Director – Dan Trachtenberg
Cast – John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Release Year – 2016
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Thanks to producer JJ Abrams’ marketing genius, where the flick was filmed and completed without notice and then announced two months before its release, 10 Cloverfield Lane comes with a lot of hype. The trailers, shown as desirable teasers, left genre fans wondering how this would be tied to the original Cloverfield, if tied at all. First first-time feature director Dan Trachtenberg, this 105 minute effort serves as a companion piece essentially taking place concurrently with the events that unfolded in Cloverfield. While not a devout monster film like its predecessor, 10 Cloverfield Lane ups the ante in more ways than one. Solidly blending character tension with otherworldly forces, this is an experience I suggest you check out.
When a car accident leaves Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) unconscious and dying on the side of the road, she awakens in an underground bunker with two men. Howard, the man who saved her, and another man also suffering injuries. Confused and desperate to get back on her way, Howard informs her that a large-scale chemical attack has left the outside air unbreathable, and that their only means of survival is to stay in the bunker. With every possible amenity taken care of, Michelle gets comfy. However, with Howard’s controlling and unstable manner, coupled with revelations that he may not be telling the truth, she takes matters into her own hands and learns first-hand of the horrors that await them outside the bunker.
This story wastes little time in getting Michelle to the bunker. The car accident happens about 5 minutes in, after a little context regarding her relationship problems with her fiancé Ben (Bradley Cooper). Soon enough she awakes in the bunker, and from then on out you have 100 minutes of highly engaging material going on before you. Michelle’s initial fear leaves her in constant suspicion over what is going on. About 15 minutes in Howard informs her of the supposed chemical attack. She appreciates his help, but despite her efforts to get to her family Howard won’t let her leave. The other man, Emmett, is a firm believer that Howard isn’t lying. It isn’t easy to go into detail here without giving away some spoilers that may ruin some of the story’s surprises for you. Let’s just say that whether Howard is right or wrong, Michelle and Emmett learn that there is definitely something very wrong with him. So, if terror awaits them outside the bunker, and terror is also keeping them hostage within the bunker, which fate should they choose? This dilemma provides solid tension, as you never know where the horror is going to come from. For the most part, the horror comes from the character play as a result of Howard’s actions. There are constant reminders that something awry IS going on outside the bunker, and these reminders manifest into a huge finale you’ll be sure to enjoy. For me, the big revelation was exactly what I had hoped for.
Director Dan Trachtenberg does a fantastic job in his debut feature film. The atmosphere is perfect. The sets used for the bunker allow us to be enveloped into the film. I constantly put myself into the same situations are protagonists are in, and at times I felt the same joy they did in knowing their secure location is fully prepared for whatever mayhem is going on in the outside world. As far as execution goes, the character performances are what really sell the film. John Goodman is as good as ever, giving us an endearing yet dominating figure that serves as the focal point of the horror…for the most part. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Faults, The Thing prequel, Black Christmas, Final Destination 3) becomes overshadowed by John Goodman’s character, but she still carries the film on her back. Watching her go from one emotional extreme to the other, including confusion/joy/fear/anger, shows the extreme versatility of her abilities. These two actors are the film’s biggest selling point, but the horror isn’t only derived from the characters. Dan Trachtenberg’s execution of the final act is incredible and gives Cloverfield fans a taste of what they have been yearning for. These scenes are highly tense and sure to please all types of horror fans. Equal parts horror and thriller, 10 Cloverfield Lane is deserving of its “edge of your seat” branding.
Overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an engaging experience I suggest to all. It blends so many different elements together in expert fashion and results in a flick that will leave you begging for a sequel.