Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Halloween is just around the corner, so time for some horror to get the juices flowing. I’m pretty bored of jump scares and cliches, so time to get psychological.
Admittedly when I first heard about 10 Cloverfield Lane I was instantly turned off. The marketing of this movie made it sound like a direct sequel to the popular 2008 Cloverfield. I thoroughly enjoyed Cloverfield and I seem to be in the minority there, but everything that came with the movie especially the marketing, made the cinema going experience one I wouldn’t forget. How it ended was satisfying and didn’t feel the need to watch a sequel.
But, after a few people mentioning it and telling me to not watch the trailer, I gave in, and fuck me am I glad I did. This is most definitely not a direct sequel to Cloverfield, it is its own movie that has just been marketed as a sequel with hints to the first.
10 Cloverfield Lane follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who after a shattering phone call with her husband gets involved in a car accident. On waking up she finds herself held in shelter by two men who believe the outside world is under a chemical attack.
One of my favourite movies of all time is Seven, and one of the key factors of this is that the tone is set perfectly in the opening scenes and doesn’t get too light after that. We are constantly in a dark movie from the very opening shot. 10 Cloverfield Lane applies this same setting of tone masterfully, we are not given a moment of happiness in the opening act and it’s because of that this movie can build on the tension the way it does.
And tension is why this movie stands out to me. One part to this is the claustrophobic setting throughout, we rarely get a glimpse of sunlight, and we feel just as imprisoned as Michelle. We are urging for her to get out and escape from this tight space.
I recently saw Don’t Breathe where I felt the tension was very well executed. the difference here though is that tension builds in the character of the incredible John Goodman, who plays Michelle’s “captor” Howard. I put captor in quotes there as throughout most of the movie we have no idea what is going through the mind of Howard. Is he being truthful of his theories of the outside world, or is he an ill man who isn’t right in the head? Over the course of the runtime I changed my mind about 4 times, trying to figure him out. One second he is being controlling at the dinner table, the next shaking his ass and has a dance to The Exciters – Tell Him very comically.
It is Goodman’s performance as this character that really steals the show. Even a simple scene where he explains that his daughter couldn’t eat an ice-cream on a stick in this menacing, frightening way and then does a child-like act immediately afterwards, I found myself shit scared and then laughing hard in a matter of seconds. Not many actors can make this feat that’s for sure.
Limiting the movie’s success to John Goodman alone would do injustice to the other two actors in this movie who also do a stellar job. Elizabeth Winstead is in her strongest performance for sure (hard for me to say, as I pretty much fell in love with her Ramona Flowers role), and the character written for her allows her to maximise her acting ability. Michelle is a smart girl at times and gives this film some intellect, and we are with her emotionally throughout the movie, trying to figure out if Howard is sane or not.
The other character Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) helps us the viewer in not knowing how to read Howard. He is equally convinced of the chemical attack but appears more sane than Howard, that’s not to say I wasn’t questioning his motivations for most their time in the shelter.
What I have just discussed applies itself to the first 95% of 10 Cloverfield Lane. If the movie ended how I hoped it would have, then this is a solid 9 out of 10. But the last scenes take us out of the fear of the unknown, gives us answers and leaves us not wanting more. It gets very hollywood (I can imagine the men in suits moaning about the lack of action), and really sucks me out of the nightmare of the earlier 90 minutes. I was completely let down by this, but, I will forgive it. Everything else before this is so absorbing and thrilling that I will happily ignore the ending of the movie. This is a sequel that is far better than its original, it takes it into a complete new direction and this has to be applauded.