After getting in a car accident, a woman is held in a shelter by two men, who claim the outside world is affected by a widespread chemical attack.
I couldn’t wait to see “Cloverfield” when it came out in 2008. I love monster movies and I love disaster movies and combining them together makes for must-see entertainment. Or so I thought. For those who remember, the marketing campaign for the movie was quite brilliant, showing you everything in the trailer BUT the monster, therefore, whetting your appetite. Unfortunately, Matt Reeves, the film’s director, obviously didn’t want to reveal anything else that transpired onscreen as he chose to shoot the entire film utilizing the much-dreaded handheld shaky-cam approach. We view everything through the lens of a camera that belongs to one of the central characters so when they scamper, we see nothing but running feet. When the monster attacks, we see nothing but running feet. When we have a few moments of character exposition, we see nothing but running feet because it was a monster movie that had no character development to begin with.
Thankfully, the director of “10 Cloverfield Lane,” Dan Trachtenberg, resorts to shooting his film using old-school camera techniques. We have moments of frenetic energy and escapism but in between, the shots are slow, purposeful, and a joy to observe. As the movie begins, we witness Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), packing up her things and moving out of an apartment, obviously in the aftermath of a fight with her fiancé. As she makes her way out of town, she momentarily takes her concentration off the road and hits a guardrail, causing her car to topple down the embankment. Sometime later, she wakes up in an underground bunker, chained to a wall with an IV stuck in her arm. Shortly thereafter, she meets Howard (John Goodman), the owner of the facility and he proceeds to inform her that there was a chemical attack and that everybody on the outside is dead. It’s quite evident from the beginning, that Howard is slightly unbalanced, prone to unprovoked verbal outbursts but when Michelle meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a young man who Howard also saved, they begin to feel more comfortable together in their new surroundings.
As time goes by, Michelle starts hearing noises coming from above ground, and filled with the hope that there are still people left in the world, and fed up with the thought of having to stay in the bunker for an unprecedented amount of time, she steals Howard’s keys and just as she is about to leave through the front door, a women, horribly disfigured, appears on the outside, screaming to get inside. Howard keeps her shut out and tells Michelle that she would only infect them all. As the trio get on with their lives, playing monopoly and charades with each other to pass time, when the air filtration system shuts down, because Michelle is small enough, Howard tells her that she must make her way through the ventilation shaft in order to turn it back on. After she reaches the other side, she discovers a small window and peeks out at the seemingly normal view which lies beyond, and there, scratched into the glass, from the inside out, is the word HELP, accompanied by remnants of dried blood.
She informs Emmett and between them, they begin to unearth dark secrets about Howard. As they begin to assemble a homemade biological suit, with plans for one of them to escape after tying Howard up, their plans are quickly foiled but not just by Howard. As the place begins to shake and rumble, they hear loud, discernible noises coming from outside, and realize that they are indeed, not alone, but quickly discover that whatever is causing the turmoil, is not of this earth.
The one question many people have been asking, is if this movie is a sequel to “Cloverfield.” I can safely say, yes and no. While the events depicted herein take place in Louisiana, far away from the first movie’s setting of New York, the timeline is the same. While Michelle has to deal with the human monster that is Howard, once she makes her way outside, she realizes that there is something much bigger and badder waiting for her. While the majority of the film takes place in one primary location, director Dan Trachtenberg keeps the tautness moving along nicely, infusing the story with the necessary tension in order to prevent it from becoming stale. John Goodman is genuinely frightening. We’re used to seeing him play lovable characters but here, he does a complete 180 and proves to be far more terrifying than the extraterrestrial monster, which is no easy feat. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. are fine in their respective roles but this movie belongs to Goodman.
While I enjoyed the movie overall, part of me felt that it was really unnecessary. “Cloverfield” wasn’t exactly a classic so I didn’t see the need to do a follow-up. It is enjoyable for what it is but here’s hoping that the filmmakers will leave Cloverfield dead and buried.
In theaters March 11th
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