Paul Verhoeven’s SHOWGIRLS and the Eurovision Song Contest (most people have probably already stopped reading at this point and well done you if you have) THE APPLE takes place in the ‘future’ of 1994 where the world is ruled by music and music is ruled by ‘BIM’ - the Boogalow International Music company that dictates fashion, politics and the very law itself. Alphie (George Gilmour - no, me neither) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart before her perm and starring role in NIGHT OF THE COMET) enter the Worldvision Song Contest with their sweet entry about love. Evil Mr Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal - always watchable, even in this demented rubbish where apparently he's actually Satan) seduces Bibi over to the dark side of the music industry with promises of stardom while Alphie is left to rot in his filthy tenement building filled with guitars and Miriam Margolyes. Will they get back together? Will true love triumph? Will anyone ever be able to explain how a team of creative people got through this whole endeavour without a single one of them screaming ‘Stop! This film is TERRIBLE!!’
      Why is it terrible?
      I would say see it for yourselves but I am doing my best to perform a public service here. Firstly the songs are awful, so awful in fact that at the film’s Hollywood premier I understand that free soundtrack LPs were given out, all of which had been hurled at the screen by the movie’s end. When a film opens with a big production number where the lyrics either don’t rhyme or you can think of better rhymes yourself you know a film is in trouble. The huge dance numbers are choreographed by Nigel Lythgoe, who cut his teeth (and dancing shoes) on Saturday night British television. Consequently every time a mass of people start clicking their fingers and tapping their toes you suddenly feel you’re back watching some awful cheap variety show hosted by Cilla Black or Bruce Forsyth (transatlantic readers are better off not asking). The plot is awful - naive, simplistic and virtually non-existent, and just when you think it can’t get any more childish it suddenly switches gears with a horrible simulated sex number that the little Paul Verhoeven must have seen and been influenced by when he was creating his own magnum horrendous. Towards the end Joss Ackland turns up as the leader of a group of hippies, then at the climax he floats down in a car from space and turns out to be God. Or something. And he leads everyone to heaven, which means they die. I think. Or rather I don’t, because any attempt at rational thought had been abandoned at this point. 
      Even writing about this again has made me wonder what the hell was going on, both onstage and off. Directed by Menaham Golan, the man who killed Norman Wisdom’s burgeoning career in family films by filming him with a naked Sally Geeson in WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE, and produced by the Cannon group (Golan and his friend Yoram Globus, about whose infamous Hollywood career a book could - and has - been written), THE APPLE was shot in a disused shopping centre in Berlin with some glitter dusted over the cracks. All the costumes appear to have come out of Christmas crackers and the makeup is of the primary school pantomime variety. Most of the actors were never seen again and probably became part of the witness protection programme.
      THE APPLE really is an unbelievable film, and it should only be watched by the kind of person who leaves their house every day covered in lipgloss and glitter, has their own copies of BREAKDANCE II: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO which they watch regularly and with a passion, and thinks that hair is not something to be combed but to be covered in fluorescent chalk dust, drenched in lacquer and teased into something that will scare children. Truly awful, truly a contender for the worst film of all time, and truly an unforgettable experience. You have been warned - I now leave the ticking timebomb that is your own curiosity in your hands. Choose wisely.

Friday 1 June 2012

Cloverfield (2008)

CLOVERFIELD is a giant monster movie that’s the flipside of all those pictures from the 1950s. You know the ones I mean - well-loved pictures like TARANTULA, GODZILLA and the like, that featured something horrible and massive relentlessly destroying all that lay before it until the military, usually aided by a crusty old scientist and a girl in an unfeasible rocket bra, solved the problem with the aid of some heavy artillery and a complete lack of concern about its after effects on the environment. When they weren’t subjecting shreddie characters to the rampaging thing, those old movies tended to concentrate on the scientists and military characters, all sweating it out in some sparse set with perhaps a few test tubes and a microscope that would be used to find the miracle cure while the monster carried on happily rampaging, but always at a safe distance. CLOVERFIELD takes the point of view of those who are, or are about to become, victims of said rampaging, the ones who have no idea what is going on, and are too busy avoiding the collapsing tower blocks and explosions caused by the unexplained thing that has dropped into their midst.
Making CLOVERFIELD a found footage picture was a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand the immediacy and terror of such a situation is conveyed all the more effectively, on the other there’s the constant slight nagging problem that no-one in such a situation would realistically hang onto their camera, let alone keep filming when one’s friends were being attacked by hideous jumpy spider things. Nevertheless, if one can overcome that particular plot difficulty, which I have to say I had very little problem with simply because the rest of the film is so good, then CLOVERFIELD really is worth a watch, as long as you can stand the shakycam. 
      The film depicts the fallout from a giant monster attack on Manhattan, all filmed from the point of view of a group of twenty-somethings who have been attending a leaving party for their friend Rob (Michael Stahl-David). They get caught up in a mass exodus over the Brooklyn Bridge but when that’s destroyed by the tail of Something Massive they end up trapped in the city, with a race against time to save Rob’s girlfriend Beth (Odette Yustman) who’s trapped under a girder in her 39th floor teetering apartment building before the final helicopter takes off and the military, in time-honoured fashion, bomb the shit out of everything.
It’s a commendably brief film and sets up its characters well, the narrative being ably assisted by the clever device of having the tape that’s being recorded on having been used earlier in the day by Rob and Beth, and we get to see snippets of that as the movie progresses. The movie was written by Drew Goddard of CABIN IN THE WOODS fame, so it’s perhaps not surprising that this is a film that knows its giant monster movie rules and does a splendid job of subverting them.  The giant monster is never given a name or an explanation, and its appearance is revealed gradually throughout the film in a way that does its 1950s sci-fi origins proud. The icing on the cake is the collection of horrid little parasite things it seems to have brought with it, leading to some memorable scenes in the subway and at least one spectacular death.
One would have assumed that the giant monster movie was dead, and recent efforts like SKYLINE and BATTLE LOS ANGELES have certainly done their best to  kill it off again, or at least return it to the domain of the Grade Z drive in picture. CLOVERFIELD is, however, a very different beast, and one worth watching if you’ve not yet had the chance.