FILM REVIEW: 10 Cloverfield Lane is the cult genre flick the mainstream’s been waiting for
Question: What’s cosy and comedic, yet claustrophobic and creepy? Answer: Probably something written by Drew Goddard. Or, more specifically, 10 Cloverfield Lane.
In case you’re not a complete genre obsessive and are therefore unfamiliar with Goddard’s name, you’d probably still be aware of his creative output. This is the guy who wrote the screenplays for The Martian, The Cabin In The Woods, World War Z, multiple episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lost, and of course the original Cloverfield. So why have I spent this inordinate amount of lines detailing his CV?
Rather than battle against the no-plot-details embargo placed on this much anticipated follow-up to the 2008 disaster thriller Cloverfield, which hinges so much on its element of surprise, I think my best approach is to give an idea of what kind of film this is, as well as who it’s been made for. Nothing gives a bigger clue to this than Goddard’s impressive back catalogue and playful experimentation with genre; be it horror, sci fi, comedy, or, most frequently, all of the above. Without giving too much away, let’s just say that 10 Cloverfield Lane fits in nicely with his existing filmography.
Of its plot, I’m allowed to tell you that 10 Cloverfield Lane follows Michelle (Scott Pilgrim‘s Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who finds herself suddenly shut off from the outside world. Waking up in an underground bunker with no memory of how she got there, she soon becomes acquainted with the owner of the shelter, Howard (John Goodman), and the young man who helped him build it, Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.). Believing that great danger awaits them outside, the trio settles in for a long haul stay.
As we all know, close quarters create interpersonal tensions, and the film’s main element is the exploration of these characters’ relationships, which exist in a complete vacuum from the outside world. One moment they’re working on a jigsaw together to pass the time, the next they’re arguing at the dinner table… Horror fans will recognise this delicate ‘family’ dynamic put under pressure by extreme circumstances from such films as You’re Next, Krampus, and We Are Still Here, and will be just as delighted by 10 Cloverfield Lane’s emotional intelligence and well observed humour as by those recent classics.
The film’s aesthetic is also on point, evoking an excellently rendered, specific sense of place as we’ve previously seen in It Follows, or House of the Devil. It’s impossible to ignore how much fun the set designers and dressers had with creating the mise-en-scène of every shot, from the ‘Home Sweet Home’ tapestry hanging above the antique jukebox, to the duck-in-raincoat shower curtain, or the chalkboard-holding pig chef on the kitchen counter. With trinkets like these filling every inch of space, it would be difficult to find yourself bored in Howard’s bunker, and this in turn colours our understanding of the complex man behind it all.
So how does this seemingly isolated tale tie in with Cloverfield proper, you’re all asking..? Then get out of here! You know I can’t tell you! But if that concern ranks highly on your reasons for seeing this film, you may or may not be disappointed. Of course everyone will be holding their breath to see how the film handles its conclusion, which a lot rides on and not all Cloverfield fans will be happy with, but ultimately it’s the journey to that moment, with all the paranoid questioning and suspicious glances exchanged, that really matters with this one. And it’s that more ‘indie’ approach to filmmaking that makes 10 Cloverfield Lane so exciting, as the film is already making a big splash in the overseas box office and garnering mostly favourable reviews.
Whether you’re a fan of witty quips, nuanced character performances, awesome visuals, or edge-of-your-seat suspense, I’m confident you’ll be satisfied you bought a ticket to see 10 Cloverfield Lane. Just don’t read any spoilers beforehand or spill the beans to your friends when you leave the theatre.
10 Cloverfield Lane hits UK cinemas this Friday, March 18th.