Rob is leaving to go to Japan on work and his best friend Hudson and brother Jason decide to throw him a party to help in on his way. As a going-away present, Jason's girlfriend decides to make a video featuring good-byes from all of his friends and enlists the help of Hudson to film it.
During the party, a blackout occurs and it appears that all is not right in Manhattan and, after switching on the news to reveal disturbing activity in New York Harbour, the party-goers head to the roof of the apartment to get a better view. After seeing an explosion, they rush outside to see their city being destroyed - by an unknown creature.
Cloverfield is nothing inventive in the cinematic department. Amateur camera footage was shown in The Blair Witch Project, there have been countless monster films - of which Godzilla would be one such example - and, let's be honest, the acting in Cloverfield is lacking in skill at best. But that's the point.
It would be a complete waste of the amateur footage gimmick to introduce actors that are well known in the industry. The point of showing an alleged video tape recovered from a military zone is that you are only watching the evidence put in front of you.
The fact that Cloverfield has managed to throw any back story to the protagonists is testament to the inventiveness of director Matt Reeves and his producer J.J. Abrams who utilise the fact that the tape is being written on top of past footage showing personal moments between Rob and his girl/friend, Beth. If you look very closely in the final scenes, you notice that they have even managed to blur the line between past and present too. Genius.
The monster in question remains a mystery throughout the film with rare shots of a tail or limb appearing in camera shot. The element of terror is apparent not from the monster itself but from the consequences of the beast. An army squadron or a tank passing invites you to become part of the war zone - you're not just watching amateur footage, you and your friends are right in the centre of it.
Much like Abrams' hit TV series Lost, Cloverfield is also home to a whole host of hidden features. Excluding the randomly input stills from other monster movies, even the DVD's special features are only presented in-line with the amateur documentary - adding a battery icon to the film that indicates a hidden special feature. Simply fantastic - and a reason to keep going back for more.
A defining moment for a genre that Godzilla threatened to destroy.