Finally saw Cloverfield the other night and can't make up my mind what to think about it, except to say that it's evidence of how bizarre popular culture can be. It's like some strange artifact of our time, detailing our obsessions for the benefit of future anthropologists in ways I can't quite get my head around.
At first it seemed to me to be getting to the heart of what would've been one of the worst things about 9/11 - not knowing what the hell was going on, not knowing who might be responsible and not knowing - assuming you lived in NY or somewhere close by - if you were next. There's mystery in the initial carnage, and those online clips drew me in for that very reason. Except when you find out the cause is a CGi monster it becomes oddly less thrilling. It would have been a better movie, I think, if you never found out or barely caught a glimpse of what was responsible. One of the first rules of a scary movie is, it's what you don't see that's scary.
The creature - when you do see it - is simply too bizarre, too obviously a director's fever-dream brought to life, to take seriously. Or perhaps our apparent need to objectify the things we're scared of as large, rampaging monsters is easier for me to assimilate in the form of men in obvious rubber costumes stamping up and down on cardboard buildings while Japanese B-movie actors pretend to look worried.
One thing that occurred to me: Cloverfield is a movie that could be easily remixed. Keep the yuppies-in-peril scenes, substitute something else for the monster. The Stay-Puft man from Ghostbusters 2 (what would it really have been like with an enormous smiling man of dough rampaging through New York?); or a two-hundred foot tall Osama; or Martian War Machines (the properly Victorian variety, not Spielberg's barely disguised 'sleeper cell' variety)?