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Film Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

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Photo Courtesy of Google Images
Photo Courtesy of Google Images

 

 

The semi-sequel to the 2008 film Cloverfield hit theaters on March 11 and is more effective and sensational than the first. 10 Cloverfield Lane was a surprise follow-up film that was made under secrecy by producer J.J. Abrams and collaborators from the first Cloverfield film. It bears little resemblance in narration and style to the first film, but still holds audiences captive with its close quarters and suspense.

Before the film even premiered, it was cleverly marketed with vague and indirect trailers that quickly assumed audiences could make a connection to Cloverfield through the title; which is essentially great because the movie works as both a sequel or as a standalone.

10 Cloverfield Lane starts with an opening sequence reminiscent of classic horror genre films of an emotional woman, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) packing her bags and leaving her fiancé. We follow her as she drives throughout the night, stopping of course at a sketchy gas station, up until the point when her car is aggressively hit and skids off the side of the road and is flipped. Panning to the next scene, Michelle wakes up and finds herself locked and chained up in a strange bunker type room receiving care from a strange, heavy-set man named Howard (John Goodman).

Howard lays the bad news on Michelle that directly after her car accident (conveniently) a mass chemical attack happened that made the air unbreathable and essentially killed everyone, except for him, her, and the slightly comedic relief character Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.) who fought his way into Howard’s bunker. Thus begins the long midsection of the film watching these three individuals deal with being shut off from the world and waiting out the apparent apocalypse. All in all, it may not have been such a bad deal since there was electricity, running water, books and activities, and enough food to last them for years.

However, it didn’t take director Dan Trachtenberg long to make the coziness of this bunker creepy and become a psychological trap for not only the characters but also the audience. The film fluctuates between a sense of unease due to the plausible panic of a doomsday and the claustrophobic suspense following Michelle in her plan to seek out the truth of Howard and the fate of the ground.  It’s a fairly rare movie where the sense of horror and suspense actually comes from wondering along with the characters what is going on. The fear comes from the sense that the possibility of there being no horror outside becomes scarier than the thought of what might actually be out there. Not to mention the film makes it very clear that we are to never stop being suspicious of the paranoid Howard.

Goodman was one of the best parts of this film; he played Howard brilliantly as a complicated, yet sometimes pitiable, villain. Winstead plays Michelle just as well as we follow her in her grasping the reality of her situation and her need to escape. She is the reason that the last half of 10 Cloverfield Lane is thrilling and full of momentum.

This film was a surprisingly good watch. Going in, you would expect this to be either really cheesy to connect to its predecessor, or quite predictable. It is neither. The movie is captivating and weaves its way smoothly through a panicked and psychological thriller. The film itself is rooted more in a refreshing, old-fashioned, tension instead of the “pop out” gimmicks of other horror films. It relies heavily on the skillful abilities of the actors and the audience finds itself left rooting for the main character Michelle all the way throughout the film. I recommend you catch this one in theaters and then, even though this could be a stand-alone, go watch Cloverfield, and compare.