A group of friends throw a surprise goodbye party for their friend Rob, and not long after the party starts, the city of New York is attacked by a monster of unknown origin. Rob’s friend, Hud, had been recording testimonials and we witness them trying to get to another friend, Beth, and get out of the city alive from the viewfinder of the camera.
I saw this at the cinema when it first came out, having been reluctantly dragged to it by my dad and brother. From the first minute, I was totally captivated and on the edge of my seat the entire film. This is the third time I’ve seen it, and it still manages to keep me in a trance and give me goosebumps.
A lot of complaints about the film are about the shaky-cam. I don’t know how it could possibly bother anyone. A shaky cam puts me right in the center of the action, brings me into the movie and makes it much more intense. Some say it’s unrealistic that they would keep recording and carrying the video camera around, but I know that if I was in that situation, I would be filming the entire time. And the camera itself would become a member of the group, a part of you, and you wouldn’t let it go anyway. It also means there is no soundtrack to influence us. We are hearing the sounds they are hearing and the tension is built from the fantastic story and use of the camera.
The characters are fairly shallow and unlikable, but still a step above most characters of this sort. And character depth is not really needed here. Unlike other movies like this, we focus on real people – not the military, for example. Some of their decisions seem a bit silly, but I don’t think anyone can say they know how they would react if a gigantic monster attacked their city. I’ve also heard complaints about why they wanted to even save Beth. So, you wouldn’t try to save someone you love? Or make a risky, silly decision whilst in shock? Seems realistic enough to me.
There is just the right amount of focus on the monster too. Instead of it being the center of attention, we only catch occasional glimpses of it, making it much more horrifying as it destroys the city. Its attack and its existence are a total mystery, further pushing us into the experience of actually living it. One thing I dislike with these movies is when we constantly see and hear everything from ‘people in the know’ and know every little detail. I find that extremely boring.
Overall this is a near perfect film, especially for its genre. The only things holding it back are a few cheesy bits of dialogue, the annoying ‘tapes found by the Government’ messages and the characters being a little boring. But definitely one of the best films ever made.