10 Cloverfield Lane
DIRECTOR: Dan Trachtenberg
RELEASE DATE: 03/04/2016
STARRING: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr..
Producer J.J. Abrams and director Dan Trachtenberg create a horror film that’s equal parts suspenseful, stressful, and mysterious.
Thinking about the end of civilization as we know it can be a terrifying exercise in futility. The end game always sucks and any survivors are generally up Shit’s Creek without a paddle. But imagine you’re one of the chosen few that survived a plague, or a nuclear war, or whatever cataclysmic event you can think of. Now imagine you’re left to a bleak existence living inside some makeshift shelter, but you’re there with another survivor and that survivor is more horrifying than the mess outside.
With the help of producer J.J. Abrams, director Dan Trachtenberg was able to go ahead and help you visualize that nightmare scenario you were just conjuring up in your mind and with better actors than the ones you probably envisioned.
10 Cloverfield Lane opens with Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) frantically gathering her most prized possessions and quickly running out the front door of what seems like a failed relationship. After ignoring a few phone calls from Bill (voiced by Bradley Cooper), her now ex-love interest, Michelle finds herself in the middle of a brutal car crash and that’s where the opening credits roll and the real nightmare begins.
Immediately, you the viewer, are thrust into the hellish situation of our protagonist. Michelle awakes from the crash in a bare room chained to a wall and hooked up to an IV. Enter Howard (John Goodman), her captor and self professed saviour who is more than a little off his rocker. Here she learns that she’s in a bomb shelter underground and the outside world’s population is gone, including Bill and all her loved ones.
Obviously the news doesn’t settle with her and she starts to devise a plan of escape. That’s when she meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) another survivor taking up residence in the bunker. Emmett reinforces the notion that everything is F.U.B.A.R outside and that she’s got to chill out.
Things still don’t settle with her and she makes an attempt to leave, by bashing Howard over the head and stealing his keys. A brief and extremely tense scurry to the bunker’s hatch proves that indeed things aren’t going well beyond the confines of her newly aquired living situation and that’s when reality sets in for Michelle.
If you watched the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane, you probably could’ve pieced that synopsis together for yourself, but really the crux of the story starts after all of that.
The anxiety and mystery surrounding the characters and their crisis is what really sells this film. 10 Cloverfield Lane is intense… like really intense. Mainly due in part to the performances of Goodman and Winstead, both of whom were incredible, but there’s also a lot of other factors at play which help develop that fervor.
Like John Carpenter’s The Thing, or Ridley Scott’s Alien, the claustrophobia and pressure that’s built up by containing the story to one prime location is highly effective within Trachtenberg’s film. Like those classics, he’s able to take the confines of the environment and build off them in a way that stresses you out and makes you wonder if you’ll be trapped in there with the characters indefinitely.
The sound design also heightens the experience and often times leaves you unnerved and agitated. It may have been the Dolby Atmos surround sound in my theater, but everything seemed so powerful and soul shaking. Your senses will take a beating during the film’s run time and you’ll absolutely love every minute of it.
Abrams’ has stated that this is a “blood-relative” to the original Cloverfield and while that sounds nice, it really has nothing to do with the first film. He also mention on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, that the Cloverfield films were heading into anthology territory, where they’ll be loosely tied together but narratively different, which I actually think is a great idea. If this second offering is any indication of the caliber of films we are to expect, I’m 100% on board.
There are a few things that felt like they could have been handled more efficiently, but they mostly deal with spoilers, so I’ll save you from that. However, they weren’t even close enough to ruin the overall experience. For fans of horror and sci-fi, this film is a sure win and best viewed at a decent theater with a quality sound system.