Matt Reeves‘s much marketed 2008 action/horror/thriller Cloverfield lives up to its hype. It takes the point-of-view camera technique utilized in The Blair Witch Project and brings it to new extremes as it ekes out a truly creepy and unsettling looking at an attack on Manhattan by what can only be described as a monster.
A small group of people are having a going-away party for Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), leaving New York City for a job in Japan. His complicated relationship with girlfriend/non-girlfriend Lily Ford (Jessica Lucas) provides the catalyst for the group’s quest through a post-apocalyptic-looking Manhattan, through attacks by the creature and a massive American military response that seems unable to stop the beast. Accompanied by his best friend, who is running the POV camera Hudson Platt (T.J. Miller), and brother Jason Hawkins (Mike Vogel) the group moves through New York City, trying to figure out what is going on and once they discover the horrors that are occurring, trying desperately to first get out of the city, but once that fails and, to get to Lily and get her and the rest of the friends to safety before the military begins using more extreme tactics to destroy the beast.
The footage is presented as a classified US Department of Defense video, supposedly recovered after the attack has ceased and chronicles the relationships between the friends and the absolute terror of the group as they move against a mostly-unseen malevolent presence. There are elements from the Alien series of movies in creature formation and from Signs and other horror classics where the monster is a vivid creation, but one which is rarely seen, but more often seems to steam throughout the city causing havoc and horror.
The acting from the relatively unknown cast is remarkable and the POV technique as used in The Blair Witch Project is both effective and haunting in that it is so much more realistic since this film had a proper budget and could afford the elements to add the realism necessary. What the viewer leaves with after the viewing is a sense of wonder as the footage is so realistic that it is intensely disturbing to watch and then contemplate.