The less you know the better when it comes to experiencing the terrifying, character-driven horror that is 10 Cloverfield Lane.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t your conventional blockbuster sequel. Up until January this year, its entire existence had remained a complete mystery to the general movie-going public. Directed by Dan Trachtenberg and produced by JJ Abrams under a watertight shroud of secrecy, the film isn’t even a direct continuation of the original Cloverfield; it’s more of a distant blood relative that shares ideas and motifs with its predecessor.
Working with a microscopic budget and minimal marketing material, the film defies all conventional industry logic and wisdom. Not only is it a clever expansion of the franchise, it’s also an effective exercise in economical horror filmmaking. Despite such tight constraints, 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the most terrifying, nail-biting horror films I’ve seen in a long, long time.
After a brief prologue, the film transports us to a claustrophobic underground bunker somewhere in the heartland of America. Inside, a young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) awakes to find herself shackled to the wall and locked behind an ominous metal door. An imposing man (John Goodman) enters and explains that there has been a devastating attack above ground. He tells her that everyone else is dead, and that in order to survive she needs to stay inside the bunker with him and his acquaintance (John Gallagher Jnr).
That’s as much as I’m going to give you in regards to the plot. To preserve the filmmakers fervent desire for secrecy, I advise knowing as little as possible before heading to the cinema. What I can tell you is this; unlike the destructive kaiju mayhem of the first film, 10 Cloverfield Lane keeps the action fairly contained within its confined domestic setting, then in the second half, it explodes with bursts of emotion and pulse pounding sequences. Like many Abrams properties, the slow build-up is more rewarding than the eventual payoff, but it’s the sublime crafting of thick, suffocating tension that makes 10 Cloverfield Lane worth your time and money.
Goodman gives his best performance in years, transforming from the loveable actor that we know and love into something far more sinister. It’s astounding how quickly his character gets under your skin.Equally great is Winstead as the scrappy and resourceful female lead. Even with the small amount of background that we’re given, she feels like a three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood character with a clearly defined arc. She drives the plot forward and actively works to question and challenge her situation.
Trachtenberg’s deft direction is impressive for a debut feature film, and he expertly handles the multitude of intersecting genres that the taut screenplay negotiates. The film skips between B-movie horror, spooky sci-fi and dark comedy throughout its lean 105-minute runtime, with the shifts in tone anchored by an impressive score by Bear McCreary.
A short and sharp mixture of multiple genre movies that is surprisingly economical and effective at crafting suspense, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a very different breed to its predecessor – and, I daresay, is actually the superior film as a result.
10 Cloverfield Lane is available in Australian cinemas from March 10
Image (c) Paramount Pictures 2016