This movie made me almost throw up. Not from the content but from a wussy middle ear (as a kid I once vomited for a good hour after a ride on a merry-go-round at a carnival) deluged by visual cacophony—a constant throughout this camcorder-held POV movie.
Looks like I’m not the only vertigo victim of this movie (read comments here)
A big battering fireball-shooting monster (one a lot creepier than Godzilla) is loose in Manhattan. The closest we come to understand how it got there is when one of the fleeing characters mentions most unauthoritatively that it could be from a deep ocean crevice. But I didn’t care where the hell it came from. I only hoped it would soon stomp on the person holding the camera (unfortunately you have to wait for the end of the movie for that to happen). Nausea surged as the camera perspective violently shifted every second from one element of strung-along mayhem to another. Running. Dodging. Up. Down, Sideways. Now I know how Jimmy Stewart felt as he climbed those stairs in Vertigo. People seated to the right of me, to the left of me. I couldn’t have made a gracious exit to the rest room; no, if I had to unleash it would be better to do it down the inside of my coat. I wasn’t looking forward to it but at least I wouldn’t go through the indignity of hurling partially digested buttery popcorn onto someone’s lap.
Jittery camera effect is a good way to instill immediacy, to instill a non-structured, deliberalty confusing running account of action. Used sparingly and with special lighting effect it worked superbly in 28 Weeks Later. In its rawer form, it’s a technique often used in disaster sequences to give a jagged you-are-there context to a frightful predicament in progress (9/11 type footage comes to mind). The only other movie I know of off-hand that used the “camcorder POV technique” throughout was The Blair Witch Project.
What is jittery exactly? Take your pick: edgy, tense, anxious, ill at ease, in a state of nerves, in a state of agitation, fretful, uneasy, restless, fidgety, worked up, keyed up, overwrought, wrought up, strung out, jumpy, on tenterhooks, on pins and needles, with one’s stomach in knots (yeap), worried, apprehensive, strained, stressed; shaky, shaking, trembling, quivering (yeap, that was my stomach).
The problem is when a novelty technique—and that’s all it is– becomes the whole movie that whole movie becomes a novelty. In other words, the whole of it becomes something that should’ve been five minutes–not eighty. It’s as if you’re waiting for the real movie to finally begin, for the novelty shots to cease, so you can get your feet back down on the ground and get on with the real story.
Is there a plot to this movie? Not really. Not in the classic sense anyway. The crux of it is that during a kind of Soho loft party a group of young people are sipping cocktails and dancing—and blathering. And blathering. Someone has been designated to shoot the proceedings with a camcorder. Suddenly, after about fifteen minutes of image sparring and inane dialog (like the kind that drained blood from my brain during Death Proof), which seems like at least half the movie at this point, there are fiery explosions. Finally. In between dry heaves (which had started right from the beginning) I’m praying for just such destruction. Maybe one of them would blow up the camcorder (along with the annoying person holding it) and the movie will end early. At first we have no idea what’s causing these fireballs: Then we realize, through fleeting glimpses, that there’s a VBM (Very Big Monster) loose in the city. There’s a lot of little monsters loose too but they seem to be easily clubbed to death. As our group of partygoers make a run for it, trying to get out of Manhattan they are intermittently assisted by groups of soldiers, who have so far been battling this monster to little effect. Buildings are going down at an alarming rate. (Trying to calm my bubbling stomach, I’m visualizing pleasant alternative non-jittery images–of how Manhattan could now be finally rebuilt to a great new standard of beauty–a new park here, a new one there, wider streets with pedestrian bridges). The head of the Lady Liberty lands in the middle of the street. Military helicopters are whirling by. Jets careen trough the night air at building top level, dropping bombs. We see this in quick bursts. I’m not even looking at the screen anymore except maybe for five or six seconds at a time. I look up to see our partygoers descend into the subway. I look up again and see them leave the subway. they’re running. They are in a helicopter; it’s crashing, spinning violently. The camcorder is spinning violently. Top, bottom, sideways. The surround sound gets deafening. Even staring at my shoes doesn’t help my stomach. My inner ear is flashing a red Danger light. I’m trapped in a video game being manipulated by sadistic twelve-year olds.
Thank God after about an hour and a half the monster finally won and put a stop to my suffering.