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Novelist Scott Sigler’s horror column appears every Thursday.
I’m a big fan of monster movies, and I’m a big fan of DVDs with tons of extra goodies you didn’t get to see in the theaters. So, you would think that the DVD for the monster movie Cloverfield, which came out April 22, would be a must-buy for my collection… Not so fast.
At this point in his career, producer J.J. Abrams has the keys to the city (that city being Hollywood). You know the name: He’s the producer of huge TV hits like Lost, Alias and Felicity, director of MI:3 and soon, Star Trek (2009) and The Invisible Woman (2010). The man can do just about anything he wants. So when the guy who blatantly ripped off the USA Network series La Femme Nikita with Alias, and who made the chick-flick schlock known as Felicity wanted to make a giant monster movie, Hollywood royalty may have scratched their heads in confusion, but they sure as hell gave it the green light.
That green light paid off, to the tune of $80 million at the box office and a sequel slated for a 2009 release. Now keep in mind, that $55 million in profit is before the DVD moolah, which should be significant. Yep, we’re back on the subject of the DVD, so let’s break that baby down.
Is Cloverfield Worth the Rental?
• If you’ve haven’t seen this movie, absolutely rent it. King Kong (2005) and the excellent Korean flick The Host (2006) have brought the creature feature back to the big screen, and Cloverfield keeps the ball rolling.
• If you’ve already seen Cloverfield in the theaters, and are a huge fan of “how they did that” special effects segments, the DVD is pure gold.
• If you’ve already seen Cloverfield, and you don’t really care about FX geekery, skip it. On the small screen it’s really not worth a second take, and the non-FX special features of this DVD are pure crap. Did I say “pure crap?” Well, that might not be completely true, they are 90 percent crap cut with 10 percent secretions from marketing scumbags. While I call ’em like I see ’em, I’ll also back this statement up with a list of the special features in the Cloverfield DVD.
Yeah, I put this in quotes, but only because you can’t see me make air quotes when I say it. You know, air quotes, that thing you do with your fingers to convey sarcasm? There are no alternate endings. The DVD makers have the gall to market two “alternate” endings, when both endings just take the theatrical version and end it before the final monster scene. That’s right, it’s the same thing you saw in theaters. This is like taking a 350-page novel, ripping out the last 10 pages, then putting a new cover on it and selling it as an “alternate” ending.
Cloverfield is a monster movie… I don’t know about you, but I assumed the deleted scenes would have something to do with the monster. Wrong-Oh, Fish Breath. It’s four worthless vignettes from the party that opens the movie, people telling Rob to have a grand-ol’ time in Japan. There isn’t a single shred of entertainment to be had in these scenes. A total waste, and more B.S. marketing.
Creature Design (Listed as “I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge!”)
This segment is both cool and dumb at the same time. Anytime you see
behind the curtain of creature design, it’s pretty sweet, and this is
no exception. You definitely get the hint that there will be more Cloverfield
movies, and they won’t just be a re-hashing of city destruction.
There’s a lot more to the story of this monster than stomping buildings
and eating people. I say this, because a lot of the things that
creature designer Neville Page and director Matt Reeves say leave you
mumbling, “What are they talking about?” The creature is apparently “a
baby.” That’s right, 30 stories tall, and it’s a baby. The moviemakers
also seem to think it’s obvious the monster is a wild animal with no
intelligence. A wild, scared animal that, apparently, has a “frightened
expression” and wants its mommy. Yeah, me too, didn’t get a lick
of that from watching it in theaters. Again, this is probably part of
the larger story (and when I say “larger,” if Clover is a baby, we can
only imagine the size of its mom).
Outakes (Listed as “Clover Fun”)
Another completely worthless segment. Nothing funny, nothing interesting, just skip it.
Cloverfield Visual Effects
is where the DVD really shines. This short documentary on how they did
the effects for Cloverfield is absolutely stunning. What blows you away
isn’t necessarily the monster effects, which were great, what gets you
is when you see just how much of what you saw was computer generated:
Buildings, debris, vehicles … just about everything that wasn’t a
person. The amount of work that went into this movie makes the Pyramids
look like a Cub Scout merit badge project.
This technology is
also downright scary — when you see how they made the movie look so
real, it’s easy to envision a time maybe only five to ten years away
when revisionist historians use it to make their own versions of the
world’s events. Combine that tech with unstoppable distribution of YouTube
and other Internet sources, and you’re going to wind up with millions
of people who embrace a completely different history because “they saw
it for themselves.” When you can’t tell the difference between genuine
archival footage and footage made for political or religious
positioning, it will be the start of frightening time.
The Making of Cloverfield
the visual effects segment, this is good. The only problem is that
they use a ton of the same footage they used in the visual effects
piece. So as you’re watching this, even when it’s interesting, you’re
annoyed because you already saw these talking heads saying the exact
same thing. It’s as if two different teams made each segment, drawing
from a common pile of footage.
One awesome thing you learn from the DVD is that the little, dog-sized monsters that scurry through the city are not
baby Cloverfields. The movie makers call these things “parasites.” The
DVD footage gives you really clear shots of the critter, something you
did not get in the theatrical version. The parasites apparently cling
to the monster, and when the monster hits New York, some of the
parasites either fall off or jump off. Now this is what you buy a DVD for, to get that inside info that you missed in the theaters.
Put a Screwdriver Through My Ears, Please
I have to hear “How does a gigantic 350-foot monster move through the
street of Manhattan?” one more time, I’ll rush the stage at an Ozzy
concert and push my ears up against the biggest speaker I can find just
to make myself go deaf. Yeah, the DVD special features use this line a lot.
If you like watching monsters trash cities over and over again, Cloverfield
is okay. The movie offers a unique, first-person view of what it’s like
to be one of the ants scurrying about as the monster wreaks havoc.
While that makes for an original concept, it’s not so great for
re-watchability — you just don’t get clear shots of the monster doing
its thing. Once you’ve seen the “bomb run” scene and you know what
Clover looks like, there isn’t a whole lot to hold you for repeat
views. So in a nutshell, you geek out over FX secrets? Rent it. You
don’t roll like that? Skip it.
Scott Sigler writes tales of hard-science horror, then gives them away as free audiobooks at www.scottsigler.com. Infected, hit stores on April 1, 2008. If
you don’t agree with what Scott says in this blog, please email him
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