Science Fiction Film & Television

Point of audition: Sound and music in Cloverfield

Science Fiction Film & Television (2010), 3, (2), 217–238.

Abstract

Cloverfield (Reeves US 2008) employs an amateur hand-held-camera styled conceit to narrate a love story centred on young people caught up in an alien attack on New York. The monstrous creature's seemingly inexplicable arrival (accompanied by parasitic spiders) echoes the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US while also intertextually building on a significant history of monster, disaster and sf films. This article investigates how sound and music activate genre identification, narrative features, emotional engagement and marketing operations for the film. Constructed around footage apparently shot by the central protagonists on their home recorder (digicam), the film sound track mostly adheres to this narrative. However, as the analysis shows, the sound is notable for the way it is highly crafted and contrived to be cinematically affective while appearing to be merely sonically 'documenting' the action and events. The article draws on Rick Altman's model of sound in film to demonstrate how the sound track effectively extends the film's 'point of view' with an elaborated 'point-of-audition' sound design.

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Altman, Rick. 'Sound Space'. Sound Theory Sound Practice. Ed. Rick Altman. New York: Routledge, 1992. 46–64. Sound Space Sound Theory Sound Practice 46 64 Google Scholar

Conrich, Ian. 'Trashing London. The British Colossal Creature Film and Fantasies of Mass Destruction'. British Science Fiction Cinema. Ed. I. Q. Hunter. London: Routledge, 1999. 88–98. Trashing London. The British Colossal Creature Film and Fantasies of Mass Destruction British Science Fiction Cinema 88 98 Google Scholar

Coyle, Rebecca. 'Spooked by Sound: The Blair Witch Project'. Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema. Ed. Philip Hayward. London: Equinox, 2009. 213–28. Spooked by Sound: The Blair Witch Project Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema 213 28 Google Scholar

Doane, Mary Ann. 'The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space'. Film Sound: Theory and Practice. Ed. Elisabeth Weis and John Belton. New York: Columbia UP, 1985. 162–76. The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space Film Sound: Theory and Practice 162 76 Google Scholar

Filmsound Daily. 'Cloverfield' (Anna Behlmer Q&A). Thursday 17 January 2008. http://filmsounddaily.blogspot.com/2008/01/cloverfield.html Google Scholar

Franklin, Peter. 'King Kong and Film on Music: Out of the Fog'. Film Music: Critical Approaches. Ed. K. J. Donnelly. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2001. 88–102. King Kong and Film on Music: Out of the Fog Film Music: Critical Approaches 88 102 Google Scholar

Frow, John. Genre: The New Critical Idiom. New York: Routledge, 2006. Genre: The New Critical Idiom. Google Scholar

Gibson, Brian C. 'Cloverfield: Interview With Director, Matt Reeves'. Film School Rejects. 20 January 2008. http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/news/cloverfield-interview-withdirector-matt-reeves.php Google Scholar

Hills, Matt. The Pleasures of Horror. London/New York: Continuum. 2005. The Pleasures of Horror. Google Scholar

Hosokawa, Shuhei. 'Atomic Overtones and Primitive Undertones. Akira Ifukube's Sound Design for Godzilla'. Off the Planet: Music, Sound and Science Fiction Cinema. Ed. Philip Hayward. Eastleigh: John Libbey, 2004. 42–60. Atomic Overtones and Primitive Undertones. Akira Ifukube's Sound Design for Godzilla Off the Planet: Music, Sound and Science Fiction Cinema 42 60 Google Scholar

Kozloff, Sarah. Overhearing Film Dialogue. Berkeley: U of California P. 2000. Overhearing Film Dialogue. Google Scholar

Luckhurst, Roger. 'Found-footage Science Fiction. Five Films by Craig Baldwin, Jonathan Weiss, Werner Herzog and Patrick Keiller'. Science Fiction Film and Television 1.2 (Autumn 2008): 193–214. Google Scholar

Mittell, Jason. 'A Cultural Approach to Television Genre Theory'. Cinema Journal 40.3 (Spring 2001): 3–24. Google Scholar

Mohr, Iris. 'Buzz Marketing for Movies'. Business Horizons 50.5 (September–October 2007): 395–403. Buzz Marketing for Movies Business Horizons 50 395 403 Google Scholar

Napier, Susan. 'Panic Sites. The Japanese Imagination of Disaster from Godzilla to Akira'. Contemporary Japan and Popular Culture. Ed. John Whittier Treat. Honolulu: U of Hawai'i P, 1996. 235–62. Panic Sites. The Japanese Imagination of Disaster from Godzilla to Akira Contemporary Japan and Popular Culture 235 62 Google Scholar

Silverman, Kaja. The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema. Indianapolis: Indiana UP, l988. The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema Google Scholar

Sontag, Susan. 'The Imagination of Disaster'. Commentary 65 (October 1965): 42–8. 'The Imagination of Disaster' Commentary 65 42 8 Google Scholar

Tudor, Andrew. Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror Movie. Oxford: Blackwell, 1989. Monsters and Mad Scientists: A Cultural History of the Horror Movie. Google Scholar

Unattributed. 'LAist Interview: Matt Reeves, Director of Cloverfield'. 9 January 2008. http://laist.com/2008/01/09/laist_interview_88.php Google Scholar

Weis, Elisabeth. 'Eavesdropping: An Aural Analogue of Voyeurism?'. Cinesonic: The World of Sound in Film. Ed. Philip Brophy. Sydney: AFTRS, 1999. 79–107. Eavesdropping: An Aural Analogue of Voyeurism? Cinesonic: The World of Sound in Film 79 107 Google Scholar

Whittington, William. Sound Design & Science Fiction. Austin: U of Texas P, 2007. Sound Design & Science Fiction. Google Scholar

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Author details

Coyle, Rebecca