Cloverfield—Paramount Pictures (Blu-ray)
I had the discomfort of sitting through Cloverfield during its theatrical run and I was actually a bit intimidated by the idea of seeing it again in my own theater room. My discomfort had nothing to do with the story itself, but rather the experience that the camera style offers. My wife and I both suffered from extreme headaches for several hours after the theatrical viewing and my wife thought she would be sick at any moment for quite sometime after. I found myself closing my eyes a lot just to help things during the movie. The film is merely stock footage of the events that happened in New York after a large monster of some sort attacks the city. The footage is taken with a handicam and follows a few young residents as they first try to escape the city and then turn around to try and rescue a friend. The camera work is all over the place and really only provides snippets of the monster and reminded me a bit of The Blair Witch Project at times. While I thought the execution and premise of this film were both excellent, they didn't justify the physical effects watching the film induced. I thought watching this on a smaller screen (120" diagonal in my case) would help, but that just wasn't the case. I would recommend anyone going into this film the first time be prepared.
While the filmmakers would have you believe this was shot with a handicam; that is simply not the case. This film was shot with several different cameras of varying quality but most of the work was done with professional grade HD cameras. This makes the look of the film a bit uneven from time to time but largely it is extremely clean and detailed. Paramount delivers a very high bitrate VC1 encode for this Blu-ray release and I was far more impressed with the visual style this time around than the theatrical film release I saw before. Depth and dimensionality were at a whole new level and things that were hard to make out during the theatrical screening were clear and detailed on the Blu-ray. Some of the darker sequences exhibit the grain signature of digital camera work but the VC1 encode does a great job with it. Most of this film takes place at night but this doesn't seem to hurt contrast or depth at all. Colors are wonderfully saturated but you can tell some stylization was added to give a more convincing amateur film look. Overall I was blown away with the video transfer despite the fact that my head is still hurting a day after enduring through it.
Paramount has included a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix for this film. The funny thing about this production is they want you to believe that everything you are witnessing was captured by this guys hand held camera. If that is the case, the dynamic range of that camera's little bitty microphone is PHENOMENAL. Obviously some suspension of disbelief has to creep in here and I am happy to oblige with a soundtrack like this. This soundtrack is a kick to the teeth in the low end with some of the most aggressive bass and infrasonics I've heard on an HD release. The sound design really puts you into the hysteria and takes full advantage of the surround sound environment. I loved the seamless soundstage that floats about and attacks you from all sides. My subs got a serious workout and my walls complained quite often (thankfully the neighbors didn't though!). The mix is balanced perfectly with exceptional panning effects and great balance of dialogue. An exceptional mix in every way!!
I'm glad to see Paramount continue the trend of presenting the majority of their supplements in HD. For this release there is an interesting picture-in-picture take that has a GPS tracker, facts about the events, creature tracker and more. Deleted scenes and several alternate endings are included as well. The standard feature commentary and a slew of production features are also included making this a very nice supplementary package.
Paramount has delivered an outstanding A/V experience for this film. I wish I could say that I would use it often for demonstrations but the filming style just doesn't lend to repeat viewing at all for me. I honestly would have preferred for a more traditional film style with this storyline, but I guess that would work against the point. Just be prepared for a very "physical" ride.