At a going-away party for Rob Hawkins (Michael Stahl-David), a group of 20-somethings witness an attack on New York City by a monstrous creature of unknown origin. The faux “found footage” film chronicles their night as Rob, Hud (T.J. Miller), Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) and Lily (Jessica Lucas) try to make their way across NYC to save a friend, but may already be too late.
If you weren’t paying attention in 2007 or you’re reading this years from now and weren’t even around when it took place, the marketing for this film was fantastic. The teaser trailer was released with the first Transformers film and only featured a few short clips from the beginning of the film and a date: 1/18/08. For the next six months, there were very little customary advertisement for the film and as little actual information about it revealed as possible. Despite this, the movie was able to gross $170 million worldwide based on speculation and word-of-mouth alone. It was a brilliant experiment that wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if the movie had turned out to be bad. We were lucky enough for all of that mystery to pay off in an exciting and terrifying movie-going experience.
I very rarely say this about movies, but this is one that really needs to be seen on the big screen. On one hand, the gimmick of it masquerading as an amateur film works really well on a small screen, giving you the sense that you really are just watching something on Youtube or an SD card you happened to find in a safe or something. But the theatrical experience really helps to engross you in the action and make you feel like you’re there with these characters. Both are very different experiences, and both work in their own ways. I just wish they’d re-release it at some point in theaters so I can get that again. This was the first movie I ever saw in theaters that had me literally on the edge of my seat, my heart racing with what was unfolding on screen.
You only get small glimpses of the creature throughout, and each of them is massive and threatening. Sometimes it will just pop up in the corner of the screen, making your imagination run wild. Other times it will slowly make its way into view, and the design is disturbing an unnatural enough to make you just squirm at its presence. What really makes all this work though is that the film begins very slow, gradually introducing you to the characters in a natural way before throwing them into the situation. We also get a few moments here and there where things slow down so the characters (and the audience) can catch their breath. It all flows very well, with humor to break the tension and enough tension to make those breaks both welcome and uneasy (in a good way).
If you haven’t seen this by now, it’s definitely something to check out. Watch it alone, or with friends. Every way you can watch it brings a completely different experience, which is part of what makes it such a unique and memorable film.