It'll satisfy your annual craving.
"I saw it. It's alive!" Terrorized New Yorker in Cloverfield
My favorite monster is from Forbidden Planet because I never see it: The anticipation is fearful. In a similarly minimalist approach, the monster in Cloverfield appears later in the film, but the camera never lingers. Good for director Matt Reeves: Less is more.
In the spirit of Blair Witch, the terror of New York City is enhanced by total-film hand-held camera, a story told by a twenty- something who has been recording a party and keeps his camera going through the destruction of lower Manhattan as he and his friends try to evacuate.
In the spirit of Godzilla, the monster is bigger than hell and angry.
In the spirit of 9/11, panic is married to incredulity, a potent cocktail for women crying and men running. The camera, although annoying when I have to watch it jiggle for over an hour, is nevertheless effective in creating a sense of immediacy and danger, transporting me to the site as I maneuver with the actors through present peril.
The biggest casualty is characterization; notice I have not mentioned one name so far, and I won't because horror is the main attraction.
It's no field of clover, but Cloverfield will delight you if you long to see New York brought to its knees from the safety of your seat. If you see it along with the easier-to-watch I am Legend, you'll satisfy your annual craving for high-end urban horror.