By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A (3 ½ stars)
PARAMOUNT PICTURES AND BAD ROBOT
Producer J.J. Abrams (Cloverfield, Star Trek, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) goes back to his monster movie route that made him an iconic Hollywood filmmaker. A spiritual sequel to his 2008 found-footage monster movie hit, Cloverfield, which received positive reviews upon its release and was a box office success.
Granted the found-footage style filmmaking is an acquired taste, and this was back before found-footage was everywhere (Blame Paranormal Activity!), this was one of the first films to capitalize on the success of The Blair Witch Project, which practically perfected the found-footage filmmaking style. When I first saw Cloverfield back in 2008, I was split on the movie at first, but after some time I started to appreciate the approach Abrams and director, Matt Reeves were going for and thought the shaky home movie style of camera work gave the film a unique look and I still enjoy the movie today.
So in comes 10 Cloverfield Lane, produced by Abrams again and directed by newcomer, Dan Trachtenberg, which unlike the first film abandons the found-footage style and replaces the lesser known actors from the first film with actors like John Goodman (The Big Lebowski, Flight, Transformers: Age of Extinction) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Sky High, Scott Pilgrim VS The World, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). It looked interesting by the advertising and I still find the marketing campaign for this movie to be some of the best marketing I’ve seen for a movie in a very long time.
Seeing how I admired the first Cloverfield, I came into this movie with an open-mind and very little knowledge of the film, thankfully the trailers and commercials showed little which added to the hype. And after seeing the movie, I enjoyed it a lot, the first film while I did like it, I didn’t think it was all that scary nor really all that suspenseful, THIS on the other hand had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish, no joke.
Unlike Cloverfield, 10 Cloverfield Lane has very few monsters but its replaced by a creepy John Goodman and three people locked in a bunker. It’s hard for me to categorize it as a Cloverfield movie but as a suspenseful thriller, it has some of the best build-up in a scary movie you’ll ever see.
The film follows Michelle (Winstead) hitting the road and her car suddenly crashing and going off the road after a distracting phone call by her ex-boyfriend. She is unconscious but then wakes up in a creepy old bunker under a farmhouse managed by a man named Howard (Goodman) who claims he saved her life after a sudden attack hit and caused people to die.
Howard has been preparing for Doomsday to hit for a long time and informs Michelle that under any circumstances she is not allowed to leave. After a couple gripping attempts to escape she slowly figures out the world she once knew may be gone forever.
She soon meets, Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.-Short Term 12, The Newsroom, Olive Kitteridge) who was also brought down by Howard and believes his Doomsday story. They slowly realize that the person who supposedly saved their lives may not be trusted and attempt to discover the truth behind why they’re really in the bunker or die trying and what’s going on in the world.
Overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane is probably one of the best thriller films I’ve seen in a while, not because its gory or full of shock scares, but actually because the film takes its time and builds up to the scares in a very effective way. Mainly because most of the movie takes place in a bunker with only three characters throughout the entire thing.
The film brilliantly builds up and keeps you guessing until the final act where it makes your jaw drops to the ground in shock. Before any supernatural elements come in, most of the terror comes from Goodman’s performance which is undeniably a creepy performance.
I mean it, John Goodman usually plays either the nice guy or a crazy over the top guy in a funny way in his movies, but here, John Goodman is this complete bastard all throughout the movie and you have no idea what he’s thinking or if the other two characters can really trust him, honestly he’s scarier than the actual Cloverfield monster, which really isn’t that scary to begin with, that’s the sign of a really good actor.
As a Cloverfield movie, it could have used more monsters and mayhem but as its own unique movie that shares some of its DNA, it’s a smart, clever, well put together movie that doesn’t rely much on big budget special effects but rather slow, quiet, shivering suspense. It almost feels like a Cloverfield version of last year’s Oscar® winning film, Room, two people locked in this room with no way to escape and a creepy guy always watching them, except replace the graphic content from Room with an apocalyptic element.
If you’re a fan of Cloverfield, don’t expect shaky cams and giant monsters here, and it’s not even a direct Cloverfield sequel, it’s like if Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was a good movie. But if you want a different kind of scary movie that doesn’t rely on flashy special effects or shock gore, you’ll get what you want here, it’s a visit to 10 Cloverfield Lane that is definitely worth it.