I remember seeing Transformers with my father during summer 2007, and while my memories of the film itself have faded away, I will never forget the silence of the theater as a shaky, bombastic, horrifying teaser played before it, showing a decapitated Statue of Liberty before ending with no title, only a chilling release date “1.18.08.” The internet was ablaze with conspiracy (though I was a little too young to be fully immersed in it at the time). Still, the soon-to-be-titled Cloverfield holds an important distinction for me specifically. When it comes down to it, Cloverfield, despite me not thinking it at the time, really was the first horror film I ever actually saw in theaters. There are plenty of counterpoints that would argue against the “Cloverfield is a horror film” arguments, but re-watching it 15 years later, at the ripe age of 26, Cloverfield is scarier than it’s ever been. For its 15th anniversary, Paramount has re-released the 4K Blu-ray release in a special Steelbook edition that is simultaneously a great release, and absolutely not worth it for anyone who already owns the previously released 4K Blu-ray released in 2018.
Filmed from the perspective of a camcorder held by Hud (T.J. Miller) as he floats around a going away party for Rob (Michael Stahl-David) before he leaves New York City for a new job in Japan, a giant earthquake rocks the party and quickly sends a group of cosmopolitan 20-somethings, including Marlena (Lizzy Caplan), Lily (Jessica Lucas), and Rob’s brother, Jason (Mike Vogel) into madness. Feeding into the increasingly frenzied streets, the group soon realizes that New York has actually come under attack by a giant alien creature causing mass destruction. As Hud keeps the camera going, the group of friends must traverse the city to save Rob’s estranged girlfriend, Beth (Odette Annable), and escape the city alive.
After 15 years, and two spinoff “sequels,” as well as a direct sequel in pre-production, you probably know the whole gist of Cloverfield, at least on a superficial level. It’s Godzilla meets The Blair Witch Project, both in its found-footage format as well as its usage of viral marketing tactics leading up to the release of the highly mysterious film. It’s a beautiful snapshot of a very specific point in time before the 2008 recession that felt like it still had hope in its young adults, which makes the events of the film itself infinitely more tragic when said hope is quickly and violently ripped away from everyone over the course of one night.
And that’s where Cloverfield truly becomes a horror film, and a damn good one at that. Despite the grand scale of the destruction of New York, Cloverfield is one of the only found footage horror films that truly benefits from the format, giving a purely street-level view to the mass destruction, and truly giving both the city, as well as the monster itself, a frightening perspective of scale not seen in many films of its ilk. Add in the few, but incredibly effective, moments of gut-wrenching body horror (this film is PG-13, but…barely), and you have a fast-paced, whiplash-inducing experience not unlike an amusement park ride, but without the cheap effects of one. It’s really a testament to the intention of emotion found across all of Matt Reeves’s films, and it perhaps exists in its purest form here.
When it comes to the new 4K Blu-ray Steelbook release for its 15th anniversary, well…there isn’t that much about it that’s “new.” While the Steelbook is gorgeous (Paramount can put together a nice Steelbook package; see Event Horizon 4K), the actual release is the exact same release found in its initial 4K release for its 10th anniversary in 2018, and the included 1080p Blu-ray is the exact same release found during its first Blu-ray release in 2008. It’s a no-brainer to pick up the Steelbook if you don’t already own Cloverfield, particularly that of its 4K release, but it’s hard to justify itself when all that’s new is the package the film comes in. Certainly a collector’s item, but not much beyond that.
It’s hard to really say why a film like Cloverfield needs to be released in 4K beyond simply keeping up with new hardware to watch movies on, but the fact still remains that while Cloverfield isn’t a revelation in 4K, the improvements seen in this release are still a marked improvement over its standard Blu-ray. This comes mostly from the HDR treatment that gives the film’s bright blinding lights more punch, and the deep, inky blacks of the night where everything went to hell an even more frightening depth.
What I do wish was amended for this release, mostly, comes in its audio mix, which, while still expertly crafted, is also still the exact same Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix from its initial 2008 Blu-ray release. For a film like Cloverfield to not be utilizing all the atmospheric elements that Dolby Atmos has to offer feels like a waste, and honestly…a very lazy move in an already somewhat lazy release. It’s still a great audio mix, just not working to its full potential; not in 2018, and certainly not in 2023.
Special features, while only ported over from the 2008 standard Blu-ray, are still abundant and interesting, but unfortunately, there’s nothing new for anyone expecting any retrospective supplements. Those included are as follows:
- Audio Commentary by director Matt Reeves
- The Making of Cloverfieled
- Cloverfield Visual Effects
- I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge!
- Clover Fun
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary
- Alternate Endings with Optional Commentary
- Easter Eggs
- Digital HD Copy of the Film
Cloverfield, on its 15th anniversary, remains a jarring, awe-inspiring, and absolutely bone-chilling look at the human side of the massive destruction often played for wondrous effect in other kaiju films. It kickstarted the career of one of the finest blockbuster directors of our time, Matt Reeves, as well as opening doors for future filmmakers like Dan Trachtenberg and Julius Onah with their first features being spin-offs 10 Cloverfield Lane (a masterpiece) and The Cloverfield Paradox (not a masterpiece, but better than most think it is), respectively. Additionally, the world beyond the 85 mysterious, macabre minutes of the actual film speak wonders to the power of viral marketing utilized correctly, adding lore, intrigue, and even more terror to the equation. Paramount’s 15th anniversary 4K Blu-ray release is simply a repackaging of the 2018 4K release that only added 4K HDR, and nothing else. It’s an easy buy if you don’t own Cloverfield or are a Steelbook collector, but unfortunately, doesn’t do much of anything for anyone looking to double dip.
I would’ve rather had a 15th anniversary IMAX re-release in the way Paramount is doing for Titanic’s 25th anniversary, but we can’t win everything.
Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray Combo steelbook January 17th, 2022.