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‘Cloverfield’ a thrilling odyssey

A surprise going away bash turns into a night of unrivaled terror as Manhattan is once again turned into “Ground Zero” in this week’s thriller, “Cloverfield.”

Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David) has taken a new job that requires him to move to Japan, and his family and friends wish to send him off properly. Brother Jason (Mike Vogel) and his girlfriend Lily (Jessica Lucas) organize a surprise bash to do just that.

Jason gives the important task of film documentation to friend Hud (T.J. Miller). He is to gather film footage and testimonials from those gathered at the soiree. Of course, Hud takes the gig for personal reasons, namely to get near Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), a mutual friend that he is sweet on. Within seconds, however, all of their lives change forever.

An earthshaking tremor plunges the entire island momentarily into darkness. When the power returns, the television reports a capsized oil tanker near Ellis Island that is burning uncontrollably. The friends rush to the roof in an attempt to catch a glimpse of the accident only to see firsthand a towering explosion that sends burning debris flying off into the island. Chaos ensues as the projectiles smash through buildings and terrified New Yorkers are left to believe that another attack has occurred. An attack has begun, just not from the enemy they were considering.

Rob, Jason, Lily, Marlena and Hud, who is still rolling film, take to the streets and become part of a mass exodus heading toward the bridges. They continue to hear monstrous roars and briefly catch sight of a towering behemoth rampaging through the city. The Army’s arrival momentarily allays fears but their ineffectiveness leads to heightened anxiety. A terrified call from Rob’s lifelong love Beth (Odette Yustman) sets him on a course of action to rescue her. Will this small band of friends be able to traverse the horrors being visited upon them to save Beth and themselves?

Finally, a film that delivers as advertised. This love child of “Godzilla” and the “Blair Witch Project” provides genuine excitement continually from the moment Manhattan is rocked until the credits roll. So in the interest of preserving that excitement, I’ll tiptoe around the spoilers as I tell you why you need to run out and catch this flick.

We view the entire odyssey through the camcorder’s unsteady eye. Along the way, narrative and gallows humor are provided between screams and exhausted panting (you try running for an hour) by T.J. Miller’s character Hud. The realistic presentation adds to the overall effectiveness of the film by placing you in the action. Also, the lack of information, and the creators decision to keep the creature hidden, (ala “Jaws”) make for an all the more realistic experience thereby sucking the viewer even further into the madness engulfing the cast.

I highly recommend “Cloverfield.” It may be a tad too intense for younger ones that are prone to anxiety, but for everyone else it is an edge-of-your-seat thriller delightfully plausible in its own glorious implausibility. Word to the wise, however: you may want to throw back a few Dramamines prior to show time; it’s not only an exciting ride but a truly vertigo-inspiring one as well.

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