10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg • Written by Josh Campbell, Matthew Stuecken & Damien Chazelle
With Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr.
It’s been 8-years since the surprise attack of Cloverfield, Matt Reeves’s monster-on-the-loose-in-Manhattan horror-thriller – a film built on the foundations of a cleverly clandestine marketing campaign that wielded the element of surprise as a means for its primary pulling power. Ditching the found-footage style of its predecessor, Dan Trachtenberg’s loose sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane, changes more than just aesthetics, finding its home in a different genre altogether.
More of a distant cousin than a straight-up follow on (producer J.J. Abrams calls it a “blood relative”), what we have is a smartly effective thriller that adds breadth and depth to intrigue, intentionally swerving exposition and in doing so, teases the kind of franchise curiosity that ignites endless theories on internet message boards.
The opening strains of Bear McCarthy’s score describe a mournful danger afoot, as we’re introduced to Michelle (Winstead), a young woman fleeing personal problems who manages to find a whole set of new ones. After her car is bumped off the road, she finds herself in an underground fallout bunker, at the mercy of Howard (Goodman), an unnervingly peculiar man with dubious motivations. Goodman’s performance shares kinship with Kathy Bates in Misery, impressing his own neurotic misery on others. It’s an effective reversal of his reputation as the agreeable comic-relief. The intensity in Goodman’s eyes, coupled with violent quirks and a growing suspicion about skeletons in his closet, contribute to a thick layer of tension as he aggressively micromanages every corner of his underground sanctuary/prison.
Winstead is excellent, channelling her own take on Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, as her fight for survival takes a series of horrific twists and turns. Joining Winstead down under, is Emmett, played by an amiable John Gallagher Jr. Together, they tiptoe around eggshells as Goodman’s overbearing ways become increasingly threatening.
The influence of Alfred Hitchcock oozes from every pore of 10 Cloverfield Lane. Trachtenberg’s self-assured direction is bolstered by Jeff Cutter’s tidy photography and an effectively foreboding use of sound. There’s a stifling claustrophobia, brought about by the tight confines of the queasily homely bunker, further heightened by the uncertainty of circumstances outside of the protagonist’s control. That same uncertainty underpins a suspense that simmers throughout, even if much of what occurs is straight out of the handbook. 4/5