10 Cloverfield Lane
Starring John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.
Directed by Dan Trachtenberg
IMDB Rating: 7.9 (as of 21/03, 3 days after release)
Apparently a ‘blood relative’ of the original Cloverfield horror/thriller from 2008, this film follows Michelle (Elizabeth Winstead) as she is involved in a car crash. When she wakes up she finds herself in the bunker of Howard (Goodman), who claims that he saved her life. He also claims that something has happened in the outside world, killing everyone and forcing them to live underground in the bunker for the next year or two with no outside contact. In the bunker with them is Emmett (Gallagher Jr.), a colleague of Howards who tells Michelle that he fought to get into the bunker with him. The film follows Michelle as she questions Howards motives, and whatever might or might not have happaned to the outside world.
I should start by saying that I’m not the biggest fan of horror films, and don’t actively search them out. However, this looked like it might be more than just a simple horror/thriller al a Cloverfield (which I actually really enjoyed).
It would feel a bit foolish to start comparing this to Cloverfield, something that is only natural when it comes to sequels. However with this you just can’t (however much I tried), because they are two completely different films in every respect. I got the feeling that they almost came up for this idea for a film, pitched it, and were told ‘people just won’t come out to see this film’. So instead of just canning it, they thought ‘I know, we’ll call it the sequel to Cloverfield’. It’s the weirdest thing. And when I say people won’t come out to see it, I mean it wouldn’t make money. There’s plenty of great films that didn’t make money in cinemas.
I thought the story for this film is a good idea, and for the large part it is executed really well. Small clues and conversations here and there slightly alter your view on the whole situation, and unlike the horror/survival films cliché you get the feeling throughout that Michelle is actually going about it really sensibly, not just doing stupid things for plot’s sake. That makes you feel a lot more involved, as you feel she’s doing what you would do. She’s being you in the situation. The problem is, you know what’s going on from the start. The mystery, the question the story is seemingly built upon is cracked very early. Maybe that was meant to be the case, but part of me was hoping this film would be a bit cleverer than that.
I personally think the casting was a bit off on this film. MEW isn’t the right actor for this type of film – something I’ll talk more about further down – and having Goodman as the good/bad guy was always going to give the game away before it’s even started. Sure, that might have been the idea with him, but I still can’t help but wonder how much more of a mystery the whole situation would have been if Howard looked even the slightest bit nice, and a little less Goodman.
I’m sorry, that’s really mean! You look fine Mr. Goodman, I promise.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, someone who I’ve said numerous times I rate very highly, delivers an okay performance here. I think she’s good, and sells the character, but I don’t think she’s necessarily cut out for the horror/thriller genre. She can scream and jump fairly well (but who can’t), but in the tense moments in between she just seems too soft, almost too comfortable, and that relaxes you when you shouldn’t be relaxed. The polar opposite can be said about John Goodman. He played off his character really well, and if you look past the casting issues I talked about earlier, I think he did a good job in this film. Gallagher Jr. was also pretty good, albeit not very expansive with a very narrow character.
The directing in this film was pretty good. Dan Trachtenberg, in his first feature film direction, does a good job capturing the tension of the whole situation and you do really feel that he’s trying to tell you something through what he’s doing, not just throwing pointless shots together. One small thing I would have liked to of seen is a better portrayal of how small, confined, claustrophobic it must have been in that bunker for them, because you never get a sense of that, but maybe that’s asking too much.
On a side note, I also found myself really enjoying the score to this film. Composer Bear McCreary (whose other works include composing TV hit The Walking Dead and 2016 horrors The Forest and The Boy) did a real good job of building upon moments with a strong score, assisted by Trachtenberg’s directing.
Overall, this was solid, but not much more than that. Fairly well written, solid directing, a handful of jump-scares and a clear Hollywood sheen over all of it does make Cloverfield Lane an enjoyable experience, but moments of genuine shock and intrigue are sparse. Huh, after all I said at the beginning, I guess Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane aren’t too dissimilar after all…