I saw Cloverfield last night and remain convinced it is going to be a smash hit.
Not only has it been marketed with a brilliantly executed viral campaign, but it really does deliver the monster movie goods in a chilling and fresh way.
There are quite a few people who will be disappointed by it, for this is not exactly a revolutionary film, even if the technical approach is highly effective. But in the barren month of January, whilst discerning audiences eat up Oscar contenters, Cloverfield looks like being a huge hit with mainstream audiences.
The first major thing that struck me was that the handheld POV approach works very well indeed. Although at times it gets a little dizzying, the effect puts you right inside the terror of the main characters as they struggle to deal with a New York under siege from a huge, incomprehensible beast.
Mystery has been important to a lot of J.J. Abrams work, especially Lost, and this is no different. But what is clever about Cloverfield is how the marketing has served as a perfect appetiser for the final film. The mystery and blind panic of the trailer are present, but expanded into a gripping, nightmarish experience.
In fact, it goes beyond the usual horror movie cliches and – to some degree – takes a leaf out of the first two Alien movies in that fantasy is treated as reality. Whilst the monster is unreal, the fear, terror and sheer incomprehension it unleashes is all too believable.
Some audiences (especially New Yorkers) may find the 9/11 references too much, but in an age when audiences are turning away from high-minded films about the war on terror, how interesting that they will be flocking to a genre movie with such a contemporary subtext.
Cloverfield opens in the US today and in the UK on February 1st