In another example of “Where the f*ck did that time go?”, Cloverfield is 15 years old already. To celebrate 2008’s unexpected hit, Matt Reeves has been doing the rounds to promote the 4K release of what some call the greatest found footage movie ever made.
The trailer had no title and no obvious plot. It started with some party full of obnoxious people and I thought it was going to be some rom-com crap the wife would want to see. And then things turned to shit and my peepers were transfixed.
So, let’s just get this out of the way right now. I used to love J.J. Abrams’ work. Alias, Lost, Fringe – I would eat those up like a fat dude and a chocolate convention. I couldn’t get enough. So when the weird trailer for Cloverfield came out, I was all in.
Anyway, back to Matt Reeves. To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Cloverfield, a Limited Edition 4K Ultra-HD SteelBook is now available and Reeves has sat down with various outlets to talk about the movie.
Unfortunately, all of us at Last Movie Outpost have been too busy to take some time out and speak to Reeves, regardless of his endless pleading. So I’m going to be sharing with you the juicy bits from other outlets, and one part in particular that I didn’t know about – the origins of the creature.
There Was No Script
Even all these years later, something that’s burned into my mind from Cloverfield is the subway sequence. The tension, getting to imagine walking through New York subway tunnels… You said you didn’t have a script?
“Let me be clear: we didn’t have a script when I started, and we didn’t have a script when we were prepping. Drew Goddard wrote a wonderful script that we had that was ready and done, but it was done literally, I think, two weeks before we were shooting. So, it was crazy.
I remember J.J. specifically said to me, “Look, it’d be really cool if you did this,” and I said, “Well, why don’t I wait till we have the script, so that way I can see?” and he said, “No, no, no, you don’t understand. We’re shooting in 12 weeks.” I was like, “What?” He goes, “Just meet with Drew. Drew has a wonderful outline. You guys can talk, and then you can work on the outline some more.
We were talking to our production designer, Martin Whist, and he’s like, “Wait, we’re shooting at 12 weeks, I don’t know what to build.” I would, each day, try to describe the story, and he would, on napkins and pieces of paper, just write stuff down. Finally, he’s like, “I’m going to go to New York. And I’m going to go from the place that you’re telling me it begins [to where] we know it ends in Central Park. I’m going to go with a video camera and film it, and I guess then we’ll figure out what we have to shoot in New York, what has to be in LA, [and] what’s on stage.” I was like, “That sounds like a good plan.”
A Direct Sequel
A direct sequel is supposedly in some stage of development, but I remain shocked that we haven’t seen Rob (Michael Stahl-David) and Beth’s (Odette Annable) tape again in some capacity. Why has a proper sequel been so tough to crack?
“Well, to be honest with you, when we finished, we all had ideas for what the sequel could be, and it was just one of those things where our schedules got pulled off in different directions. So we never ended up doing it in that way, and when 10 Cloverfield Lane came to be, it was like, “Oh, this is a really exciting way to continue to explore the tone of this world.” But doing a direct sequel was something that we initially … I did something in the movie when Hud is on the bridge before the tail comes and smashes the Brooklyn Bridge in half.
There’s a moment where you actually see someone filming him and you realize, “Oh, there’s another perspective on this evening.” So that was one of my thoughts for what could be the beginning of another story. The different perspective would be a different story.”
Could It Be Made Today?
Between social media and no shortage of online scoopers now, does it bum you out that you probably couldn’t pull off a similar release today with secrets intact?
“It does. When I was a kid, I remember a very early teaser trailer for Close Encounters of the Third Kind that described the different kinds of contact, and I had no idea what that movie was. So, in a certain way, the mystique of movies has gone away just in terms of something coming out of left field and you going, “What is this?” For something to take over the cultural moment and allow there to be a level of discovery and surprise, I think that’s gone away.
I mean, the way that you can do it now is to take something that people know you’re doing and find a way within it to do it in a way that surprises people. I always try to do that, but the idea of actually coming literally out of nowhere, it’s kind of impossible today. So I miss that. The discoveries were one of the things I always loved about going to the movies.”
Speaking of the monster movie element, I still see videos on YouTube analyzing the creature. Did you ever have a definitive backstory for it?
‘For sure we did. Because you have to figure out how to direct the monster, so to speak. So you have to understand what’s going on with them emotionally. And for me, the big secret was that the monster was a baby and was experiencing separation anxiety. The reason the monster was freaking out is that they were having fits based on looking for their mother. And so, [the monster] was just as afraid as the main characters, because it seems like there would be nothing more terrifying than the human element fighting this giant monster element and, actually, both of them are just terrified. That’s a mess. That’s not good. So that part of it was absolutely something that we talked about in the development of the creature and in terms of how I shot it.”
In terms of its species, was it of this planet, or is it alien?
“It’s alien. In fact, at the end of the movie, you can see the moment when it comes to [Earth]. It’s another one of those little Easter egg moments, but when we revisit that footage where they’re on the Ferris wheel at the end, you can see the meteor flying down and hitting the ocean. That’s actually the beginning of the baby being on Earth.”
The first Cloverfield very much played on post-9/11 fears. What would a new movie in this universe look like in the post-COVID era?
“There’s no question it would be a viral movie, right? It would be about a virus. The funny thing about making that movie, like I said, for me, it opened up the idea of making genre movies and specifically about exploring your own feelings about things. I had such anxiety that was related to…I mean, I still have such anxiety. I think I wouldn’t be a filmmaker if I didn’t have anxiety.
Every movie that I’ve made is some sort of depiction of my internal anxiety … I think today, it would absolutely come from the uncertainty of what you can’t see and the idea that being next to someone, you could catch something. There have been some really scary [viral thrillers]. Contagion is certainly really scary … There would be a scary movie to do for sure about the spread of the virus.”
And there you have it. What are your thoughts on the first Cloverfield movie? What about the sequels, Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox and a potential fourth one in the franchise? Let us know in the comments section.