The most cleverly hyped horror film since Snakes on a Plane, producer J.J. Abrams' Cloverfield tantalized fanboys with shots of panic in lower Manhattan, seemingly camcorded, and just the hint of a giant monster. Now folks can see what all the screaming was about: not much.
The movie, shot as if by an amateur videographer, imagines a young man's farewell party interrupted by 9/11-ish booms and fires. Soon the head of the decapitated Statue of Liberty lands on a downtown street. Terrorists again? No, an American Godzilla with Alien teeth and a cranky disposition.
The creature, glimpsed too furtively till the end, is skinny and reptilian. The film's one inspiration is that the beast sheds parasites: dog-size, crablike scurriers that come out of nowhere, attacking the humans you're supposed to care about.
The plot sends its hero on a quest to save his ex-girlfriend. That's meant to fill an emotional core, but it's more the excuse for a trip through the old dark house of postapocalyptic New York City. Abrams, writer Drew Goddard and director Matt Reeves had fun exploiting the worst-case scenario of sci-fi (what if everybody died?). But Cloverfield is what it aims to be: scary junk for Friday night at the movies.