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Heroes of the Zeroes: Cloverfield

by on March 7, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

Rated PG-13

The monster looked like a monkey, a crab, a whale, a squid, an eel. It could squat and be as wide as the block it was about to level. It could stand and tower skyscrapers it was about to topple. This big beast squeezed the Big Apple to its core.

The creature in 2008’s “Cloverfield” resembled every animal and no animal at once — classifiable only as a behemoth your brain might conjure in REM sleep. This hard-to-shake story of a bone-crushing apocalyptic attack tapped into primal fears of twisting, shifting nightmares, down to how our lives’ details metaphorically inform them.

Using a handheld-camera structure to place us inside the punishment, “Cloverfield” achieves realism without the burden of resembling reality. The creature has no mercy, motive or explanation for existing, but it receives full attention and new-media fascination from those it terrorizes.

Unfortunately, those without gigantic TVs, Blu-ray players and 5.1 lossless-surround systems can’t appreciate “Cloverfield” at its maximum scope — as large and loud as possible. Handheld, yes. YouTubed, no. One subway-tunnel confrontation echoes the dark, claustrophobic tension of “Aliens,” and a building climb turns strenuously exertive.

The 9/11-esque dusting of New York proves a cheap tonal misstep, and an opening epigram threatens not to tip the movie’s hat, but remove it altogether. But these minor aftershocks can’t crumble a mammoth movie that’s unapologetically B, but also a thrilling, exhausting tale of an incomprehensibly horrible beast crafted in H.P. Lovecraft’s remorseless style.