ComingSoon editor Tyler Treese spoke with Cloverfield and Batman director Matt Reeves about the horror of found footage and meeting Steven Spielberg. Cloverfield is getting a limited edition 15th Anniversary 4K UHD and Blu-ray Steelbook releasing this week.
Tyler Treese: Cloverfield has really stood the test of time and I think one of the things that makes the movie so great is how you handle found footage. What we see in the film as viewers is just as important as what’s off camera and what we don’t see. Can you talk about your approach to using this limited perspective to your advantage?
Matt Reeves: Yeah, I mean it’s interesting because what you’re describing is exactly the approach I tried to take because one of the things I tried to do in research… obviously we knew we wanted to do this sort of Godzilla-like movie from the point of view of the crowds running on the ground, but this idea of the limited perspective and how that generates anxiety and horror …obviously there are a lot of movies that did that, but I was watching a lot of documentaries and there were some footage that we saw of a documentary from someone who was filming.
They had a Handycam – he was a soldier in Iraq and they were in a tent and there were bombs coming in and they suddenly found themselves under their cot and all you could see was… you could see the boot from a guy and you could see – it was so terrifying. It was just the sound and that limited perspective.
And there’s something about the idea of holding back the full view that puts a lot of anxiety on the viewer. The other thing was, I think at the beginning, I remember JJ saying, “You know what’s so cool about that idea? You can always cut. And I was like, ‘No, actually, you can’t always cut because you have to have a reason for the cut, or the audience is going to say, ‘Well, why did he cut there? much harder because not only did we have a limited perspective, but there were more long, continuous takes than maybe originally envisioned, because I kept thinking, ‘Well, wait, we have to think about every time the camera…either the camera drops and so it turns off or he finally feels like this moment is over so he turns it off.
Or we had to watch the whole thing. But it was really about looking at a lot of – I mean one of the crazy things, like when we shot the party scene, we had Josh Sheppard, who’s done a lot of storyboarding for me since – actually, he’s been on every movie I’ve done since – he set up this thing where he found this party on YouTube and these guys were filming themselves. [The] the guy was having a going away party and so on, there’s actually a line where this guy says, he says, “What are you gonna do man? He said, “I don’t know the man.” You are my main guy. And we literally [were] go, “Oh, that’s so cool!” »
But there was something about the vibe of people really filming themselves and what you saw, which was off camera, and just trying to make it authentic. Anyway, the horror and development of this part… I think it’s always what you can’t see that’s always scarier than what you can see because your brain fills in the worst thing you can imagine. So getting on the subway and having to turn on the night vision and those times when in the dark you’re like, “Wait, wait, wait, there’s…I’m hearing sounds,” all those kinds of things go into that almost reptilian part of our brain and says, “Oh oh, something bad is about to happen. »
Yeah, it’s definitely that less is more mentality. I read that Spielberg even had tips for the movie. Can you talk about your interactions with him?
Spielberg didn’t come while we were filming but what he did was watch the movie while we were finishing it and then he gave us advice on the very last moment with the alarms that were playing – the idea of city-wide alarms as we hit that kind of… I think he almost described it as that “Strangelove moment” where you realize things are going to blow up and that sort of thing. So he had an influence, really, on the last moment of the film when we were mixing it. He had some really great sound ideas that we actually carried out, which was really fun. It was fun. It was very cool.
He talked to me afterwards because one day Bryan Burk called me from the Star Trek set, where he was sitting with JJ And the writers and Bryan and he was like, “Oh hey, where’s the director of Cloverfield ? I want to talk to him. So Bryan said, “You better come to Paramount now. Spielberg asks where you are. I thought to myself, “Oh! Okay! So I went over there and just sat there and then he turned to me and after we talked he gave them a lot of feedback on the script and stuff and he was really lovely. Then he turned to me, he said, “Wait, so you made Cloverfield? And I said, “Yes.” He said, “You scared me. And I was like, “Oh. It was great. There was no greater compliment I could get than that. I scared Steven Spielberg. It was cool.
Cloverfield has entered the public consciousness so much and I feel like nothing quite reflects that quite like South Park doing a two-part parody special. Did you see these episodes and did you enjoy this parody?
You know what? I haven’t seen this, but now I have to watch this! Here’s the thing: I remember there were so many different parodies, but I don’t – honestly, this is the first time I’ve seen it, so I’m definitely going to check it out. It looks great.
Cloverfield was really your breakthrough as a director. What was the biggest lesson you learned from producing it, whether business or creative?
Gosh… I think what it was for me was Cloverfield was a breakthrough for me and understanding the ways you could do genre and still do personal cinema. This movie was so much about…to figure out how to do it, I really had to explore. It’s almost therapeutic, like my own anxiety. So when you talk about this idea of restricted vision and what things look like, there was something very therapeutic about having lived – everyone was – when we’re after 11 September and the idea of feeling like, ‘My God, we’re in a moment of such uncertainty,’ and the idea of a moment that might spiral in a way that would kind of increase import and impact without really fully understanding what we’re at the center of and that fear… first of all, I’m a little fearful anyway.
I realized that probably in this movie was the first thing where I really put so much of my fear into what we’re doing and I kind of have since. So I think it’s really this idea that it unlocked in me, because I’ve always liked genre films, but to understand what it could unlock in terms of storytelling. Where you could explore things through the metaphors of what you do that are real world, but do it through fantasy or do it through something that has some kind of gender element and find that intersection between something something that is a kind of pop sensibility but also a personal sensibility. And I think, for me, that really comes from Cloverfield.