10 Cloverfield Lane is a fun and effective chiller that is disingenuously positioning itself as a sequel or side-quel or whatever you want to call it to Matt Reeves’ multiple genre-busting 2008 film Cloverfield. Much has been made about how Dan Trachtenberg’s 10 Cloverfield Lane originated as a totally separate project, having nothing to do with the JJ Abrams machine, but that execs caught wind of the financial implications that franchise branding brings to the table, and here you go — a nice little film that does a lot of things correct but that didn’t need to be tied to any pre-existing properties to remain fully enjoyable.
With that aside, the film features three very strong performances from the trio of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher, Jr., all of whom give very distinct performances which complement each other’s work. Jeff Cutter’s cinematography is slick and smart, maximizing the cramped space that much of the film takes place in (you don’t leave that well-stocked bunker until the last 20 minutes), making great use of skewed angles to heighten the tension. The narrative rests on the idea that something may or may not be happening outside of Goodman’s farmhouse bomb shelter, with the potential madman being more dangerous than anything extraterrestrial that’s lurking in the cornfields.
There’s a TON of quick-thinking on the part of Winstead, and not that she couldn’t react to every situation in the manner that she did, but aspects of this movie were a bit too MacGyver for my tastes. And while certainly forceful and exciting, the musical score often times felt overbearing; sometimes, silence is the scariest possible thing imaginable. The highlight of the entire piece was the protracted opening sequence, clearly an homage to Hitchcock, in particularly Psycho, which set the ominous tone right from the start. I don’t want to say too much about the plot or where the story goes or who is who and what is what, but if you’re a fan of one-location thrillers this movie will do the trick, and if you’re looking for your next helping of monster-movie fun, you’ll likely leave satisfied, if you simply remember that this shouldn’t be treated, in any fashion, as a sequel to the found-footage original. Which, for my money, was a better, more innovative, far more biting piece of cinema.
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Review by Nick Clement